Naomi Osaka: Nissin apologises for whitening tennis star’s face in advert | World News

A sponsor of Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka has apologised for whitening her face in one of its advertisements.

Japanese noodle giant Nissin has said it will “pay more attention to diversity issues in the future” after widespread criticism of the ad for its Cup Noodle range in which Osaka, who is half-Japanese and half-Haitian, appears to be white.

The reigning US Open champion, who holds dual Japanese and US citizenship, has been turned into an anime, or animated character, with pale skin, light brown hair and caucasian features.

The company said it did not mean to “whitewash” Osaka, 21, who is a national hero in Japan after becoming the first Japanese player to win a grand slam singles title last September.

Kei Nishikori and Naomi Osaka
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Kei Nishikori and Naomi Osaka were both depicted as white. Neither have commented on the advert

“There is no intention of whitewashing. We accept that we are not sensitive enough and will pay more attention to diversity issues in the future,” a Nissin spokesperson said.

The ad also features her compatriot Kei Nishikori drawn with similarly light-skinned features. Neither player has commented publicly on it.

Naomi Osaka of Japan holds the U.S. Open trophy after beating Serena Williams of the USA
Image:
Naomi Osaka of Japan holds the U.S. Open trophy after beating Serena Williams of the USA

In Japan, African-American writer Baye McNeil wrote in his “Black Eye” column for the Japan Times: “I’d been anticipating Osaka’s appearance since it isn’t often that a high-profile woman of colour is featured in a major Japanese ad campaign.

“So when I cued it up on YouTube I was truly disappointed to see that there was no woman of colour to speak of in the commercial. Instead, I found a whitewashed representation of Osaka.”

Osaka, who was born in Japan, moved to the US when she was three and was raised in Florida.

Naomi Osaka of Japan (R) hugs Serena Williams of the United States (L) after their match in the women's final on day thirteen of the 2018 U.S. Open tennis
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Naomi Osaka hugs Serena Williams after the 2018 US Open final

Her victory in New York last year had raised hopes Japan might adopt a broader view of racial identity in a society that sees itself as racially uniform, but where people born with one Japanese parent are often referred to as haafu, or “half”.

The Nissin ad, unveiled earlier this month, is not the first time racist images of black female tennis players have sparked
controversy.

In September, the Herald Sun was heavily criticised over a cartoon depicting US tennis star Serena Williams jumping on a tennis racket following her defeat in the US Open.

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