Japan is Crazy for Barack Obama

February 21st, 2008

…Not because of his politics, demeanor, looks, or anything else, mind you, but his name.

Obama is a Japanese name. Not a common one, by any means, but recognizably name-like. Like “Windthorpe” or “Hasseldorf” or something: perhaps you’ve never met someone named either of those, but if you heard them, you’d immediately know they were names.

What this means is that all over the TV there are little segments, on the news or talk shows or the like, of something Obama-ish. Pre-commercial teasers saying “After the break, an exclusive interview with Obama”, only to come out of the break interviewing some auto mechanic whose name is Obama. That sort of thing, over and over. Then there’s the little town of Obama (population: 32,000), which is milking this for everything its worth: they have declared themselves “official” supporters. They have come up with sweet buns with pictures of Obama on them. They have sent Barack Obama a set of nice chopsticks, because his birthday is the same day as “Official Chopstick Day” in Obama (much like America has “National RandomBadThing Awareness Month”, Japan is jam-packed with “Official RandomPurchasableThing Days”. The 29th of every month is “Meat Day”, based on a pun of “meat” (肉 – niku) and “29” (二九 – niku).)

Making things even more frustrating, the suffix for “City” is “市 – shi“. So Fukuoka City is Fukuoka-shi. And the neutral-but-polite suffix for someone, for example, on the news is “氏 – shi“. So Obama City is 小浜市 – Obama-shi, and Barack Obama is オバマ氏 – Obama-shi.

As I’ve mentioned before, googling in Japanese is hard for several reasons, one of which is that everyone always wants to play clever with their puns. Writing 鯖 – saba (horse mackerel) for サーバ – saba (server, as in a computer server) . Obama is no exception. Googling for info on Obama City, it seems like 75% of the hits on Google were about Barack Obama himself, except people were all being clever writing 小浜市 instead of オバマ氏.

So, there you go. Random trivia for the day. If Obama loses the primaries or the election, this will all be a historical nugget. If he becomes president (fingers crossed), I expect a slight increase in the flurry until everyone tires of it and gets over his name. Until we get some presidential candidate named Bob Unko or something (unko = poop). I doubt that will ever get old.

5 Responses to “Japan is Crazy for Barack Obama”

  1. Adam Rice Says:

    That is incredibly random. The stuff I miss out not being in Japan.

  2. Victor Vorski Says:

    You are the man! Thanks to you I know everything I miss out on not watching Japanese TV! ;-)

  3. Jesse Gillespie Says:

    My mom’s name is Barbara, and the couple of times she visited Tokyo everybody thought it was cute that her name sounded like “bara-bara”. Which is actually a really good description of her.
    PS- I posted some images of a menu I designed for a restaurant in Sagamihara on tetheredhawk. Check ’em out!

  4. Connie Says:

    Hi! I just wanted to thank you for your excel tip on converting hours:minutes to hours. There were so many links on how to do it on google. None of them were any help until I understood how Excel was interpreting the data. Thanks for saving my sanity!

  5. bugbread Says:

    No problem, Connie.

    Actually, at first, I thought your comment was some bizarre form of spam, because I didn’t remember discussing Excel on here. But I googled “Excel bugbread”, and I found that AskMe which I’d forgotten about. Good to know that the response is still providing some benefit, almost two years later ^_^

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