World wishes Obama well for inauguration

January 20, 2009 4:33:18 AM PST
Hula dancers readied for the stage in a small Japanese city that coincidentally bears his name. Children from his former school in Indonesia were to sing for a gathering of well-wishers. And in Hong Kong, Americans prepared to party into the night. Across Asia, and the world, people gathered Tuesday to mark the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.

In one of the kick-off events, the Japanese town of Obama put up stages outside a local Buddhist temple for an "Obama for Obama" event, featuring the hula dancers -- Obama was born in Hawaii, and hula is popular in Japan -- and speeches by local dignitaries.

The town has been big on Obama all the way from the primaries. After his election, more than 1,000 people turned out for a raucus celebration. Obama, which means "little beach," has a population of 32,000.

The town's businesses have pumped out Barack Obama sweet bean cakes, chopsticks, T-shirts, fish burgers, neck ties, and Obama Noodles marked "For world peace and stability." Most items depict only the back of his head, to avoid accusations of pirating his image.

Obama Mayor Koji Matsuzaki was out of town on business, but issued a statement.

"As mayor of the city with the same name, Obama, I feel extremely delighted," he said. "We all have long waited for this blissful moment."

Restaurant owner Masami Shirai, 59, said he hopes President Obama will come to Obama City.

"We already set up a co-educational hula dancing team so we can welcome him if he visits," he said.

In Indonesia, where Obama spent four years as a boy, children from his former school were to sing at celebrations in downtown Jakarta and former classmates of the president-elect were to gather to watch his speech.

Hopes are high that Obama will return in the first 100 days of his presidency to the tropical country where he is known by the nickname Barry.

Rully Dasaad, former Obama classmate at Menteng 1 elementary school and fellow boy scout, said he believed Obama's time in Indonesia shaped him as a person.

"I'm proud that the next president is someone who I have shared time with," he said. "It was a crucial time for children our age, it is when we learned tolerance, sharing, pluralism, acceptance and respect of difference in cultures and religions."

A 34-year-old Indonesian magazine photographer has won media attention in recent weeks as an Obama look-alike, appearing in a television commercial for heartburn medication in the Philippines. "At first my nose and eyes made me self-conscious, but now I think they are God's blessing," said Ilham Anas, who will join live television coverage of the inauguration.

Hong Kong was also marking the historic transition.

The Madame Tussauds museum at Hong Kong's popular mountaintop tourist attraction Victoria Peak was due to unveil a wax figure of Obama, adding to its collection of statues of Chinese celebrities like Jackie Chan, former Chinese leaders Mao Zedong and Jiang Zemin and the country's first astronaut, Yang Liwei.

The wax figure was part of a global rollout -- Obama figures have already been unveiled at Madame Tussauds museums in London, Berlin and New York.

Democratic and Republican groups in Hong Kong, along with the League of Women Voters, were planning an inauguration party at the Foreign Correspondents Club, to be followed by festivities in the city's downtown bar district.

                   Political blogs | Politics main page | RSS feeds
              Slideshow archive | ABC13 wireless | Help solve crimes


Load Comments