Planner Spotlight: Obama Nation

Successful Meetings profiles Seiji Fujihara's Obama for Obama victory celebration in Obama, Japan.

It was eight p.m. in California on November 4, and Barack Obama had just been declared the winner of the U.S. presidential race. But in the town of Obama, Japan, where it was one p.m. the next day, his supporters were so confident of his victory that they'd already been partying since noon.

While a group of local dancers known as the Obama Girls were in the midst of a hula in honor of the senator's Hawaiian heritage, audience members jumped onstage at the news that Obama had won. Sporting neckties and headbands with the politician's image on them, they toasted the victory with rice wine and sang the official theme song of the "Obama for Obama" campaign: "Obama is beautiful world! Obama is number one!"

Barack and Roll

The party and campaign were organized by Seiji Fujihara, executive director at the Sekumiya Hotel, one of the town's largest properties, in the hopes that a Barack Obama win would boost tourism to this seaside village, whose name means "small beach" in Japanese. Last February, during the U.S. primaries, Fujihara launched an organization called the Unofficial Association to Support the Candidate Obama; town merchants began vending Obama-for-Obama chopsticks, sweet bean cakes, fish burgers, and kites; and 1,500 people joined Fujihara's campaign.

Fujihara spent two months planning the party. "There was not the trouble to sponsor this celebration because we were well experienced," he says, pointing to four major events he organized in the months prior.

Setup and decor were simple: Fujihara placed five TV screens in a hall near the town's port so attendees could watch the election returns. A yellow map of the U.S. was on hand, where people would place blue-ribbon bows on states called for Senator Obama.

The biggest challenge, Fujihara says, was organizing the hula by male dancers known as the Obama Boys. Compared with the Obama Girls—who had been practicing since February and had performed in Hawaii to celebrate Obama's official nomination—the Obama Boys were novices and debuted at the party after only a month of rehearsal.

Selling Like Bean Cakes

The economy of Obama is largely dependent on tourism, but the town was not widely known even in Japan prior to the U.S. election. Fujihara's campaign has been wildly successful, receiving coverage from media outlets worldwide. Since the campaign began, the number of visitors to Obama has increased 20 percent, and the number of visitors to his hotel rose 15 percent. Fujihara and four other town officials will attend Obama's inauguration ceremony this month.


• Attendance at beginning: 200
• Attendance at end: 400
• Length of party: 6 hours
• Number of Obama Boys: 14
• Population of Obama: 32,000

Originally published Jan. 1, 2009

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