Nissin's ad featuring Kei Nishikori. left, and a "whitewashed" Naomi Osaka Photo: NISSIN
national

Sponsor of Naomi Osaka retracts ad videos over skin color dispute

75 Comments

The requested article has expired, and is no longer available. Any related articles, and user comments are shown below.

© KYODO

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

75 Comments
Login to comment

they are seriously trying to make her Japanese when she does not even speak the language nor does she or did she live in Japan....

22 ( +35 / -13 )

Nissin denied it had intended to make the skin color white and apologized for having caused confusion.

"We will be more mindful of the issue of diversity," an official of the company said.

Mindful? Try pulling your head from your... ahem, I don't want the mod to delete the rest of that sentence.

The picture's quite clear. The company, regardless of who they used as the artist (the guy who did Prince of Tennis, apparently) whitewashed Naomi so much that the anime character didn't look at all like her. They might as well have been using a member of AKB48 as the freakin' character model.

It's not being 'mindful,' it's about being honest and not totally disrespectful and tone deaf towards the ONLY person to win a major tennis championship while holding a Japanese passport.

Then again, with treatment like this, who knows how long that's going to continue?

18 ( +21 / -3 )

Alright.... yes, "Naomi Osaki", is a 100% Japanese name. She has lived in the USA since the age of 3, has U.S. citizenship and pays taxes in the USA. She cannot speak Japanese. All of her training happened in the USA and she currently resides in Pembroke, Florida. I know I sound IGNORANT here.... but I find it unbelievable that the Japanese media and Japanese themselves have totally embraced her as a product of Japan. My kids are half Japanese, live and pay taxes in Japan, speak the language but still often are treated as Gaijin. Ok... rant finished. Good Luck Naomi.

49 ( +57 / -8 )

Right, I have a seriously hard time believing that Nissin and or the people who created the ad didnt know ahead of time that there was a problem with the coloring, and went with it anyway!

BTW, that doesnt even look like her!

32 ( +35 / -3 )

Lol what more needs to be said that hasn't already.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

That is NOT a picture of Naomi Osaka. Not even close.

26 ( +29 / -3 )

BTW, that doesnt even look like her!

That doesn't look like him on the left either, lol.

12 ( +13 / -1 )

And that’s the official interpretation of Naomi Osaka folks. She’s in the club since she’s a champ, so now she’s officially Japanese!

21 ( +26 / -5 )

Right, I have a seriously hard time believing that Nissin and or the people who created the ad didnt know ahead of time that there was a problem with the coloring, and went with it anyway!

They probably figured that it would be like in the 80's, when ads would come out in Japan and nobody overseas would ever know about them until it was either too late or the ad was already over.

Garapagosu syndrome hard at work.

11 ( +13 / -2 )

Pathetically shameful.

6 ( +13 / -7 )

Saiko: ditto.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

SaikoPhysco; I can so relate. My older daughter born and raised in Japan has beautiful dark brown wavy Italian hair. She couldn't be more Japanese and well, you know the rest of the story.

15 ( +17 / -2 )

Just starting to make a name for herself, and she already has do deal with crap like this...

Good luck to her, really !

7 ( +10 / -3 )

"We will be more mindful of the issue of diversity," an official of the company said.

Another one bites the dust. Intersectionality has claimed another victim. RIP Nissin.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

Japan accepts her as one of her own native daughters. But when she starts losing, Japan will drop her faster than a hot potato.

12 ( +19 / -7 )

No complaints about "white washing" Kei Nishikori, too?

6 ( +10 / -4 )

"Naomi Osaki", is a 100% Japanese name.

Osaka ok, Naomi....not even close,

In fact the name Naomi goes back to before Japan was even a country! The name is found in numerous other cultures as well!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naomi_(given_name)#Hebrew

-4 ( +5 / -9 )

To be fair to the artist, most of the characters in Prince of Tennis appear to have been whitewashed. Also, Naomi Osaka doesn't seem overly fluent in English either. Quite why young sportspeople are expected to be hyperarticulate is beyond me, to be honest. I have a lot of sympathy for her; it can't be easy having to deal with all the pressure from just playing never mind this kind of nonsense as well.

1 ( +12 / -11 )

In fact the name Naomi goes back to before Japan was even a country! The name is found in numerous other cultures as well!

Regardless of the history, it's a very Japanese name. It may also be a name used by other cultures, but there is no doubting it's widely used by the Japanese.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

Alright.... yes, "Naomi Osaki", is a 100% Japanese name. She has lived in the USA since the age of 3, has U.S. citizenship and pays taxes in the USA. She cannot speak Japanese. All of her training happened in the USA and she currently resides in Pembroke, Florida. I know I sound IGNORANT here.... but I find it unbelievable that the Japanese media and Japanese themselves have totally embraced her as a product of Japan. My kids are half Japanese, live and pay taxes in Japan, speak the language but still often are treated as Gaijin. Ok... rant finished. Good Luck Naomi.

This! Bring your kids abroad, make them pro-something, you will see how fast the TV will drop by.

Japan has a big history of whitewashing or blackfacing. Kitano Takeshi still regularly appears on tv with a big nose or blackface. Nissin is wrong and they know it, half-hearted excuse from them.

9 ( +12 / -3 )

Yawn, good morning.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

Japan has a big history of whitewashing or blackfacing. Kitano Takeshi still regularly appears on tv with a big nose or blackface.

Blackface is not in and of itself a racist thing. The problem is that in America, it was used to ridicule black people in their history, which is why it has the negative racial implications it does in America. The rest of the world does not share that history with America, which is why there is nothing wrong with blackface in those countries simply by virtue of being blackface. It's only wrong if/when it is used in a manner to racially belittle black people. Or white people.

-3 ( +11 / -14 )

...Or white people (in the case of whiteface).

-3 ( +8 / -11 )

Opportunity wasted.

Imagine. You sponsor a young star, and screw up one of the most simple design choices available to you: represent your star accurately.

Nope. Oh well.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

"We will be more mindful of the issue of diversity," an official of the company said

They, like most here, have no clue on what diversity really means.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Freedom in art, freedom in society, this is the double goal towards which all consistent and logical minds must strive.

Victor Hugo

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

“It is impossible to be truly artistic without the risk of offending someone somewhere.” 

 Wayne Gerard Trotman

Please read the above quotes and ponder about this issue.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

The stone the builders rejected has become the corner stone. Treat everyone equally no matter of their skin color or whether their parents are foreigners. Japanese are holding on to her because she is a brand.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Honestly, Nishikori's skin isn't really that color either - but the difference in Osaka's coloring is far more startling. A significant faux pas on the part of Nissin.

SaikoPhysco   

My kids are half Japanese, live and pay taxes in Japan, speak the language but still often are treated as Gaijin.

The very big difference is that she is famous. Without knowing your particular situation (imagining it's somewhat similar to my son's) Naomi's "japanese-ness" is absolutely embraced.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Didn't bother me i have to say. Anime characters are often aracial/generic humans so i didnt expect to see ultra-realistic versions of Osaka & Nishikori (it's a cartoon not a doco).

Pretty sure that a 'too' dark/big/etc Osaka could/would have been deemed racist by some. Damned if etc.

-4 ( +5 / -9 )

It's interesting, to me anyway, that they can pay a fortune to use Naomi Osaka in promotion and then use a cartoon tennis player who doesn't look like her.

Sports manga are more niche than famous, and while previous female sports stars may have been compared to manga characters, Takahashi the marathon runner and the table tennis player who's name I've forgotten, most Japanese will only know of those manga. They won't have read them. Naomi Osaka is a way bigger phenomenon in Japan than any tennis manga. There is no need to associate her with one for extra popularity.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

@alwaysspeakingwisdom

I’ve read the quotes and pondered the issue. It’s nothing to do with artistic freedom or a minority being offended by something that isn’t offensive. It’s just wrong!

Naomi Osaka doesn’t look like that - not even as a characature.

She has been ‘whitewashed’ in order to appear more Japanese than foreign. The truth is she falls right in the middle of those two labels - and that isn’t a bad thing. It is who she is, but for some reason Nissin and the artist didn’t want to show her in that way.

It is ignorant, and it is offensive - not only to Naomi Osaka, but also to everyone else in Japan like Naomi Osaka.

Imagine if a US company had done an ad of Muhammad Ali with very light skin.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

"We will be more mindful of the issue of diversity,"

How 'bout just more mindful of reality?

4 ( +5 / -1 )

No surprises here, Japanese cartoons have been whitewashing for decades. It's also related to the fact that so many Japanese dye their hair and wear blue contacts, and love to see white people in magazines and ads.

The very big difference is that she is famous.

Yeah, has her grandfather (on her mother's side) come out of the woodwork again lately? It'$ amazing how he never wanted anything to do with her or her parent$ until $he $uddenly hit the jackpot.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Where's the innocence in art form these days.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

A LOT of Manga/anime use characters with blonde hair or blue eyes, do we Japanese have that? NO do we cry wolf, NO case closed.

-10 ( +4 / -14 )

No complaints about "white washing" Kei Nishikori, too?

It doesn't look white color.

-7 ( +3 / -10 )

@Kenji

Thats not the point. The female character in the Nissin ad is supposed to be Naomi Osaka, not a fictional character. Naomi Osaka is mixed race, and the depiction of her completely misses this blindingly obvious feature.

You only need to ask yourself one question. If Nissin had used Usain Bolt in an ad, would he have been drawn with the exact same skin tone as Nishikori and Osaka?

4 ( +7 / -3 )

"Naomi Osaki", is a 100% Japanese name.

Osaka ok, Naomi....not even close,

In fact the name Naomi goes back to before Japan was even a country! The name is found in numerous other cultures as well!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naomi_(given_name)#Hebrew

@Yubaru - You're right. 100% Japanese, my foot. As in the Old Testament, Naomi (or No'omi Hebrew: נָעֳמִי‬ ) is Ruth's mother-in-law in the Book of Ruth, meaning "good, pleasant, and lovely."

Nissin denied it had intended to make the skin color white and apologized for having caused confusion.

What's there to be confused with, unless you haven't been watching her and her play tennis. I'm sure most of us can't make that confusion. Even children can tell the difference.

Other than the above rant, Osaka is a great tennis player and I hope she continues to be successful and happy. I'm happy she has many fans, along with sponsors.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

"Nissin denied it had intended to make the skin color white and apologized for having caused confusion."

Even if they did it" by accident", how could you possibly not notice?

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Countries will always jump at an opportunity to call a champion their own.  Japan is no different.

The animation however is taking it to a whole new level however.  There is no doubt that this was a deliberate act on the part of the department responsible for authorizing advertising within Nissin.  They were probably ignorant, naive or just plain didn't care as to the level of negative reaction that they would receive.

S

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Hollisbrown

As foreigners who read Manga and watch anime, know we Japanese look nothing like the depictions shown at all, but we know it's fantasy and artistic imagination that's all. So why do others have to get all touchy for? Can't they see imagination and reality are two different things?

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

they are seriously trying to make her Japanese when she does not even speak the language nor does she or did she live in Japan....

I really like Naomi, not because she just a good player, she seems genuinely modest and shy about her achievements, but mostly its because she doesn't come across as Japanese both in appearance , language and mentality. Yet Japanese are left stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to claiming her Japanese yet also claiming Japan is a homologous society in both appearance and culture.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

"Imagine if a US company had done an ad of Muhammad Ali with very light skin."

Most blacks in the US are molato and Muhammad Al is no exception, it so it be correct.

"It’s nothing to do with artistic freedom"

It has everything to do with artistic freedom.

Consider the following lyrics:

“The b tried to gag me. So, I had to kill her. Yeah, straight hittin’/ Now listen up and lemme tell you how I did it/ Yo, I tied her to the bed, I was thinking the worst but yo I had to let my n** f* her first yeah/ Loaded up the 44 yo, then I straight smoked the h

should the song be banned?

-10 ( +2 / -12 )

Another federal case! Let Justice Prevail!

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

It doesn't look white color.

its look much closer to caucasian than Asian

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Naomi Osaka is a real living breathing woman. She is world famous with her lovely looks, smile and persona adding to her immense tennis talent. Millions recognize her image as such - and that includes her dark skin colour and black frizzy / curly hair with golden streaks. It is who she is.

What she is not, is the representation presented by Nissin. If this story had yet to develop, I'm sure if you asked any tennis fan in the world, "Who is this?", I'd suggest by far the majority would be clueless as to the real identity.

One can only assume it was done to consciously or unconsciously bring her into the mold - you know - not to stand out or appear too different, one of us.

There is no confusion here. There is no misunderstanding. Of course no one involved intended malice towards Naomi, but the result just sums up the ongoing inability to see people for what they really are. Such entities / people continue to label and compartmentalize for their own convenience, and equally appropriate what they want for their own convenience. And anyone who disgrees with this line, is - well - just doesn't understand Japan - and that is a weak line at best.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Nissin denied it had intended to make the skin color white

Must have mis-clicked the colour buttons then.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Browny1

Come on.. look if it was an autobiography say like the Steve Jobs manga or Carlos Ghosn manga (google it)

then ok thats portraying a more realistic tone on historical events of those peoples lives..

But if it is the typical kawaii/funny/action/motivating regular story formuls, its generlly unrealistic artform or imagintion set into creating the exaggerated experssions you see on manga and anime...

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

Say what? She was born in Osaka and has been Japanese all her life.[

sorry correct born in Osaka , brought up in the US since she was 3yrs old, so its clear the AMerican culture is imprinted on her far more than the Japanese one, she clearly doent look Japanese, speak very little Japaense , if I knew nothing about her and had to guess Id say she was a young African American. But its great that she is seen as Japanese becuase now Japanese have to accept the fact that being Japanese is more than just the appearance of a person and their cultural upbringing

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Kenji - can't agree.

In Naomi's case she is of mixed African (and Japanese) ancestry with the looks to match. No doubt about it.

You can still make, to use your words, a kawaii/funny/action/motivating/regular story formula, depicting her looks much closer to reality. Everyone would have loved it - I'm sure.

No - it's a big fail and Nissin know it - but par for the course, just can't admit it. You know - "Sheesh we stuffed this one up. I wish we had used more insight."

I'd love to see that beaut bouncy face of Naomi's as Manga , I'd buy a t-shirt for sure. But I'd want people to know it's Naomi and not some bland churned out ID-less toon.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Guess it’s no more cup noodles for me.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Look at Naomis twitter even.. it has a lot of Japanese subculture references..

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

Without reading article I would have believed those two were some sort of anime characters.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

A LOT of Manga/anime use characters with blonde hair or blue eyes, do we Japanese have that? NO do we cry wolf, NO case closed.

Common sense is lost with this one. Because most manga/anime characters are usually FICTIONAL unless you’re basing those it on real life people like in this case.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

As an aficianado of Japanese manga style, I see nothing wrong with their use of manga/anime to represent the star athletes in the way the did. They can be stylistic in any way they want - the colour or lack of colour used on the skin shouldn’t be an issue.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

Even if they did it" by accident", how could you possibly not notice?

I swear the same goes for other big companies that put out controversial ads. How many foolish hands do these ads pass through before being published. In this day and age, companies should hire cultural advisors before publishing ads because they could be detrimental to the company.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It's a cartoon, it doesn't look like either one of them. Get over it!

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

Japan's "white" obsession

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Besides the skincolor, another thing that kinda annoys me is how she just doesn't look like a professional athlete. All muscle, tone and strength seems to have been sacrificed to make her pretty and feminine. Some anime-artists are really one trick ponies.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Well when the time comes then she'll choose, whomever she chooses to represent then so be it.

Sports isn't about place of birth anymore, just look at soccer and table tennis. Athletes are nowadays employable ambassors.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Whoever Nissin's artists are need to be fired and not just for this ad. Their artwork on other ads are also horrible. They literally make all of their characters look Caucasian when they should be Japanese

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Rather sad when the most import things in the world are anime.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Are they trying to hide how Naomi looks like, or ashamed of it

1 ( +1 / -0 )

They literally make all of their characters look Caucasian when they should be Japanese

The two catoons look like Japanese to me, not Caucasians at all.   Caucasians in Japanese catoons are  easy to distinguish with higher nose and bigger eyes, etc.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Japan accepts her as one of her own native daughters. But when she starts losing, Japan will drop her faster than a hot potato.

You act like this is a Japanese thing. Who wants a losing spokesperson? This is how pro athletes are treated all over the world.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Has anyone ever considered asking Naomi Osaka how she feels about it instead of speaking for her?

What if she likes the cartoon and doesn't see a problem with how she is depicted.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Has anyone ever considered asking Naomi Osaka how she feels about it instead of speaking for her?

This is from the article, so I'm pretty sure she didn't like it:

"Nissin chose to stop running them at the request of Osaka's management agency in the United States"

3 ( +3 / -0 )

How about we all act like adults and not use Wikipedia as a source?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Blackface is not in and of itself a racist thing. The problem is that in America, it was used to ridicule black people in their history, which is why it has the negative racial implications it does in America. The rest of the world does not share that history with America, which is why there is nothing wrong with blackface in those countries simply by virtue of being blackface. It's only wrong if/when it is used in a manner to racially belittle black people. Or white people

When blackface is used to garner laughs, it's almost always accompanied by exaggerated stereotypical characteristics being displayed by the person wearing the blackface.

While I agree with your sound logic, it seems we need to think about the above for a fuller understanding.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Extanker, maybe she didn't but her comments today dismiss the idea of whitewashing. At least we can put that monster to bed.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Extanker, maybe she didn't but her comments today dismiss the idea of whitewashing. At least we can put that monster to bed.

Sorry, I wasn't aware of any new comments from her. I just wanted to point out that her camp had weighed in on the issue.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I believe Naomi said yesterday that she wished Nissin had consulted with her or will consult with her in hte future.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The very fact that a "race" and "color" cards are being played just makes things worse.

Nationality issue also brings similar emotional problems which adds to the above and opens up the idea of "prejudice" which basically "divides" people.

The point is... tennis is a sport and in a competitive arena, it is the "individual" and not the nationality or race or color that matters. What matters is the skill, the attitude, will and performance as well as the personality and character as a person.

She has a very likable, sincere and humble personality but with a strong challenging character on the court. That is what matters... there are very few on the courts with that kind of "fresh" and genuinely honest personality.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This'll make sense if other Haitians or other tan people would be drawn the same way.

If other tan people are drawn the same way, then fine.

So keep an eye out for how other tan people are drawn.

I think that's fair way.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites