178 Hirokazu Tanakas set new namesake-gathering world record

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 Guinness World 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 to Japan from Hanoi, Vietnam.

The Tanaka Hirokazu association organised the successful attempt in Shibuya Ward, which saw them outdo the 2005 record set by 164 Martha Stewarts, who were brought together on the set of the TV show ‘Martha!’ in New York by the famous American businesswoman of the same name.

Wearing identical T-shirts emblazoned with their name, the men 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 which was met by 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”.

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 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 Agence France-Presse. “I’m just grateful to my parents.”

Originally planned for 2020 to coincide with the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, the world record attempt was, like the Games, postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Tanakas had already failed twice to beat the Martha Stewarts, most recently in 2017 when only 87 showed up.

Previous challenges were thwarted by the association’s adherence to stricter criteria in which all Hirokazu Tanakas had to share the same characters to read their names.

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.”

According to the Guinness World Records website, the largest gathering of people with the same first name was in 2017, when 2,325 Ivans convened in Kupres, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Previously, that record was held by 1,096 Mohammeds.

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