One quaint little town calling themselves “Japan’s USA” unexpectedly found themselves in hot water for celebrating the new American president.
Nestled along the coast of the Suonada Sea in Oita Prefecture, you’ll find the charming rural city of Usa (pronounced oo-sah). Although, immediately obvious in English, the coincidental spelling to the United States of America’s acronym is a little more novel to Japanese people who normally see the name in kanji or hiragana.
▼ The image at the bottom of this sign at Usa Station shows Usa Jingu shrine, but the layout looks an awful lot like the stars and stripes
It’s a coincidence that the locals are hoping to capitalize on in an effort to bolster tourism and make Usa great again. Calling the city “Japan’s USA,” citizen groups are hoping people will come for the charming play on words, and stay for their famous “Usa Candy” made from rice and malt.
鑁阿歓喜団@1/700葛城建造中 (@maaaaberaaaa) August 15, 2014
Meanwhile, in the actual USA, big things are afoot as Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President. While we all intently watched his Twitter feed to see what policies he will announce over the coming weeks in between his thoughts on the latest episode of Saturday Night Live, Usa City decided to mark the occasion with a special event.
宇佐市内で「ＵＳＡ」で地域の活性化を図る５団体が「日本のＵＳＡ（宇佐）でアメリカ大統領就任を盛大に祝う会」を発足！！１月に宇佐駅で盛大な祝賀イベントが開催されるようです♪ 詳しくはこちらを検索→… twitter.com/i/web/status/8…—
宇佐市 (@usacity_pr) December 20, 2016
Creating a name so grandiose it would make Trump himself blush, the “Extravagantly Celebrate the American Presidential Inauguration in Japan’s USA Association” was formed. Their mission was to decorate JR Usa Station on January 21st (Japan time) with American style decorations including plentiful stars and stripes and a cardboard cutout of President Trump in that peculiar stance he sometimes has where he looks like he’s kind of holding the front of his jacket but also kind of giving a thumbs up.
The display was successful at creating a buzz for Usa, but unfortunately almost all of the feedback was unexpectedly negative. Emails and phone calls came into the Usa tourist association asking “Are you celebrating someone who doesn’t seem to support Japan?” and suggesting “Maybe you should take another look at the things this guy says.”
It all came as a shock to the tiny city who just wanted to promote their coincidentally funny name. Although a little downtrodden by the backlash, organizers such as 55-year-old Yuko Yoshitake remain steadfast in their mission, pleading that people consider their actions with a kind heart and hoping that “people from home and abroad come to visit Japan’s USA!”
It’s unfortunate how this small-town gesture of hospitality got politicized, but then again basing your event on a major political event does run that risk. I can’t blame them for trying though, in other ways Japan seems fairly receptive to Trump enjoying both his accordion playing and youngest son. Sad.