Japan's Obama City erupts in joy over Nobel Peace Prize

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The Independent Online

The small Japanese port city of Obama hailed Friday its namesake, US President Barack Obama, who was earlier sensationally awarded the Nobel Peace Prize just nine months into his term.

"I knew he was talking about world peace, but I cannot believe this has come so soon," Seiji Fujiwara, a local tourism official who led a support campaign for the US president, told Jiji Press.

Obama means "small shore" in Japanese, and the residents of the small central city of 32,000 people have rallied behind Barack Obama since his presidential campaign as a junior senator.

President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, with the jury hailing his "extraordinary" efforts in international diplomacy and to hasten nuclear disarmament.

In 2008 supporters in Obama City followed the US presidential election race closely, putting up posters wishing him luck and making sweets bearing his likeness.

It was Barack Obama himself who first drew attention to the connection.

He told Japan's TBS network in 2006 that, when he flew into Japan, a passport control officer said he was from Obama City.

His Nobel Prize award has further inspired Obama residents.

"We want to create banners to celebrate the award and put them up at our shopping arcades and at the city hall," Fujiwara said.

"He is going to visit Japan in November. We enthusiastically invite him to visit our city," he said.

Obama City mayor Koji Matsuzaki also paid tribute.

"For a city that supported him, there is no greater joy than this," he said in a statement.