OBAMA, Japan — Obama has finally thanked Obama.
The fishing town of Obama in central Japan recently won worldwide fame for its fervent support for U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama. The town's citizens have made headbands, T-shirts and sweet bean cakes decorated with his portrait. The town's mayor even sent gifts.
Now, on the eve of crucial primaries in Texas and Ohio, the mayor of Obama the town is all smiles after hearing from Obama the man.
Mayor Toshio Murakami said Tuesday he received a letter a day earlier from Obama in response to a letter, DVD and lacquerware chopsticks he sent the candidate more than a year ago.
"I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to the city of Obama for your support and encouragement and thank you for your thoughtful gift," the Democratic front-runner wrote in a letter mailed from Washington carrying a Feb. 25 postmark.
"We share more than a common name," Obama wrote. "We share a common planet and common responsibility. I look forward to a future marked by the continued friendship of our two great nations and shared commitment to a better, freer world."
Town officials said they believed the letter was genuine, although they had not verified it. They said they were concerned that it would be impolite to ask the candidate's office.
Sadakazu Tsubouchi, a city hall official, said the address on the letter was the same as the mayor's gift had been sent to, and that the Obama letter bore a handwritten signature.
"I have the impression that he is sincere," the mayor said at a press conference. "Once the people of Obama have learned about the letter, I am sure they will feel more friendly to him and cheer for the candidate."
Supporters in Obama -- which means "Little Beach" in Japanese -- plan to gather at a community center to watch a live broadcast of Tuesday's primaries.
The town of Obama is 400 kilometers (250 miles) west of Tokyo and has a population of 32,000.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.