Nissin Food Holdings took down a controversial advertisement on Thursday that included a whitewashed version of tennis star and 2018 US Open winner, Naomi Osaka who is half Japanese and half Haitian. The anime style ad drawn by Takeshi Konomi, a notable manga artist, depicted Osaka with light skin, changed hair style, and Caucasian features while alongside Kei Nishikori, a Japanese male tennis player.
“There is no intention of whitewashing,” said Nissin spokesman Daisuke Okabayashi. “We accept that we are not sensitive enough and will pay more attention to diversity issues in the future.”
Osaka has stated that she has talked with Nissin and would like her input to be included in the any future portrayals. The tennis star is facing off with Petra Kvitova in the Australian Open Final for the top spot in the women’s world rankings on Jan. 26. Osaka will become the first No. 1 ranked Japanese singles player if she wins against Kvitova.
Osaka became the first Japanese-born Grand Slam singles champion after a controversial win against Serena Williams in the U.S. Open. Williams was issued three penalties after being accused of cheating by the match’s chair umpire.
The match between Williams and Osaka prompted not only conversations of sexism within sports, but also a racist cartoon in an Australian newspaper. The cartoon portrayed Williams in a Jim Crow era caricature style and Osaka as a pale-skinned blonde.
“Making her look white just tells these people that what they are isn’t good enough,” said Baye McNeil, an author who has lived in Japan for 15 years. He adds that representation of diverse races and inclusivity is important, especially in a global market.
Media Resources: New York Times 1/22/19; New Yok Times 9/9/18; New York Times 1/24/19; Associated Press 1/14/19