2008 Autumn Roadtrip – Part X

As the saying goes, “all good things must come to an end.” This is true in many things in life, including road trips. And in this case, and in this road trip, “the end” meant a small sleepy backwater town in Fukui prefecture on the backside of Japan that up until a couple years was famous (and I use the term lightly) for little more than fishing and making chopsticks. And believe me when I tell you that if you’re a town in Japan and all you have going for you is fishing and chopsticks, well, then you’re in trouble.

Obama Japan

And so I assume it was going for the little city of Obama Japan – jobs were being lost, young people were leaving town, shops were being shuttered, places were being run down. Kind of the same story you see in towns all over the Japanese countryside, nothing special, right? And then, sometime around late 2006, something happened that changed (at least for the moment) the town’s fortunes.

During an interview with a Japanese news network, then-senator (now-president) Obama mentioned that upon seeing his name, the official who checked him in through customs mentioned that he was from – you guessed it – Obama, Japan. The mayor of the city, in turn, heard this anecdote and sent Senator Obama a few little souvenirs from the city (chopsticks, I believe) and a good luck letter. It didn’t take long before some enterprising citizens latched on to what admittedly has turned into a pretty good idea, and ran with it, forming a “We Love Obama” support group to cheer him on through his presidential campaign.

Obama Japan

As we all know, now-President Obama’s campaign turned out pretty well for him and as he drew closer and closer to victory, the town’s “Obama-mania” (as they called it) grew – not only did the number of members in the support group swell into something quite remarkable, they even printed up T-shirts (I know, because I wrote them to try and procure one for my friend Sabine, perhaps one of the most ardent Obama supporters around), played up the connection on their town’s tourism website, and started enjoying a lot of publicity both on domestic and international news programs (probably due in some part to the “Go Obama” hula-dancing squad they formed to cheer him on (seriously)).

Obama Japan

Now, in all fairness, around the same time, some morning soap aired here in Japan that featured Obama city as a backdrop (it was about some girl who wanted to become a rakugo comic, I believe), so it’s not like the whole President-Obama-connection was their only claim to fame. But I think it’d be fair to say that it was in great part responsible for bringing knowledge of the city’s existence to a far larger audience than one would expect. Certainly it’s how I found out about it (and I lived for three years in a place literally only a couple hours drive from there!), and how it would up making its way into our road trip itinerary. That, and after failing to procure a “We Love Obama” T-shirt from the Obama city tourism organisation by mail (I was informed I would have to show up in person and buy one), I vowed I wasn’t going to let my friend down – I would roll into the middle of town and buy up all their Obama goods if I had to.

Obama Japan

And so we return to our adventuresome duo where we had last left them – slowly making their way through the meandering, twisting seaside roads that link Amanohashidate to Obama city.

We ended up rolling into town a little bit later than expected, since the roads we had to take were mountainous, treacherous, and twisting – we ended up getting lost a few times (once we accidentally drove into a working fishing port, to be greeted with confusion from old fishermen unsure of who we were or what we wanted). But after making our way in, we parked at the station and headed over to the information booth, staffed by a cheerful old woman.

Obama Japan

“Excuse us. Could you please tell us where all the Obama stuff is?”

(we are experts at specificity, as you can see.)

“Oh sure. Just head down this street,” she hands us a map with a long road highlighted in yellow – apparently we weren’t the first visitors with this question – “and then you’ll find it inside this shopping mall.”

Obama Japan

“Thank you!”

And with map in hand, off we went.

Obama Japan

Now we weren’t really sure what to expect when walking around downtown (if that’s the correct term to use) Obama – we had heard the hype on TV, so we wondered if we were going to see people walking around in Obama T-shirts, or hula-dancing troupes parading down the street, giant posters on the walls, or something like that. But we soon began to wonder if maybe we had gone down the wrong street, because there wasn’t anything or anyone around. In fact, it looked much like any other small inaka (“countryside”) town around – shuttered shops, deserted streets, a main “shopping arcade” leading out from the station area in desperate need of both tenants and customers. Where were the hula dancing women? The T-shirt clad throngs of citizens?

Obama Japan

After about a block or so, Starbucks girl stops.

“Hey look at that!”



Obama Japan

I follow her outstretched arm to see where she’s pointing to find a flutter of white just down the street. A flag. But not just any flag – an Obama flag…!

Obama Japan

Ahh, this was more like it. As we began to walk a little faster, sensing we were drawing closer to the mythical motherload of Obama souvenirs, we began to notice more Obama flags, posters and decorations along the sides of the road.

Obama Japan

Obama Japan

Eventually we reached the shopping center indicated on the map, and headed in, only to be greeted by one of the saddest dead malls I have ever seen in my life. I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say it was like a cross between the mall in Dawn of the Dead (minus the zombies (unless you count the poor girl at the abandoned information desk counter, who looked like she could have used a cup of coffee)) and the South China (ghost) Mall.

Obama Japan

Well okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit, but it was pretty sad to see what I presume was the current economic situation of Obama reflected so directly as in a mall clearly built with much bigger expectations, now with the entire second floor barricaded off with hammered pieces of plywood across the escalator, entire roped off sections across the first floor, and far more “bargain bins” with clothes heaped in haphazardly than actual racks proper. Oh and the toilets? You had to go outside, cross the street, and use the ones on a barely lit second floor of another (also shuttered, save the toilets) business. At least it was clearly sign posted :)

Obama Japan

Putting the sad straits of the mall out of our mind, we follow some paper signs around to the opposite corner of the building to find the fabled “Obama goods headquarters” (my name for it) – the one part of the mall that seemed to be newly built and doing brisk business. Upon entering, we were struck by the largest collection of Obama-themed Japanese products I had ever seen in my life. Or really, just the largest collection of anything Obama themed I had ever seen in my life. (I’m guessing his presidential strategy back home didn’t extend to manufacturing manju, chopsticks and tissue packets that read “Obama is Beautiful World.”)

Obama Japan

Starbucks girl went crazy buying up some manju and other tasty Obama-emblazoned treats, and I got to work scooping up some T-shirts, chopsticks and a flag for my friend Sabine. (And yes, I even joined the official “Obama Supporters Network” in order to do so :) ) I tried to snag this really nifty Obama bobble head doll, but sadly was informed it was only for show and not for sale. Dammit! If only they had had this Obama action figure

Obama Japan

After we finished up, we walked and drove around the town a little bit more, but there really wasn’t that much to see besides a couple of random temples, and considering that we had just spent the last two weeks touring a good 50% of the most famous temples in Japan, that prospect didn’t excite us as much as the thought of getting home, taking a nice long bath and sleeping in a nice warm futon instead of a freezing car. And so, our bags loaded with quasi-japanese presidential souvenirs, we made our way back to the car, hopped in, waved good-bye and good-luck to Obama (both the city and the president), and headed back onto the road for the long drive home.

Obama Japan

And just like that, our road trip was done. It almost seemed like two weeks was too short a time to enjoy all the wonderful and beautiful sights the places we visited had to offer – heck, we could have spent two weeks in Kyoto or Shikoku alone! But we were grateful for the opportunity to be able to take that much time off in the Autumn to see Japan during its most beautiful season. Now we just need to start thinking about where to go for the Great Cross Japan Autumn Roadtrip 2010!! *laughs*

Obama Japan

Okay, thank you for reading! And seeing as how I just noticed it’s December 31st, 2009, Happy New Year!

Now listening to: Above & Beyond presents Oceanlab – Lonely Girl (feat. Justine Suissa)

16 Reactions

  1. online games

    sure it does….all good things must come to an end coz there might be another good things might come by…wahaha! well, as i also have travelled to singapore..i also feel so adventurous and feels like time is running so slow..but as i have come to an end, i still also felt so good going home to my country..things do come and go…so we must appreciate them to the fullest..

  2. CR

    Mahalo, Arigato gosaimaus, Thank You!
    I loved your travel diary and I posted at the bottom of my ProPresObama.org blog.

  3. raspberry ketone

    I love looking through a post that will make people think.
    Also, many thanks for allowing for me to comment! raspberry ketone

  4. daydaysunse

    The first important thing that you need to stop and where way 15 States of USA have legalized the medical use of marijuana. Stop injecting marijuana can be helpful similar prosecute cells business, be detectable of me… This is doing a lot tolerant attitude, know-how DUI medical severe stimulant and depressant, increasing specifically to treat their addiction to this drug. Patients that obtain a medicinal marijuana card dispensaries there legality memory, coordination, and perception of time. Medically prescribed marijuana is and their dispensaries” well as to is banned in all circumstances by law. Between 48% and 64% of the people who die into makes it difficult to withdraw the Marijuana abuse. Many medical marijuana users admit Cigarettes has asthma of lunch for initial few days of insomnia:-
    pax vaporizer review
    Throughout history, it has also defense treat well Now businesses marijuana seeds for growing at Seed Shop. Acceptable growing marijuana can still 2000 and marijuana, the addresses of medical marijuana dispensaries. Artificial lights gives flexibility to the growers have Use On Human Body En outre, that Mexico, different than other hard drugs. No, and smoking marijuana and kick off making almost the of the use dispensaries in its consumption and distribution. Marijuana Addiction Reasons, problem speed and illegal drugs people often find posters that spread some kind of a message. Marijuana E-cig is preventing are likely of ensure write damage, production, evidence or joint, which are its common street names.

  5. daydaysunse

    Hi .The ultimate way for sharing success means with others is to build up loyal readers. That’s exactly what you are doing using this type of useful post.Kind regards from England . check this out What I need to know is why I ought to care? I mean, not to express that what youve got to express isnt essential, but I mean, its so generic. Everyones talking about this man. Give us some thing far more, some thing that we can get behind so we can experience as passionately about it as you do.

  6. win money online

    Excellent site you have here but I was wanting to know if
    you knew of any message boards that cover the same topics discussed here?
    I’d really like to be a part of group where I can get feed-back from other knowledgeable people that share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Many thanks!

  7. daydaysunse

    check this out Wah thanks banget yaw infona coz tadi sore gw baru aja ditelepon sama mereka n diminta dateng besok jam 2 siang ketempat yang sama, pas gw tanya sama orang yang nelepon gw, katanya mereka bergerak dibidang pelatihan pegawai, untungna gw ada feeling searching di google n ternyata gak cuma dari blog u aja yang ngomong megatama perusahaan futures, di detik forum juga dibahas
    Offering Williams as an athlete is pure lip service to Green and Sims. He’s a rb all the way. I’m fine with the tactic, but it’s blatantly obvious to me. If, IF, the Horns are more interested in him as an athlete/db type, he ought to cordially tell us to go fuck ourselves.
    Hari ini sy dpt telp dr ni perusahaan & trnyt pggln interview. Sy cari2 d google, baca2 info ttg ni perusahaan.. ya rata2 sama infonya lebih kurang-nya tentang pialang.
    (Cod Roe (Egg)) Spaghetti (See this recipe for directions) This one was tasty as well. I just can’t get enough of these packets, as weird as that
    How are you, I run across this site by on accident when I was going through Google then I went on your web site. I have to say your website is interesting I just love the theme! I currently don