Japanese noodle company apologises for ‘whitewashing’ tennis star Naomi Osaka by giving her lighter skin in its advert
- Naomi Osaka, who is of joint Japanese and Haitian heritage, appeared as an animated character in an advert for a noodle company in Japan
- But firm was hit with claims of ‘whitewashing’ after her skin tone was lightened
- Company apologised but said advert was shown to Osaka before being aired
- Osaka became the first Japanese player to win a tennis grand slam last year
A Japanese noodle-maker has been forced to apologize after it was accused of ‘whitewashing’ the country’s most prominent tennis player in an advert.
The outcry was sparked after Naomi Osaka, who is of joint Japanese and Haitian heritage, appeared as an animated character in an advert for noodle brand Nissin.
But in the advert, Osaka’s skin was visibly lighter than her real-life skin tone and critics said her features had been made to look more Caucasian.
Japanese noodle-make Nissin was forced to apologise after being accused of ‘whitewashing’ tennis star Naomi Osaka as part of its new Hungry to Win advert
Baye McNeil, a black columnist writing for the Japan Times, said: ‘I was disappointed to see that there was no woman of color to speak of in the commercial.
‘Instead, I found a white-washed representation of Osaka.’
Nissin has since apologised, saying there was no deliberate attempt to ‘whitewash’ Osaka’s skin or features.
The company added that the advert had been shown to Osaka before being aired.
A company spokesman told The Guardian: ‘We accept that we are not sensitive enough and will pay more attention to diversity issues in the future.’
It is not clear whether the advert, which was drawn by prominent cartoonist Takeshi Konomi, will be withdrawn.
The ad, entitled Hungry to Win, was drawn in Konomi’s signature style, the firm said.
The brand denied deliberately giving the athlete whiter skin and Caucasian features, but said it would ‘pay more attention’ in future
Nissin added that Osaka was shown the advert before it aired, but did not say whether it would be pulled following the criticism
Osaka, 20, became Japan’s most successful tennis player ever last year when she defeated Serena Williams at the US open.
It marked the first time a person of Japanese heritage had claimed a Grand Slam title, but was overshadowed by Williams’ on-court meltdown.
That incident was followed by the publication of a cartoon of Williams that many branded racist, in which Osaka was also depicted with a lighter skin tone.
Osaka is also through to the semifinal of the Australian Open, having won in straight sets against Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina on Wednesday.
Osaka was born in Japan but moved to American when she was three years old and grew up in Florida.
She holds joint Japanese and American passports, but represents the country of her birth in international tournaments.
Osaka, who is of Japanese and Haitian heritage, became Japan’s most-successful tennis player ever last year when she won the US Open against Serena Williams