January 27, 2021
Joe Biden victory also a win for Japanese mayor Jo Baiden

Joe Biden victory also a win for Japanese mayor Jo Baiden

This story is part of Elections 2020, CNET’s coverage of the voting in November and its aftermath.

Thanks to Joe Biden, the mayor of a small Japanese town is enjoying international name recognition. That’s because the kanji characters used to write his name in Japanese can be pronounced “Baiden-jo” or Jo Baiden, which sounds an awful lot like a certain Democrat currently dominating the headlines. 

Yutaka Umeda, the 73-year-old mayor of Yamato in southwest Japan, said he’s received many joking messages congratulating him on his success. He seems to be appreciating the humor of his moment in the social media spotlight and says he hopes the attention will benefit his town of a little over 15,000 residents. 

“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 Japan Times quoted him as saying

Yamato is located in the Kumamoto Prefecture, which explains the internet’s new moniker for Umeda: “Kumamoto’s Biden.” Travel sites list the town’s main attractions as the Kumamoto Castle, the Aso Shrine, Mt. Kunimi and the Tsujun Bridge. 

The kanji characters used in Japanese writing originated in China and usually have several phonetic readings. Characters in the mayor’s family name are pronounced “ume” and “da” in names, but can also be read as “bai” and “den.” To round off the mayor’s historic good fortune, the character for his first name, Yutaka, is more commonly read as “jo.”

Umeda said his name’s proximity to Biden’s gives him a sense of connection to the former vice president. 

“I feel very close to him,” Umeda said. “It feels as though I’ve also won the election after hearing about (Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s) projected win.” 

This isn’t the first time a US leader’s name has been connected to a small Japanese town. Obama Onsen, a small coastal resort city in Nagasaki, became synonymous with former president Barack Obama after he was elected in 2008.

See also: Best language learning apps of 2020

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