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’.
In 2008, attention focused on Japan’s Obama city, in Fukui Prefecture. This year has brought some fame to Yutaka Umeda, mayor of a small town in Kumamoto Prefecture. His name （梅田壤）can also be read (in Western name order) as “Jo Baiden.” That’s Mayor Jo to you, bud.
— Anthony Kuhn (@akuhnNPRnews) November 9, 2020
“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.”
The world: “The US election never ends! This is so stressful!!”
Japan: “Wow, is there a Joe Biden in Japan too?? Not really! That’s the mayor of Kumamoto, Umeda Yutaka, whose name can be read like that!!”
…I’m not even joking! The guy’s name is written as 梅田穣 (BAI-DEN-JOU) pic.twitter.com/lrk66IhpDJ
— Mima (@yoremasu) November 7, 2020
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.
fun fact, Yutaka Umeda san is a great example why kanji are driving me nuts.
umeda yutaka – baiden jô
— mono 🏴 (@mono_toy) November 9, 2020
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.
Trying to imagine how one could explain to overseas readers that a guy named Yutaka Umeda also sort of has the same name as Joe Biden. https://t.co/SNiq7JwYhk
— Peter Landers (@LandersWSJ) November 9, 2020
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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