There is a city named Obama in Fukui prefecture facing Wakasa Bay north of Kyoto. It received a lot of publicity all around the world as it shares the same name as President Obama of the United States. Obama is Japanese for a ‘small beach’. Let’s have a look at this unique city and what it has to offer for tourists.
Obama has plenty of history. It was the capital of Wakasa province during Risturyo period. Risturyo was a historical law period in Japan when a caste system became prominent. Many temples related to the Yamato dynasty are also located here. Obama was a main center during Edo period too and was heavily influenced by Chinese culture. It acted as a gateway between China and Kyoto during that period. Due to its extensive trade with China in the old days, the architecture here is very similar to that of the Chinese mainland.
Obama was famous for its fishing industry – particularly mackerel, a species of pelagic fish found especially in temperate and tropical seas.
In the 1970s, Obama was one of the places where North Korean abductions took place. Some Japanese citizens were abducted by North Korean secret agents and it became a serious, sensational and controversial news all around the world.
The culture of Obama is unique. There is a 1200-year-old tradition called ‘Omizu-okuri’ (Water carrying festival) which is held every year on March 2nd. During the festival, water from the nearby river is carried and presented to the deities of the temples.
One of the oldest shrines in Obama is the Wakasahiko Shrine which was established during the 8th century. It is divided into the upper shrine (Wakasahiko) and lower shrine (Wakasahime). The upper shrine festival is held on October 10 while the lower shrine festival is held on March 10. Obama’s main source of revenue (in addition to tourism) is its fishing industry and there is a very famous research center for Marine Bio-resources there. The research center is a part of Fukui Prefectural University. Obama has sister cities such as Kawagoe and Nara.
President Obama has personally thanked the people of Obama after his election for their wishes. Coincidentally, many Japanese from the region also have the surname ‘Obama’.
There are many places to visit in and around Obama. The famous temple here is Myotsuji which has a three-storey pagoda and main hall (Hondo) which are both natural treasures of Japan. The famous shrine here is Wakasahiko Shrine. There are a few museums, namely the Chopstick Museum and Miketsukuni Wakasa Obama Food Cultural Center which show the history of food traditions in Japan. Natural beauties in Obama include the famous Sotomo Caves and Cliffs, where you can enjoy a boat ride.
So, do not forget to take pictures of Obama and tell your friends you have seen ‘Obama’ and let them struggle a bit. For more information on this town, visit its tourist website.