A meeting between the two Bidens looks set to be on the cards for the future.

Following a tense U.S. election, it was finally announced on 7 November that American politician Joe Biden had defeated incumbent Donald Trump to become the 46th president of the United States.

Here in Japan, local media had been following the event closely, with television stations reporting on updates with super deformed character heads of the two nominees. What nobody knew, though, was Japan had its very own Joe Biden living here in Kumamoto Prefecture. And even he was unaware of the fame that the U.S. election would bring to his doorstep, until his family pointed out that he shared the same name as the president-elect.

▼ Say hello to Japan’s Joe Biden, who’s actually the Mayor of Yamato, a country town in Kumamoto Prefecture.

As the clip above shows, Japan’s Joe Biden is actually Japanese mayor Yutaka Umeda. The reason why his name is the same as Biden’s, despite being entirely different, is due to the kanji used in his name, which is written out as “梅田穣” (“Umeda Yutaka”).

The first two kanji (“梅田”) mean “plum” and “rice field“, and are commonly read as “Ume” and “Da” to create “Umeda”, a relatively common surname in Japan. An alternate reading of those two characters, however, is “Bai” and “Den“, and to top it off, the character for Yutaka (“穣”) is more commonly read as “Jo“. Hence, Yutaka Umeda’s name can also be read as “Baiden Jo” in Japanese, or to use Western naming conventions for Japanese names, where the family name is read last, “Jo Baiden”.

Four years younger than Biden, 73-year-old Umeda, or “Baiden” as he’s now become known, says he only became aware of the connection between himself and the president elect after his daughter-in-law told him that the alternate reading of his name had become a hot topic on the Internet.

▼ His name has since made national and international news.

Interestingly, Umeda says his first name had always been a bit of a sore point for him, as “穣” was an old kanji that was difficult to write, and not many Japanese knew to read it as “Yutaka”, instead misreading it as “Jo” or “Minoru”, which are more common readings.

He said only one in 1,000 people he met could read his name as “Yutaka” upon first meeting, so it came as even more of a surprise to Umeda that his name actually turned out to be the thing that thrust him into the spotlight following Biden’s U.S. election win.

Inundated with phone calls over the weekend, Umeda says he would now like to use his newfound fame for the greater good of the community, hoping it will make Yamato more widely known, both in Japan and overseas.

▼ Yamato is a small town with a population of roughly 15,000.

Speaking to the media following Biden’s win, Baiden said:

“When I meet Mr Biden, I would like to introduce myself as ‘Kumamoto’s Biden'”.

He also said he hopes Mr Biden will be able to enjoy Yamato’s organic vegetables in future, and he will be working with staff and townspeople to find ways to make good use of the “Biden connection”. There are hopes that more people will come to visit Yamato once the coronavirus pandemic dies down, and a sister city agreement with a city in America would be another great development to come out of the connection.

This isn’t the first time a small Japanese country town has attracted worldwide attention, as Obama in Fukui Prefecture also found itself thrust into the spotlight during Obama’s 2009-2017 presidency, and Conan Town in Tottori Prefecture welcomed American TV talk show host Conan O’Brien to its rural setting in 2018.

With Biden set to take office in January next year, a meeting between the two Bidens looks set to be on the cards in future. And maybe, just maybe, a third Biden will be invited to join them.

Sources: NHK News, Mainichi Shimbun via Hachima Kikou 
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