Why does Naomi Osaka represent Japan? As the 22-year-old tennis sensation wins title after title, fans are becoming curious about her nationality and the reasons behind her representation choice in competitions.
At only 22, the former world number one has three grand slams under her belt – one Australian Open and two US Opens. Osaka won her third title and second US Open on 12 September following a stunning three-set tussle with Victoria Azarenka.
But if Osaka has spent most of her life living and training in the US, why does she represent Japan?
Why Naomi Osaka represents Japan
She was born in Japan
Naomi Osaka was born on 16 October 1997 in Chuo-ku, Osaka City in Osaka.
Her mother is Japanese
Osaka’s desire to represent Japan has a lot to do with her family. Her mother, Tamaki Osaka, is Japanese, while her father, Leonard Francois, hails from Haiti.
Naomi moved to Long Island in the US with her family at age three and was mostly raised in New York and Florida. However, her parents decided from a young age she would represent Japan and not America.
She has kept her mother’s surname
Osaka kept her mother’s surname because of a Japanese family registration law that states when children born to parents where one is Japanese and the other is foreign, you must retain the Japanese name.
She feels little connection with the US
Despite having spent a large portion of her adult life in the US, Osaka told Marie Claire: “I don’t necessarily feel like I’m American. I wouldn’t know what that feels like.” Naomi relinquished her US citizenship in 2019 so she could represent Japan at the Olympics.
Recently she has taken a strong stand on the Black Lives Matter movement and was seen wearing masks with the names Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Philando Castile and Tamir Rice on them, all victims of alleged police or racist violence in the US.
Osaka’s Japanese connection
Osaka has expressed her love for Japanese culture and has deep cultural ties to Japan, having started competing for them at an early age. Because of a Japanese law, Osaka was required to choose her preferred nationality before she turned 22 or risk losing her Japanese citizenship.
She told USA Today: “I can understand way more Japanese than I can speak.” However, she also stated: “When I go to Japan people are confused. From my name, they don’t expect to see a black girl.”
Desire to represent Japan at Tokyo Olympics
Osaka told Japanese broadcaster NHK it was her “special desire” to represent Japan at the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020. Although the Olympics have been pushed back to 2021 because of the pandemic, Osaka has said it would be “incredible” to be a Japanese athlete at a “home” Olympic Games.
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