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Sunday, November 29, 2020

Japan’s ‘Jo Baiden’ becomes internet celebrity after US election results

Yutaka Umeda, the mayor of Yamato — a small Japanese town that is home to around 15,000 people — became an internet sensation this week after several social media users pointed out that the characters of his name could also be read as ‘Jo Baiden’.

By: Trends Desk | New Delhi | Updated: November 12, 2020 2:24:41 pm
Yamato mayor Yutaka Umeda said that he was unaware of the connection to Biden until members of of his family told him about it last week. (Source: Yamato Town's Mayor's office, AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Just days after Democrat Joe Biden defeated incumbent President Donald Trump and was declared the victor of the US Presidential election, a 73-year-old politician in Japan gained overnight fame.

Yutaka Umeda, the mayor of Yamato — a small Japanese town that is home to around 15,000 people — became an internet sensation this week after several social media users pointed out that the characters of his name could also be read as ‘Jo Baiden’, when written in the Kanji script.

Japanese Kanji characters generally have multiple phonetic readings. The mayor’s family name, which consists of characters that translate to ‘plum’ and ‘rice field’, is usually pronounced ‘ume’ and ‘da’. But the characters can also be read as ‘bai’ and ‘den’, while the character for Yutaka is also commonly pronounced as ‘jo’.

“I feel very close to him. It feels as though I’ve also won the election after hearing about (Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s) projected win,” Umeda said in a recent interview with Japan Times. “Being the president of a superpower like the United States and a mayor of Yamato — the scale (of our jobs) is completely different, but I’d like to think of ways to promote the town.”

Umeda said that he received a flurry of messages after Biden won the US election. He told Japan Times that he was unaware of the connection to Biden until members of of his family told him about it last week.

If he ever gets to meet Biden, Umeda said that he would introduce himself as the “Biden of Kumamoto”.

This is not the first time a US President has been linked to Japan due to his name. A port city called Obama, located in the country’s Fukui prefecture, came into the limelight in 2008 after former President Barack Obama was elected.

The town began selling Obama-themed merchandise and memorabilia in the years that followed. Chopsticks, sweet-bean buns and other souvenirs featuring the former president’s names were sold to tourists who visited the town.

In fact, during a visit to Japan in 2009, Obama said, “I could not come here without sending my greetings and gratitude to the citizens of Obama, Japan.”

Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga was one of the first world leaders to congratulate the real Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris for their win. “Warm congratulations to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris,” he tweeted. “I look forward to working with you to further strengthen the Japan-U.S. Alliance and ensure peace, freedom and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.”

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