OBAMA, Japan (Reuters) - Temple bells tolled, fireworks were set off and residents danced the hula in the cold Japanese city of Obama on Tuesday to celebrate the inauguration of Barack Obama, who will become the first black U.S. president.
The party began several hours ahead of the inauguration ceremony in the sleepy fishing town in western Japan, which has turned into the nation's leading cheerleader for Obama.
Over a hundred Obama fans flocked to a local Buddhist temple to celebrate the inauguration in Hawaiian style, as a tribute to Obama's birthplace.
A group called "Obama Girls and Boys," made up of seven local men and 15 women, danced the hula while others joined to sing a song dedicated to Obama and the city of Obama.
"I've been waiting for this day for so long. We are very happy for President Obama -- the new world leader," Chikako Shimizu, who heads the "Obama Girls," told Reuters.
Some said they could party on forever in the freezing weather.
"We are going to party all night until morning to celebrate the inauguration," said 67-year-old local Rian Obata as she danced to Hawaiian music.
The town's local souvenir shop welcomed tourists with "I Love Obama" signs and sold a variety of goods ranging from Obama sweet bean cakes to Obama chopsticks.
Barack Obama has known for some time about the small town that bears his name. Last year, the town's mayor received a thank you letter from Obama for sending him chopsticks and a Japanese good-luck charm.
Obama, 47, is set to take the oath of office at 12:00 p.m. on Tuesday. While he rides the optimism of millions of people into power, he inherits a recession and two wars that will test his skills.
($1 = 90.35 Yen)
Writing by Yoko Kubota