As I was writing about chopstick innovation and learnt how a design company, Nendo, attempted to innovate the chopstick while keeping with the traditions of lacquerware-making from the Wakasa province, a historic province that is today part of the Fukui prefecture, and I learnt a lot about the lacquerware type unique to Wakasa called Wakasa-nuri 若狭塗り.
The Wakasa province is renowned for its exquisite lacquerware, including its signature chopsticks, and the ancient capital of the Wakasa province is a town called Obama 小浜市.
Yes this lacquerware hub of ancient Japan shares its name with the current U.S. President Obama.
“Obama,” which means “little beach” in Japanese, has many of the temples during the Yamato dynasty. Needless to say, when President was first senator and ran for presidency, the city gained worldwide attention.
The city of Obama has received much publicity because it shares its name with U.S. President Barack Obama. It began when Obama as a Senator gave a 2006 interview to Japanese television network TBS where he noted that, when passing through customs in Narita Airport, the official who inspected his visa said that he was from Obama. The Obama City Hall heard about the interview and the mayor, Toshio Murakami, sent Senator Obama a set of the city’s famous lacquer chopsticks, a DVD about the city and a letter wishing him the best. As Senator Obama’s presidential campaign progressed, more local businesses began to organize primary parties and put up “Go Obama!” posters, sell “I love Obama” T-shirts, and produce manjū (a type of Japanese confectionery) with Senator Obama’s face on them. A hula group began in the town in honour of Senator Obama’s home state of Hawaii. The troupe visited Honolulu in June to perform at the Pan Pacific Festival.
President Obama has since thanked the town for their gifts and support, saying “I look forward to a future marked by the continued friendship of our two great nations and a shared commitment to a better, freer world”.
Check out these Obama buns
Of interesting note, the card says: Obama Manjuu, Oba-man, using the typical Japanese practice of making portmanteaus
Also, unsurprisingly, Obama, Fukui’s Wikipedia page has been vandalised. Under “Demographics,” someone wrote, “The population of Obama consists of Japanese aboriginal groups mixed with Indonesians, mulatos, Texans and Koreans.