In Japan, Obama inauguration inspires English lessons, off-kilter likenesses

The Adamu household is just ecstatic and relieved to see Obama inaugurated as president. We can’t tell which feels better: not-Bush in the White House or Obama in the White House? 
Though you might not know it to look around you, there are many in Japan who are excited about Obama who don’t live in a certain newly famous town that happens to be named after him. As just one indicator of interest, NHK announced its late-night ratings almost quadrupled for live coverage of the address. A fairly universal attitude by my observation has been, “Why don’t we have dynamic leaders like that in Japan?” So the buzz over Obama may in part be a kind of vicarious thrill.
So even before the inauguration, individuals and businesses in Japan have been finding interesting ways to express their enthusiasm. Let’s take a look:

1. Learn English

  • Listening to one of the great speechifiers of our time can be inspiring. Obama’s message can call you to serve your country, resolve to be a better person, or sacrifice for the greater good (but tragically apparently not to prosecute those responsible for the Bush regime’s crimes). Some aspiring English speakers in Japan have taken this opportunity to brush up on their own speaking skills. Prominent among the “Obama books” that are currently flooding Japanese bookstore displays is CNN’s Obama Speech Collection for students of English as a second language. The book, so far having sold over 400,000 copies, features excerpts from famous Obama speeches with a Japanese translation on the opposite page, which students can use to follow along as they listen to an attached CD. I picked it up the other day and it has proven useful both as a translation reference for US politics and as a handy record of his landmark addresses. I’m not sure how effective it is as a teaching tool, but for a Japanese learner of English inspired by Obama it will no doubt give them easy access to the tools they need (minus the inauguration address, of course).
  • Meanwhile, much like Kenya’s “Obama imitation contest“, some private English classrooms have started offering Obama mimicry lessons to a reportedly favorable response. In one TV news report, groups of 20+ students lined up to wait their turn to recite famous Obama speeches as a White-boy instructor barked orders on how to mimic Obama’s unique oratory style.

2. Create a mildly unsettling Obama likeness

Here we see some examples of creativity from both traditional and modern artists that deserve an “A” for effort but unfortunately didn’t turn out all that appealing:

no resemblance whatsoever?
No resemblance whatsoever?

Zombie Reagan looking gaunt (or is that Carter??)
Zombie Reagan looking gaunt (so Carter really is irrelevant!)

* Thanks to Andrew Leonard for the correction!

Compare to the real thing:

That’s more like it!

6 thoughts on “In Japan, Obama inauguration inspires English lessons, off-kilter likenesses”

  1. Here’s another good one I spotted right around Ayasa when I was crashing at Joe’s place over the weekend.

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