In 2009 during Golden Week, I visited the small town of Hino on the edge of Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture. The people of Hino put on a splendid festival rich in local traditions. There were a number of elaborately decorated festival floats at the entrance to the local shrine. The atmosphere was what you expect from local festivals — drums and flutes, ritual and protocol, families chatting, everyone in festival garments, sake and local delicacies.

It was surprising, therefore, that U.S. President Barack Obama was also in attendance. Obama had assumed the most honorable place in a festival — atop one of the festival floats surrounded by signs that read "Yes We Can!"

The more familiar heroes from ancient myth and legend sat politely on their respective floats, but they must have just as puzzled as I was. The people of Hino had crafted, quite respectfully, a life-sized and lifelike Obama to show their enthusiasm for the president as he assumed his first term in office.