National

City of Obama holds onto that hope U.S. leader will visit

Kyodo

People in the coastal city of Obama, Fukui Prefecture, are calling on departing U.S. President Barack Obama to visit so they can show their appreciation for eight years in office that helped raise their city’s profile.

“It’s sad he is leaving but I feel strong gratitude toward him,” said Seiji Fujihara, who heads a support group for the namesake president.

“Thank you President Obama,” people chanted at a municipal event last Saturday to recall their efforts to support him.

The event included Hawaiian dancing by the “Obama Girls” to honor the state where Obama’s grandmother lived. Some 2,000 people also recorded a video message during the event asking him to visit the city.

The group said it began supporting Obama after media reports emerged in 2006 saying an official at Narita airport spoke with the visiting president and said, “I’m from the city of Obama.” The city then sent Obama a letter about itself and a set of traditional lacquerware chopsticks, its specialty product.

The group was formed in February 2008 as the presidential race was heating up. It created a logo with Obama’s portrait as well as T-shirts, steamed buns and other products. Obama’s Obama fever was widely covered by foreign news outlets.

“Now many people know the city of Obama. It also helped increase tourists,” said Koichi Inoue, who owns a confectionery shop that sells Obama manju (steamed buns filled with bean paste).

Obama has apparently got the messages. He sent a letter of gratitude to the Obama Municipal Government, and during another visit to Japan in 2009, expressed his appreciation to the city in a speech.

“We hope he will visit us someday. We’ll continue our activities until it is realized,” Fujihara said.

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