A mayor in Japan won a legion of followers after it was revealed his name could be pronounced as “Jo Baiden”.
Yutaka Umeda, who is the mayor of Yamato, in the southwestern Japan prefecture of Kumamoto, became a hot topic over the weekend after people realised his name could bear a resemblance to the newly-elected president of the US.
In Japanese Kanji characters, which descend from Chinese characters, his last name can be read as “ume” and “da”, but also as “bai” – pronounced “buy” – and “den”. The single character for his first name, Yutaka, is more commonly pronounced as “jo”.
According to reports, mayor Umeda did not recognise the connection until his relatives said his name was trending on Twitter.
Addressing his new-found fame, Japanese newspaper the Mainichi reported him as saying: “I have felt a not-too-distant connection, but the suddenness with which talk of this has come has left me a little perplexed.”
Yoshihide Suga, prime minister of Japan, congratulated President-elect Biden and Vice-president-elect Kamala Harris shortly after their victory was announced on Saturday.
He wrote on Twitter: “Warm congratulations to @JoeBiden and @KamalaHarris. I look forward to working with you to further strengthen the Japan-US Alliance and ensure peace, freedom, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.”
The “Joe Biden/Jo Baiden” incident isn’t the first time a Japanese name has doubled up as a US president.
In 2008, the residents of Obama City in Fukui Prefecture in central Japan were delighted when Barack Obama was elected.
Satoshi Emi, an Obama city official, told ABC News that the city started to pay closer attention to Mr Obama in 2006 when one of the residents saw him make a joke on Japanese television and said: “I am from Obama City in Fukui Prefecture.”
Residents later capitalised on his two-term success by selling Obama merchandise and setting up support groups for the president.
Mr Obama later thanked the town, which translates to “little beach” in English, saying at the time: “I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to the city of Obama for your support and encouragement and thank you for your thoughtful gift.
“We share more than a common name. We share a common planet and common responsibility. I look forward to a future marked by the continued friendship of our two great nations and shared commitment to a better, freer world.”
The president-elect has yet to comment on his ties to the Japanese mayor.