Obamamania in Japan

(AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
For those halfway across the world, unable to make the trek to Washington today, a Japanese factory is churning out thousands of rubber masks in the president-elect's likeness. At Japan's top rubber mask studio, north of Tokyo, workers are using tiny brushes to paint rubber renderings of the future president, capturing him in an open-mouthed oratory moment.

Not your typical presidential portrait – but they are in high demand, according to studio director Takahiro Yagihara, who says he's received orders for more than 4,000 masks and has sold 2,500 since December. The Obama mask is expected to soon outsell the factory's current best-seller, a mask of Japan's popular former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Surburban Tokyo is not the only place in Japan where you might bump into an eerie replica of Mr. Obama. A self-proclaimed fan of the Obama campaign's "Change" philosophy has built a small-scale replica of the White House in Osaka, and today rolled a life-size plastic doll of the President-elect through the front door. Moments before his Japanese inauguration, plastic-Obama was lined up alongside figurines of the past four U.S. presidents in a peculiar rendition of the president's dinner.

Obama fever indeed seems to be sweeping this island nation – but perhaps nowhere so much as in the actual city of Obama, north of Kyoto. The once-sleepy fishing port today became the site of celebratory fireworks, singing and hula dancing – in honor of the president-elect's Hawaiian roots. Local souvenir shops were bursting with Obama-themed novelties from chopsticks to fish burgers.

And in front of the city hall is another hint of Japan's enthusiasm for Obama replicas: the mayor of Obama city has commissioned a statue of Barack Obama to stand in this site.
  • Naomi Smith

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