National

Conan O’Brien’s showdown in Japan’s ‘Conan Town’ ends peacefully after 1,000-hamburger barbecue

by Sarah Suk

Staff Writer

The world watched in anticipation of a showdown, but the battle of the Conans ended peacefully this week in a small town in western Japan.

American comedian and late-night talk show host Conan O’Brien visited the town of Hokuei — dubbed “Conan Town” for its ties with manga and anime series “Detective Conan” — in Tottori Prefecture on Thursday following a tongue-in-cheek demand for ¥3 trillion from the municipality for using his name for promotions.

O’Brien seemed to start off on the wrong foot, arriving at Yonago Kitaro Airport instead of Tottori Sand Dunes Conan Airport, where local officials and fans were waiting for him.

“We were headed to Conan Town, but it turns out there’s two airports. We went to the wrong airport,” he reported on a video posted to his Twitter account. “Who knew that Conan Town had two airports? It’s crazy!”

But as both airports are about the same distance from Hokuei, there were no major delays in the day’s schedule, according to Hiroyuki Komae, a public relations officer with the town.

“It was a mistake by a coordinator for his staff who thought there was only one airport in Tottori Prefecture,” Komae said.

O’Brien then met with Hokuei Mayor Akio Matsumoto, with whom he had exchanged “demands” on the former’s talk show over the past few weeks.

Matsumoto presented his guest with a fake ¥3 trillion check and asked him to serve as the honorary town mayor for the day, while O’Brien in return asked the mayor to be Conan O’Brien for the day — but then presented him with a “Miss Iowa” sash and a wig.

The two then went to Yura Station, which is nicknamed Conan Station, where O’Brien served 1,000 hamburgers in response to one of Matsumoto’s earlier demands.

About 800 people attended the event at a plaza where a Detective Conan statue stands, Komae said.

Hokuei, the hometown of Detective Conan’s creator, Gosho Aoyama, promotes itself using the name Conan Town. The series, also known as “Case Closed,” is about a genius teenage detective trapped in a child’s body. It first appeared in a Japanese weekly manga magazine in 1994.

O’Brien had jokingly suggested that Detective Conan was modeled after him, as the manga came out a year after he had gone “on the air, to instant international acclaim.”

But the 55-year-old native of Massachusetts was all smiles in Conan Town, telling a local TV reporter, “I love Tottori. People are wonderful. People are very nice. They have big hearts, they’re very kind and they have a very good sense of humor.”

Asked to promote the prefecture, he readily consented, saying, “I think Detective Conan’s already advertising, but now the other Conan — me — I will do it, too.”

On Friday, Komae quoted Matsumoto as saying, “We are very honored that he visited our town. We will cherish the relationship formed through Conan and hope he will help promote Hokuei and Conan. He’s a wonderful person.”

Tottori Gov. Shinji Hirai added another twist to the story by holding a surprise ceremony at Conan Airport as O’Brien was about to leave the prefecture on Thursday evening.

Hirai, known as a major punster, appointed O’Brien as an “Honorary Conander of Samurai of Tottori Prefecture,” playfully combining Conan and commander. Hirai presented him with a wooden sword, according to Ryosuke Yamaguchi of the Tottori Prefectural Government’s Domestic and International Affairs Division.

The governor also handed O’Brien a padlock with a key attached to a Detective Conan key ring as the “Key to the City.”

“To sum it up, we piggybacked” on the battle of words between Hokuei town and O’Brien, Yamaguchi explained.

“We saw that his visit to Hokuei ended in a peaceful resolution, so we presented him with the appointment certificate as a proof of settlement,” Yamaguchi said. “We wanted to recognize his great contributions to promoting Tottori Prefecture, including Conan Town, and also show that we are cheering him on.”

Case closed.