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Big in Japan: Obama at The Pink Cow

The inauguration of Barack Obama as president has been the news story around the world for the past several days. Tokyo, too, has become engrossed in Obama-mania. My current employer, Yomiuri Co., mandated that the first four pages of its English-language daily paper be devoted exclusively to Obama stories. This included the national pages. In addition, the paper put out an inauguration extra early in the morning of the 21st.

One story printed on January 22, "Eyes of Japanese focused on Obama" contained reactions from Japanese across the country on Obama's speech. As I was editing it, the following passage caught my eye:

"Shigeo Iizuka, 70, chairman of the Association of the Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea, said, 'I was disappointed the new president didn't mention the abduction issue during his inauguration address'."

This response highlights the Japan-centric nature of news reported here. While its reasonable for a Japanese man who heads such an organization to be concerned with this issue, it is more likely Obama would be inclined to touch on issues that are more pertinent to Americans in his speech.

This type of story had me craving a brief respite from the Japanese news cycle before Obama had even given his inaugural speech, so I googled "Tokyo Obama inauguration party" and found the only bar in town having a shindig in celebration of the historic occasion, The Pink Cow.

I had visited the establishment before - it has excellent chicken burritos and reasonable prices, But the clientele tends to be a bit on the wacky side.

"What the hell?" I thought, its better than doing nothing.

I was not prepared for what I saw when I got there. The bar was packed to capacity with non-Japanese of the Washington D.C. ilk. By this I mean wide-eyed self-important political junkies. I felt like I was back in D.C. It made me uneasy.


It only got worse. The head of Democrats Abroad Tokyo got on the mic, launched into a diatribe about Howard Dean, and then began to scream OBAMA! at the top of his lungs.

Next, a series of events were set in motion that not only confirmed my worst fears, but also made me feel as if I were in a hippie vegan coffee shop.

We were told we were going to hear the speech, but that "there were going to be a few songs first."

We sang "America the Beautiful," which was fine. Sort of.

Next, one of the proprietors of the bar got up on stage with his acoustic. "Wow, I've never played in front of this many people before," he said.


Sure enough, his voice cracked while singing.

Then he launched into a five-minute diatribe about 9/11 that in any other situation would have sent me dashing for the exit (or at least the bar). Unfortunately, it was too crowded to move, so I got stuck next to a woman who stunk to high heaven of patchouli. And then we suffered through two painfully bad songs about September 11th.

I thought, "They'll definitely play the speech now."

They did, but they followed it immediately with a spoken word performance backed by an African drum circle. Patchouli woman danced like she got her moves from Elaine Benes.

I'll admit that the event's heart was in the right place. But it sure wasn't much of a party. There was even nearly a fist fight between two drunken African-American gentlemen yelling "O-BA-MA" and "NOBAMA" at each other.

Most people left before 10 p.m. and many of them were there only there to be seen by each other.

As an expat living in a homogeneous country like Japan, it is uncommon to see such large groups of foreigners congregated together - other than the military boys or English teachers on a night out- - much less an ethnically diverse group like the one at The Pink Cow on inauguration night. So sometimes I miss seeing my fellow Americans. But that night, wow, what a ship of fools.


Previously in Big in Japan:
* Not Fukudome
* The Yokohama Cubs
* The Chicago Way
* Not The Olympics
* Charisma Man
* Not American Football
* J-Girl Style
* Chicago Blues
* Obama
* Drunken Salarymen


Posted on January 23, 2009

MUSIC - Britney's IUD.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - Climate Deniers' 4 Top Scare Tactics.
SPORTS - The McEnroes In Antarctica.

BOOKS - Foxconned.


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