TOKYO: Remembering names at a party is never easy, except at a gathering in Tokyo on Saturday where all 178 guests were called Hirokazu Tanaka — breaking a record previously held by 164 Martha Stewarts.
Hirokazu Tanakas from all walks of life came together for the record attempt, including a three-year-old toddler, an 80-year-old and even one who flew in from Hanoi.
Wearing identical T-shirts emblazoned with their name, they sat still in a packed theatre for five minutes, as per the Guinness rules, before an official from the organisation declared a new record.
“Congratulations on your achievement!” the judge said, a declaration met by roaring cheers.
It was a dream come true for 53-year-old Hirokazu Tanaka, the man who brought his namesakes together after years of strenuous efforts and two failed attempts.
“I never expected we would achieve such a ridiculous record,” he said with a chuckle, adding that the Tanakas had “set an example of silliness”.
The Guinness World Record for the “largest gathering of people with the same first and last name” previously belonged to 164 people called Martha Stewart who filled the set of a TV show in New York in 2005.
Tanaka’s quest for the feat dates back to 1994, when he stumbled upon news about a baseball prodigy also called Hirokazu Tanaka — and felt “thunderous joy” at a name he had previously considered mundane.
He began tirelessly scouring the nation for his namesakes, founding the “Hirokazu Tanaka campaign”, a blossoming network that once even released a jokey song celebrating their strange friendship.
To tell each other apart, every man in the group was assigned an alias inspired by their hobbies, occupation or favourite food, with the founding Tanaka known as “Semi-Leader”.
As each Hirokazu Tanaka arrived on Saturday, their nicknames were announced to the crowd, including “Sunglasses”, “Chewing Gum” and “Triathlon”.
“It’s a strange feeling, being awarded a Guinness record just because of my name,” said “Hot Pot” Tanaka.
“I would’ve thought the award was meant to recognise a particular effort,” the 21-year-old firefighter told AFP.
“I’m just grateful to my parents.”
The Tanakas had already failed twice to beat the Martha Stewarts, most recently in 2017 when only 87 showed up.
But a glimmer of hope emerged when Guinness clarified that as long as the name is “Hirokazu Tanaka”, it doesn’t matter if the Japanese characters used to write the name are slightly different in each case.
“It’s not like I had a huge rivalry towards the Martha Stewarts,” said “Earring” Tanaka, a 46-year-old systems engineer.
“Rather, Martha Stewarts pioneered this record… so I’d consider them our kindred spirits, even though we’ve never met.”
Sadly, not every Hirokazu Tanaka in the group was able to join the gathering.
Suzuko Tanaka, 75, told AFP that his son Hirokazu had died of Covid-19 last year.
The son, nicknamed “Mini Van” due to his fondness for the vehicles, “was always very eager to join in with the events organised by this group”, Suzuko said.
“He would have been happy today.”