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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 28 February 2021

Japanese mayor 'Jo Baiden' feels affinity to US president-elect

Yutaka Umeda's name sounds like 'Joe Biden' in alternative pronunciation of the Japanese spelling

Yutaka Umeda, mayor of the Japanese town of Yamato, right, has gained fame for the similarity between an alternative pronunciation of his name and that of the US president-elect Joe Biden. Reuters
Yutaka Umeda, mayor of the Japanese town of Yamato, right, has gained fame for the similarity between an alternative pronunciation of his name and that of the US president-elect Joe Biden. Reuters

Meet Japan's Joe Biden – the mayor of a remote town who has become an internet sensation for having a name that can be pronounced the same as that of the US president-elect.

Yutaka Umeda, the 73-year-old mayor of Yamato – a town of 15,000 in south-western Japan – first realised that the Chinese characters used to write his name could, if said differently, sound like "Joe Biden" while watching television coverage of the US vote count with his family.

Japan uses kanji characters from China along with phonetic Japanese script, especially for names, and the characters can sometimes be read in different ways.

In Mr Umeda's case, his first name, Yutaka, can also be pronounced "Jo", while his surname becomes "Baiden".

Over the last few days, Mr Umeda has become a media and internet sensation.

"I'm really surprised," he told Reuters. "I was told I was in the news in Japan but I was in Tokyo yesterday, and I heard from people that I made news in the US too."

People have suggested Mr Umeda fly to Washington to meet Mr Biden or invite him to Yamato, but for now, Mr Umeda said he would content himself with a congratulatory letter.

"To me, the president of the US was someone far away," he said.

"But coincidentally, because our names are phonetically the same, I feel much closer to him when I watch his speeches and videos."

Updated: November 12, 2020 03:57 PM

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