March 4th, 2008
10:30 AM ET
10 years ago

Obama's backing Obama

Guess who the residents of Obama, Japan are backing in the 2008 Democratic nomination race.

Guess who the residents of Obama, Japan are backing in the 2008 Democratic nomination race.

OBAMA, Japan (CNN) - At a small bakery in a fishing village in western Japan, the ovens are on overdrive Tuesday.

"Tomorrow's the big event," said Koichi Inoue, steam rising from his freshly baked sweet "manju" treats. "We want Obama to win."

Inoue holds up a manju, his prized treat this year. Emblazoned on the front is a caricature of presidential candidate Barack Obama, with the phrase: "I (heart) Obama."

The fanatical support of this isolated town of 32,000 residents seems most unlikely until you learn its name: Obama, Japan. And this town is supporting its namesake with the sort of gusto you'd expect only from a proud town cheering on its favorite son, even though the candidate has never been here and the residents have only seen him on television.

As the U.S. primary vote returns come in Wednesday in Japan, the self-proclaimed "Unofficial Supporters of Obama" are planning a party with all the Obama fixings it can muster.

The club says up to 100 of its members are gathering in their celebration kimonos to watch American news coverage. For entertainment, members who are also local hula girls have created a dance in honor of the man who might be the next U.S. president.

Special sushi, hamburgers, and pork fillets, all made in honor of Barack Obama, are on the menu. And while their opinions won't matter when it comes to votes, they remain determined to send well wishes half-way around the world.

"I love Obama!" said Tatsyuyki Funai, the president of Funai Works Co, a lacquer chopsticks maker. He showed us his special "Obama" chopsticks he'd love to send to Barack Obama.

A pair of the city's chopsticks did go to the senator. Mayor Toshio Murakami sent a set of Obama's signature lacquer chopsticks a year ago, in honor of Barack Obama's birthday, which falls on "Chopstick Day."

He didn't hear from the senator until a week ago, but says he doesn't really mind the delay because the accompanying letter, he says, was so kind.

"Here," said Murakami, pointing to Barack Obama's signature on the letter, now an official city 'treasure.' Above it were the words, "Your friend," in Japanese. "It's very elegant and I'm honored to get this during a
busy political season."

In the letter, the senator wrote to the mayor, "As our world becomes increasingly interconnected, it is exciting to hear that you are engaged in debates that reach beyond your shores. We share more than a common name."

Alcillena Wilson, an American teaching English in Obama, Japan, was surprised to learn how engaged her neighbors were in U.S. politics, thanks to the simple accident of sharing a name with a candidate.

"Many Americans have never heard of Obama the city, Japan. I'm sure we've all heard of Tokyo and Osaka and Kyoto. So it's a way to open up the means of communication and learn about each other. And I think it's great."

For Koichi Inoue, the bakery owner prepping those special manju treats for the Obama party, the connection means more than just a quirky coincidence.

"Obama is an old town and needs a second wind. Maybe this is exactly the new
spirit our town needs."

–CNN Correspondent Kyung Lah


Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama
soundoff (165 Responses)
  1. Kate

    Where is the story about the lawsuit between the Clintons vs Paul?? Huh CNN .. I'm not the only one who realizes that you've completely lost any objectivity and respect.

    March 4, 2008 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  2. jp/michigan

    Maybe he should run for president there or in Kenya.

    March 4, 2008 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  3. Kyle- Ohio

    It is so obvious what the rest of the world wants

    It gives me chills

    I am from Ohio.
    I already voted for Obama today.

    March 4, 2008 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  4. corin

    Can we get some real news on Obama! But this is great at least we know he is respected around the world! it is sad that the media is extremely hyping senator clinton extremely!!!!!!!! Sorry but there was no biased at first now the day before a major primary the news networks are prasing senator clinton!!! Its funny but sad!!! All these negative comments are pointless! And all the real obama supporters know that positivty and hope will progress!!! Not hostile attacks!!!! Good luck hillary....... oh and thanks for endorsing Mccain hillary!!!!

    OBAMA 08

    March 4, 2008 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  5. Grif

    I still think about those kids, in the state he's supposed to be a Senator

    Rage for change, and he'd just won there 2 weeks previous, and was threatening more Rage Change 2 weeks later, in the state directly above...

    Rage for Change, and as Crazy Gun, killed the kids in that school, and then the Gunman shot himself....

    Rage For Change! Didn't do them any good....... Think about it....

    March 4, 2008 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  6. Barry IL

    Even in advanced countries, political develoment lags far behind other forms development (like economy, techology...) We still talk about the influence of interest groups, lobbysists... that corrupt our democracy. Developing countries talk corruptions, bribes, etc that erode the growth of democracy. Honestly, there is a significant similaity between our politics and their politics except relying on guns to take power.

    March 4, 2008 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  7. Andrew

    That plastic smile of Hillary's will melt away today!
    It's moving time America. Time for Obama to move in and Hillary to move on!

    Great uplifting story, CNN.
    I gotta visit there.

    March 4, 2008 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  8. TexasPlanoStar

    There's just so much excitement in the air today! PLANO, TX for OBAMA 08

    March 4, 2008 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  9. Peter

    Maybe more relevant. I'm from Clinton, NY and my whole family is firmly behind Obama.

    March 4, 2008 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  10. Quinn

    Hillary's opponent is not Obama anymore. It's math! There simply are not enough delegates left for her to win usless she....

    a) beats Barack by a LANDSLIDE in every remaining state (20 points)

    or

    b) cheats.

    Apparently Hillary is telling her supporters that she is going to continue no matter what happens. She's plans to increase her negative attacks and spread more lies. How pathetic.

    March 4, 2008 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  11. Dinesh

    All I can do is laugh at this and wish they were voting in todays primary.

    March 4, 2008 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  12. rr

    Poor disallusioned cult followers!!!!

    March 4, 2008 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  13. Haley Rodman Clemson

    In other news, people who share the name Hussein were shouting in the streets and shooting machine guns in the air. Not because they like Barack but because he wants to resign America to Dhimmitude.

    Barack/Inuit 2008

    March 4, 2008 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  14. Kris, Kiev Ukraine

    Something quite extra ordinary is involved and propeling BO. I see the hand of God leading this guy. And that being the case..., I don't know what /or who will stop him being in the WH, come Jan 09/

    March 4, 2008 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  15. Johan Bc Canada

    I have noticed that those who are for Hillary use rather vicious language in reacting to Obama fans. Already Hillary seems to influence her supporters. From the Obama campaign I feel they show a lot more respect for this historic event. However in the not so distant past the ones who started slinging mud and kitchensinks won the election. The world is watching hoping for a better USA with a much better reputation. A makeover is needed.You need vision. Obama seems to have it.

    March 4, 2008 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
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