Under the Japanese Kanji writing system, which originates from China, characters often have an array of phonetic readings.
The Japan Times explained Monday that the politician’s forename, “Yutaka,” is more commonly read as “jo,” while his last name “Umeda” is made up of characters meaning “plum” and “rice field.” They are usually pronounced as “ume” and “da” but can also be read as “bai” and “den.”
Umeda told local media outlets that he was oblivious to this connection to Biden, 77, until family members alerted him Friday that his name was causing a stir on social media.
Then, he says, he received a flood of messages.
“It feels as though I’ve also won the election,” Umeda said Sunday, according to the Kyodo news agency, adding that he feels “very close” to Biden, who is set to become the 46th U.S. president in January.
Umeda acknowledged that the demands of their roles may be different, but said that he thinks the two share a passion for wanting to achieve the very best for their countries.
If their paths ever cross, Umeda said, he would introduce himself as “Biden of Kumamoto.”
On social media, many were amused by the link between the two politicians.
“Trying to imagine how one could explain to overseas readers that a guy named Yutaka Umeda also sort of has the same name as Joe Biden,” Peter Landers, the Wall Street Journal’s Tokyo bureau chief, tweeted Monday.
Biden is not the first U.S. politician with links to Japan based on his name. Obama Onsen, a hot spring resort in the town of Obama in Nagasaki prefecture, garnered international interest in 2008 when Barack Obama was elected the 44th U.S. president.
A life-size statue of the former U.S. leader was erected outside the town’s tourism office several years ago.
Also in Japan lies the port city of Obama, in Fukui prefecture. It began selling Barack Obama-themed rice cakes, posters, chopsticks and clothing during his presidency.
Residents of Obama, which means “little beach,” formed a support group for the then-president in 2009, telling ABC News that he did “not feel like a stranger” and was considered family.
Speaking during a visit to Japan in 2009, the then-president said: “I could not come here without sending my greetings and gratitude to the citizens of Obama, Japan.”
On Sunday, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga offered Biden his good wishes and later said he was looking forward to working with the president-elect to strengthen relations between the two countries.