Japan mayor ‘Jo Baiden’ finds internet fame post-Biden election win

Yutaka Umeda, Japanese mayor (L) and U.S. president-elect Joe Biden. Yamato Prefecture/ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

Following Joe Biden‘s presidential election win, the mayor of a small town in Japan is reaping a little bit of his own glory.

Yutaka Umeda, the 73-year-old mayor of Yamato, a town of 15,000 denizens in southwest Japan, has found himself at the centre of internet attention after it was pointed out that the kanji characters used to spell his name can also be pronounced “Jo Baiden.”

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(Fun fact: even searching “Jo Baiden” on the internet turns up information on Joe Biden.)

The mayor’s surname, written as “梅田,” can be read as “ume” and “da,” but also as “bai” and “den.” The single character “穣” for his first name is more regularly pronounced as “jo” or “jou.”

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Umeda had no clue he was trending on social media — especially in Japan — until his family told him what was happening on Friday.

“I feel a sense of fate, but I’m a bit perplexed as this came suddenly,” Umeda said to publication Japan Times on Sunday. “I feel very close to (president-elect Biden). It feels as though I’ve also won the election after hearing about (his) projected win.”

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After saying he’d received a deluge of messages from supporters and well-wishers, Umeda said he hopes the attention, no matter how short-lived, can bring some awareness to Yamato.

“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,” he said.

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If he ever met Biden, he would introduce himself as “Biden of Kumamoto,” said Umeda.

The town of Obama, Japan underwent a similar experience when Barack Obama was first elected president of the U.S. in 2008.


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