Joe Biden and Mayor Yutaka Umeda  Baiden
Joe Biden and Mayor Yutaka Umeda Image Credit: AP and Yamato Government

Tokyo: Meet Japan’s Joe Biden - the mayor of a remote town who’s 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 southwestern 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 Umeda’s case, his first name, Yutaka, can also be pronounced “Jo,” while his surname becomes “Baiden.” Over the last few days, Umeda has become a media and internet sensation.

“I’m really surprised,” Umeda said. “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 Umeda fly to Washington to meet Biden or invite him to Yamato, but for now, Umeda said he will content himself with a congratulatory letter.

“To me, the president of the US was someone far away,” said Umeda. “But coincidentally, because our names are phonetically the same, I feel much closer to him when I watch his speeches and videos.”