Tennis – Australian Open – Quarter-final – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, January 23, 2019. Japan’s Naomi Osaka looks on during match against Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina. REUTERS/Aly Song
TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese noodle company Nissin have removed a controversial commercial following a dispute over the skin color of a cartoon character depicting tennis player Naomi Osaka.
The commercial depicted Osaka, whose father is Haitian and mother is Japanese, with pale skin and light brown hair, which created public outcry.
“Truly disappointed to see that there was no woman of color to speak of in the commercial,” African-American journalist Baye McNeil wrote in his prominent ‘Black Eye’ column for the Japan Times. “Instead, I found a white-washed representation of Osaka”
Nissin, who sponsor Osaka and compatriot Kei Nishikori, removed the advert from its YouTube page on Wednesday and said they had not intended to ‘whitewash’ the 21-year-old, who will feature in the Australia Open semi-finals later on Thursday.
“There is no intention of whitewashing,” a Nissin spokesperson said. “We accept that we are not sensitive enough and will pay more attention to diversity issues in the future.”
Japan has traditionally seen itself as a racially homogenous country, although several successful mixed-race athletes like Osaka, sprinter Asuka Cambridge and baseball pitcher Yu Darvish, are challenging that image.
Osaka has not commented on the commercial.
Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by Greg Stutchbury