Tennis star Naomi Osaka has responded after one of her sponsors was accused of "whitewashing" her in a drawing, saying: "I'm tan, it's pretty obvious."
In an animated advert, noodle company Nissin was accused of portraying
the Haitian-Japanese sports personality with white skin and light brown
The company later took the campaign off the air and issued an apology for "not [being] sensitive enough".
Osaka told a press conference that Nissin also apologised to her directly.
"I've talked to [Nissin] and they've apologised," she told journalists
at the Australian Open. "It's obvious, I'm tan. It's pretty obvious."
She added: "I don't think they did it on purpose to be 'whitewashing' or
anything, but I definitely think that, next time they try to portray me
or something, I feel like they should talk to me about it."
Osaka beat Elina Svitolina on Wednesday to reach the semi-finals of the Australian Open.
It is not the first time that Osaka has found her victories on the court overshadowed by a row over a cartoon.
In September 2018, an Australian cartoonist depicted Osaka as a
blonde-haired, white-skinned woman in a controversy that took weeks to
Responding to the latest backlash on Wednesday, a Nissin spokesperson
said there was "no intention of whitewashing". "We accept that we are
not sensitive enough and will pay more attention to diversity issues in
The row has once again cast a light on the issue of race and discrimination in Japan.
Japan is a country which is - even now - extremely homogenous. The issue
of race and racism, therefore, is perhaps not as obvious to people on a
Today, attitudes - and the country's homogeneity - are changing. About
one in every 50 babies born in Japan are mixed race like Osaka, who was
mainly raised in the US but born in the city of Osaka.
Yet even with stars like 21-year-old Osaka - not to mention the sprinter
Asuka Cambridge, baseball player Yu Darvish and judo star Mashu Baker -
the "hafu" still face prejudice. "Hafu" is the Japanese word for mixed
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