OBAMA, Japan: As US presidential candidate Barack Obama declared he was "within reach" of the Democratic nomination for the White House, Obama town in western Japan celebrated with hula dancers yesterday.
The ancient fishing village of 32,000 people has been rooting for the senator to beat out rival Hillary Clinton, hoping that if he becomes the president, he will put Obama firmly on the tourist map.
"Senator Obama now enters a really crucial stage. I join the citizens of Obama city in wishing him luck in clinching victory in the presidential election on November 4," Obama Mayor Toshio Murakami said.
Supporters gathered in beachside Obama Park to celebrate the candidate's march to the nomination with local hula dancers as the sun set.
The celebration took place in the evening so that the hula dancers - who call themselves "Obama Girls" and are mostly local housewives - could turn out after preparing suppers for their families.
Supporters in Obama - which means "small shore" in Japanese - have held parties to watch the results of voting in primary battles and put up posters wishing the senator luck.
Obama locals will travel to Hawaii next month to join a hula competition in Honolulu and hopefully to meet the senator's sister, Seiji Fujihara, head of the local tourism board said, adding that supporters also plan to go to the mainland, possibly in August.