Hiroshima mayor upholds "Obamajority Campaign"

by Yumi Kanazaki, Staff Writer

On October 22, Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba held a press conference and shared his intention to maintain the City's "Obamajority Campaign," which incorporates the name of U.S. President Barack Obama, who has advocated "a world without nuclear weapons."

Among Hiroshima citizens, however, disappointment in the president has been growing since the disclosure of the U.S. subcritical nuclear test that was conducted in September, the first such nuclear test under the Obama administration. It is unclear whether the City of Hiroshima can continue a nuclear abolition campaign linked to the current president of the nuclear superpower.

Against a backdrop on which was written "Obamajority," both in English and in Japanese, Mayor Akiba spoke with a stern face. "The fact that President Obama has made efforts for a policy aimed at realizing a world without nuclear weapons has not changed," the mayor said, stressing the significance of the campaign while taking a strong stand against the U.S. nuclear test.

The word "Obamajority" is a blend of "Obama" and "majority." The term was coined by Mayor Akiba in June of last year when he revealed that it would be used as a slogan in advancing the campaign for nuclear abolition.

Objections to the campaign have been voiced from the start

In the Peace Declaration issued in 2009, Mayor Akiba said to the world: "We refer to ourselves, the great global majority, as the 'Obamajority.'" In fiscal year 2009, the City of Hiroshima spent 2.74 million yen to make T-shirts with a logo and posters to promote the campaign.

From the start, though, when Mayor Akiba threw his support behind the effort, opposition has been voiced from some A-bomb survivors. They argue that the city should not be relying on the leader of the nuclear superpower. Then, on October 12, it was revealed that the United States conducted the subcritical nuclear test and issued no announcement of this test beforehand.

"Why was Obama awarded the Nobel Peace Prize? He has betrayed us." Disappointment and anger surged among Hiroshima citizens. Kazuyuki Tamura, a professor at the Graduate School of Ryukoku University, called for a citizens' petition, seeking an audit and cancellation of public money for the campaign, contending that the campaign is illegal. He and his supporters have urged the city to end the effort. Their request was rebuffed earlier this month, but Mr. Tamura has bolstered his argument of the campaign's illegality in response to the subcritical nuclear test.

Even some members of the city council, who support Mayor Akiba's peace efforts, voiced doubts: "Under the circumstances, it's difficult to win the support of citizens for the campaign." Although there have been as few as five complaints from citizens to the City since the U.S. nuclear test was revealed, some view this fact as the result of a lack of awareness among the public with regard to the campaign.

Shuntaro Torigoe, a journalist who has known Mayor Akiba since the 1980s when the mayor was an associate professor at a university in the United States, said that he himself was not familiar with the campaign, commenting, "We should not conclude that Obama's appeal, which has had a significant impact on the world, has been erased by this nuclear test."

Mixed feelings about the campaign

The City of Hiroshima has set a goal of realizing the abolition of nuclear weapons by the year 2020. The "Obamajority Campaign" was launched by Mayor Akiba with the aim of moving international opinion to advance this goal. However, Mr. Obama, the centerpiece of the campaign, has permitted a subcritical nuclear test to be conducted for the first time since he took office. As a result, the upside and downside of the campaign have begun to be argued anew.

(Originally published on October 25, 2010)


"Obamajority" is a term that was coined to denote the majority of the world's people who support U.S. President Barack Obama spearheading the vision of "a world without nuclear weapons," which he advocated in a speech made in Prague in April of 2009. The City of Hiroshima adopted the term for a campaign to inspire momentum in connection with international opinion regarding nuclear abolition. In short order, the City came up with ideas for producing goods, posters, and a song to promote the campaign. The logo for the campaign was printed on the back of the City employees' directory. T-shirts with the logo are sold at Peace Memorial Museum in two colors, blue and white, for 2,000 yen.

(Originally published on Oct. 25, 2010)

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