Obama, Japan

(Sorry for the blank e-mail earlier, this netbook can be argumentative sometimes.)

Today is (was) November 4th. One year since Barack Obama was elected President of the United States. I’m not here to talk politics, but it’s worth mentioning because today we took the train from Osaka to the small 35,000 population town of Obama, Japan. It’s been around a long time, but last year they enjoyed some new popularity and had an, “Obama for Obama” local publicity drive with banners, merchandise, the whole works. So on this anniversary we decided to see it for ourselves.

We awoke early and caught the 9:15 train from Osaka Central station. It was slated to take us through Kyoto to the hub town of Tsuruga on the north shore, then take a side line to Obama. The ride out was absolutely gorgeous! It was the first time I got to see a little true Japanese countryside. We got to Tsuruga in fine style, but since it’s pretty difficult to nail down rail times online we had a two-and-a-half-hour layover there before the next train to Obama. Never a pair to be discouraged by being gifted time to wander a foreign town, we set out to see a little bit of Tsuruga.

It’s a quiet town with not a lot going on, granted we only saw a small slice of main street and a local mall. After failing to win a Halloween-themed Stitch doll for Indi (cursed claw games!) we spent a good amount of time in an old coffee shop near the train station. It was like something out of the 1970s, complete with classic lunch counter setup. A pleasant way to pass the time. At 2:20, our train arrived and we made the last leg of the journey to Obama.

We stepped out of the train station and into a small square, complete with small community center and traditional Japanese street crossing chimes. We checked a map, guessed at the location of town hall, and set to walking. Not five minutes into the walk we spotted Obama banners and signs, most marked with a custom-drawn seal with a cartoon version of our Commander in Chief. When we got to town hall, Indi got some information from their designated ‘information’ ladies (they are everywhere) and we walked the four blocks to a small store full of Obama goods.

They had T-shirts, chopsticks, stickers, bookmarks, cakes, cell phone charms, CDs of speeches, books, sake cups, and more. It was great! The lady at the counter even spoke a little English. Evidently it’s become popular in Japan as a whole to buy Obama’s speeches on CD and listen to them for English practice and learning. Who knew? After some small purchases, we set back out to await the train back to Tsuruga and Osaka. I ate at Japan’s most famous fast food chain, Mos Burger, and was pleasantly surprised. Not only that, but the nice rubber coaster I was given was gifted to me when I asked if I could purchase it. Japanese folks are so nice!

We boarded our train home and after multiple switch-overs made it back to our place at near midnight. It was a long, but good day. Probably a rest day or two to follow, as Indi’s ankle is still swelling up and my poor arches are collapsing from wearing my sandals too often. The rigors of world-walking, I suppose. 🙂

About rhysfunk

Rhys Martin was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1981. In 2009, he sold everything he owned and left the country, living out of a backpack for ten months. He discovered a passion for photography while traveling throughout Southeast Asia and Europe. After returning home, he looked at his home town and Oklahoma heritage with fresh eyes. When he began to explore his home state, Rhys turned his attention to historic Route 66. As he became familiar with the iconic highway, he began to truly appreciate Oklahoma’s place along the Mother Road. He has traveled all 2,400 miles of Route 66, from Chicago to Los Angeles. He has also driven many miles on rural Oklahoma highways to explore the fading Main Streets of our small towns. Rhys has a desire to find and share the unique qualities of the Sooner State with the rest of the world. Cloudless Lens Photography has been featured in several publications including This Land, Route 66 Magazine, Nimrod Journal, Inbound Asia Magazine, The Oklahoman, and the Tulsa World. Rhys loves to connect with people and share his experiences; ask him about enjoyable day trips from Tulsa, locations along Route 66, and good diners or burger joints along the way.
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