Tennis Superstar Naomi Osaka — The reality of different cultures

Tennis Superstar Naomi Osaka (Image via Instagram)

Naomi Osaka, known for her talent and passion for tennis, is a multicultural, multiracial, Japanese-Haitian-American woman.

She worked her way up to the No. 1 ranked player in women’s tennis following her Grand Slam wins at the 2018 U.S. Open and the 2019 Australian Open.

Osaka’s background

Osaka grew up in the United States but holds Japanese citizenship and represents Japan on the tennis court. She was born in Osaka City, Osaka, Japan, on October 16, 1997, growing up with her parents, Leonard Maxime Francois and Tamaki Osaka.

Due to her mother’s relationship with a Haitian man, Osaka was given her mother’s last name to try to make life in Japan easier. Japan is a racially homogenous country where mixed-race children have been called “hafu,” meaning “half,” and have faced discrimination.

Naomi Osaka (Image via Instagram)
Naomi Osaka (via Instagram)

“When I go to Japan people are confused,” Osaka once told USA Today. “From my name, they don’t expect to see a Black girl.”

In a 2018 interview, Osaka said: “Japanese culture? I love everything about it…. And Haiti, if you’ve ever met a Haitian person, they are really positive, and literally if you’re friends with them, then they will do anything for you. That’s something that is a really good trait, and I’m really happy that my grandparents and my dad’s side of the family is like that.”

Olympic Impact

Osaka has become a leading activist and superstar in professional tennis. The 2021 Olympics, held in Tokyo, showcased Japan’s growing ethnic diversity. This was controversial because of Japan’s known aversion regarding mixed-races.

Unfortunately, Osaka became a target when she was given the honor of lighting the cauldron, where some said the honor should have gone to a “pure” Japanese.

Naomi Osaka at the Tokyo Olympics (Image via Instagram)
Naomi Osaka at the Tokyo Olympics (Image via Instagram)

Osaka and her cultural activism

Osaka’s response to the bullying and negativity surrounding her multicultural roots only motivated her to do more to fix the situation.

She consistently shows her love and appreciation for her parents and states that she wouldn’t want it any other way. Osaka has proven herself to be not only an inspiration to fellow multiracial and multicultural people, but a leader as well.

She withdrew from the 2020 Cincinnati Open to raise awareness for the shooting of Jacob Blake. Additionally, in the 2020 U.S. Open, Osaka wore masks that displayed the names of several African-Americans who were the victims of police brutality, including Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd.

Naomi Osaka wearing a mask with police shooting victim Ahmaud Arbery
Naomi Osaka (via Instagram)

Naomi Osaka’s multicultural background allowed her to share her story for benefit of others. Osaka has cultivated a strong connection to fans in all three countries. She’s very representative of people her age, in that she’s authentic.

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