I've recently read some curious news.

Apparently, the mayor of a small Japanese town, Yutaka Umeda, has unexpectedly become somewhat of a celebrity after the recent US elections, because his name can also be read as "Jo Baiden".


Thanks to the vagaries of Japan's complex written language, an obscure provincial mayor has suddenly gained his 15 minutes of fame after discovering his name can also be read as the moniker of America's president-elect.

"I feel we have a bond," Mayor Yutaka Umeda, aka, "Joe Biden," of Yamato town, in southwest Japan, was quoted as saying by local media. "When I heard (Biden) had won, it was like a personal victory for me, too."

Japan Times:

Yutaka Umeda, 73, mayor of Yamato, Kumamoto Prefecture, was caught by surprise when his family told him that an alternate reading of his name had drawn attention online.

"I feel very close to him. It feels as though I've also won the election after hearing about (Democratic nominee Joe Biden's) projected win" over his rival, President Donald Trump, Umeda said Sunday.

Kanji characters usually have several phonetic readings. The mayor's family name comprises characters meaning "plum" and "rice field," but while they are usually pronounced as "ume" and "da" in names — a fairly common one in Japan — they can also be read as "bai" and "den." The character for Yutaka, meanwhile, is more commonly read as "jo."

Admittedly, I know nothing about Chinese, Japanese or how kanji works. I also tried to find an online table of kanji characters and check it myself, but unsuccesfully.

Is this true?


1 Answer 1


According to the town's official website, the mayor of Yamato-cho, Kumamoto is indeed named Yutaka Umeda.


The kanji for his name is 梅田 (うめだ, Umeda) 穰 (ゆたか, Yutaka). His name uses kun'yomi readings for the kanji, meaning they are of Japanese origin.

If you read the characters with their Chinese-origin readings (on'yomi), they are 梅 (ばい, bai) 田 (でん, den) 穰 (じょう, jou).

So, yes, the kanji used to write his name do have on'yomi readings that sound similar to "Joe Biden."

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