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  • In U.S. Open Victory, Naomi Osaka Pushes Japan to Redefine Japanese



    TOKYO — When the Ohno family watched Naomi Osaka beat Serena Williams at the United States Open early Sunday morning from Tokyo, there was no question in their minds that Ms. Osaka was a true Japanese champion.

    “Her face looks Japanese,” said Ryutaro Ohno, 14, shortly after playing a few tennis matches with his younger brother and parents at a court near the base of Tokyo Tower.
    His mother, Naoko, 49, showed a snapshot on her cellphone of her sons posing with Ms. Osaka, the daughter of a Haitian-American father and Japanese mother, when the tennis star played in the Pan Pacific Open in the Japanese capital last year.

    “Her soul is Japanese,” Ms. Ohno said. “She doesn’t display her joy so excessively. Her playing style is aggressive, but she is always humble in interviews. I like that.”

    In becoming the first Japanese-born tennis player to win a Grand Slam championship, Ms. Osaka, 20, is helping to challenge Japan’s longstanding sense of racial purity and cultural identity.

    Her emergence comes at a time when Japan is also grappling with a declining population, a looming demographic crisis that has prompted the country to open its doors slightly to accommodate an increase in foreign residents and descendants of Japanese immigrants who want to return to Japan.




    Yet even as a new generation starts to embrace a broader sense of what it means to be Japanese, a conservative strain in the country clings to a pure-blood definition of ethnicity. Still, the Japanese media warmly welcomed Ms. Osaka’s victory as the country’s own.

    “The first Japanese achievement,” read a headline on a special edition of the Sankei Shimbun on Sunday, over a large picture of Ms. Osaka, who moved to the United States when she was 3, kissing the trophy.

    On Twitter, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe congratulated Ms. Osaka. “Thank you for giving energy and inspiration to all of Japan in this troubled time,” he wrote, referring to two natural disasters of the past week: a typhoon that ripped through Western Japan and an earthquake that rocked the northern island of Hokkaido.

    Many fans woke near dawn to watch Ms. Osaka in the final. At the headquarters of Nissin, an instant-noodle company that is one of Ms. Osaka’s corporate sponsors, 150 employees gathered to watch. Nissin’s chief executive, Koki Ando, told the Nikkei newspaper that her victory was “hanpa nai ne,” Japanese slang for “awesome” or “extraordinary.”

    The celebration of Ms. Osaka struck some in Japan as hypocritical. Many biracial people — known as “hafu” in Japanese, a term that comes from the English word “half” — say that they are not truly accepted.

    “I feel sick to see people who say that Naomi Osaka is a Japanese or the pride of Japan,” a user with the handle @phie_hardison wrote on Twitter. “You can’t embrace a ‘hafu’ as Japanese only in such times. They are usually discriminated against, aren’t they?” The post had been shared more than 3,600 times as of 10 p.m. on Sunday in Japan.
    Kei Nishikori, Japan’s biggest male tennis star, used emojis to congratulate Ms. Osaka on Twitter, interspersing a series of thumbs up, trophies, flexed arms and fist bumps with several Japanese flags. Mr. Nishikori reached the semifinals of the tournament, but lost to Novak Djokovic.



    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/09/w...gtype=Homepage

    This article was originally published in forum thread: In U.S. Open Victory, Naomi Osaka Pushes Japan to Redefine Japanese started by EB88 News View original post


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