I’m sure this has been circulating on the internets for quite a while, but since I haven’t been religiously following Barack Obama’s every step from the senate to presidency, it took me by surprise when I saw a link to Obama City in Fukui Prefecture in my Google Reader shares.
This is a beautiful example of multiple readings of the same kanji. 小 (little, small) is usually “ko” but in names it can be pronounced as “o”. And 浜 (port, beach) is though usually “hama” when in a compound it sometimes goes through a phenomenon called sequential voicing (連濁) adding a ten-ten to the first kana: “bama”. Thus the compound reads: Obama.
Obviously the City of Obama tried to exploit the popularity fanned by the presidential candidate as much as possible. Apparently the craze went so far that on inauguration day a pack of hula dancers celebrated the first African-American president at one of Obama’s (the city’s) old temples. As for why hula… better not ask.