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Tennis player Naomi Osaka will have to choose between the U.S. or Japan

Naomi Osaka
Twitter

Views from the Edge

Japan may lose its first tennis superstar – Naomi Osaka.

Osaka — at age 21 — currently holds U.S. and Japanese citizenship. However, by Japanese law anyone with dual citizenship must choose whether they want to retain or give up their Japanese passport when they turn 22 .

For Osaka, that moment-of-truth, is Oct. 16. Osaka, whose mother is Japanese and father is Haitian, was born in Japan but spent most of her life in the U.S.  According to the Wall Street Journal, Osaka’s father decided when she was young that she would represent Japan athletically because the family has “always felt Japanese.”

Japan’s tennis association supported his decision and lent their support to her career. When Osaka climbed the tennis ranks, the American tennis association offered to support her but Osaka’s father remained loyal to Japan.

Japan has eagerly accepted Osaka as one of their own and celebrated her success, even though she is not quite fluent in Japanese. Osaka also lives and trains in the U.S. After her wins at the U.S. and Australian Opens, she was feted in Japan. The country has never had a tennis player ranked No. 1.

Naomi Osaka
Twitter

If Osaka chooses to renounce her Japanese citizenship, it would renew the debate over the archaic law especially because more of its people are marrying citizens of other countries and there has been a recent push to relax its immigration laws to encourage more foreign  workers to address the country’s shortage of young workers. Japan’s racial homogeneity is slowly crumbling. Osaka’s success has also advanced the discussion in Japan over what being Japanese means, in a society where many mixed-race Japanese still face discrimination. Officially allowing dual citizenship is a step toward acknowledging a more diverse and inclusive Japan.

Whatever Osaka decides in October will not end the debate over citizenship and how multi-racial people are treated in Japan.


“But I also hope that she’s changed cultural perceptions of multiracial people in Japan. I hope she’s opened the door for other people to follow, not just in tennis or sports, but for all of society. She can be an ambassador for change.” said Osaka’s agent, Stuart Duguid.

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