When Barack Obama was sworn in for his first term, a small Japanese town was overjoyed. Women danced the hula at the local temple, and the town readied a slew of I Love Obama t-shirts, stickers and flags.
Why was this small town of 30,000 people who could not vote in the US presidential election so happy? Because the town's name is Obama.
The town is not named after the newly re-elected president, and its name, Obama (小浜) literally means "small beach" in Japanese. The area has a long, proud history.
According to Nikkan Sports, today in Obama, around a hundred people gathered to cheer on the president, chanting his name "Obama, Obama" as the ballots were counted. A few years back the city even created a group of hula-dancing ladies called the "Obama Girls" as a nod to the President's home state.
The event today was called "Change: Obama Gathering" (チェンジ オバマの会), which sounds more like an event organised by the opposition. (During President Obama's first run, "Change" and "Yes, We Can" became catch phrases in Japan, so the nuance of the literal "Change Obama" is somewhat lost in Japanese.)
As the above Sankei photo shows, an Obama statue was rolled out, perhaps because the President was unable to attend. He was busy!