My Japan Times JBC Col 113: “Warning to Naomi Osaka: Playing for Japan can seriously shorten your career” (Sep. 19, 2018)

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Hi Blog. Developed from an earlier post on Debito.org, here is my 113th JUST BE CAUSE column for The Japan Times Community page.  Here’s a teaser opening with a link to the rest of the article.  Dr. Debito Arudou

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Warning to Naomi Osaka: Playing for Japan can seriously shorten your career
JBC 113 for the Japan Times Community page
By Debito Arudou, September 19, 2018

JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

First, Just Be Cause congratulates Naomi Osaka on her outstanding win over tennis legend Serena Williams in the U.S. Open. Osaka’s grace under fire was world-class, and she deserves all the plaudits she can get.

And let’s just get this out of the way: I also agree that Williams had every right to protest her treatment by a heavy-handed umpire. The ump made the game about his ability to punish instead of defuse a situation, and penalized a woman more severely than men for similar infractions.

But that commentary is for the Sports pages. Here’s the JBC issue:

Ms. Osaka, I don’t think you understand what you’ve gotten yourself into by choosing to play for Japan.

Rest at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2018/09/19/issues/warning-naomi-osaka-playing-japan-can-seriously-shorten-career/

13 comments on “My Japan Times JBC Col 113: “Warning to Naomi Osaka: Playing for Japan can seriously shorten your career” (Sep. 19, 2018)

  • Very good article Dr. Debito!
    Just this morning I saw some Japanese ‘comedian’, a chunky guy, dressed up as Naomi, holding a cup, in blackface crying that ‘I only want to eat katsu don!’
    ‘Real’ Japanese people don’t mind blackface since (as I have been told over and over), when white people do it it’s racist, but when Japanese people do it it’s ‘admiration’. I’d be interested to see how Naomi would react to that ‘comedian’.

    —-Thanks. Got a link?

    Reply
      • Regarding “yellowface” in Japan, it seems that its legacy is a bit more complicated than the use of “white-face” or “black-face” in Japan.

        About your comment, the Japanese will be offended if you do a “yellowface” to stereotype them, but not in the way you think. In the warped minds of many J-Nationalists, they feel the “yellowface” is offensive because they don’t like being labeled as Asian.

        The Japanese I talked to always like to compare their country with the west and have this weird delusion believing that they are wrongly labeled as Asians.

        Basically, many Japanese go to great lengths to deny their Asian ancestry to where they prefer compare themselves, their society and values more often then not with the west than with Asia.

        On top of this, you also have image conscious Japanese who would modify their eyelids to look more western. Unfortunately, nationalists use models with modified eyelids as some sort of benchmark to compare the “difference” between Japanese, Koreans and Chinese.

        With that said, The because the Japanese don’t see themselves as Asian, they sometimes take part in donning the “yellowface” to insult their Chinese and Korean neighbors.

        They don’t get offended when American movies stereotype Asians as long as those characters are not Japanese.

        They even double down on those Asian stereotypes by portraying non-Japanese Asian characters in Anime and Japanese shows as they are stereotyped in American shows. Japan feeds the yellowface stereotype as long as it is directed at NJ. Below are some links on how Japanese stereotype NJ Asian people with the “yellowface”.

        https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/StereotypesOfChinesePeople?from=Main.AnimeChinesePeople

        https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AllChinesePeopleKnowKungFu

        So in summary, Japanese are not offended if you do a yellowface as long as you are not aiming it at Japanese. Hell they might even join you for the “fun” if you are trying if you don Chinese/Korean clothing on top of the yellowface.

        Japan’s use of “yellowface” against their Asian neighbors is like a sport when it comes to Japanese entertainment. Almost none are funny at all, infact I feel a tone of hatred every-time Japanese dons the yellowface to parody Chinese and Koreans.

        Try to watch some Anime referred to in TVtropes above, Japan’s yellowface against their Asian neighbors often are very very mean, snide, merciless and with no punches pulled.

        Using “yellowface” against NJ Asians has a very special place in J-media, where J-artists with baggage against Chinese/Koreans take out their frustrations. They apply the “nerdy eyes”, “slant-eyes”, “kung-fu stereotypes”, “broken accent” etc etc. to Chinese characters all with impunity.

        The weird twist comes along, when you try to use “yellowface” stereotype Japanese, then suddenly they see it as racist. BUT! BUT they don’t see it as racist when they do the “yellowface” towards their Asian neighbors.

        How Japanese see “yellowface” stereotypes, is the application of it. If it is used on Chinese and Koreans, they see it as all fun, but if used on Japanese? It is racist because Japanese think you are trying to label them as Asian, because in the delusional world of nihonjinron ideology, they see themselves as unique and have no genetic or social-cultural relations with its Asian neighbors.

        So many Japanese get riled up with the “yellowface” stereotype because they don’t like being labeled as or grouped with Asians. The Japanese narrative has always been “Japan and the Asia continent”, “Japanese and Asians” and never the “Japan in Asia”.

        So in summary, Japanese do get offended by “yellowface”, but they also see it as okay to use against their neighbors, and is wholly part of their nihonjinron propaganda to portray Japanese as unique and that they are not “yellowface” like their Asian neighbors.

        Even more so twisted is the fact that Japanese are so used to idols and models with eyelid surgery done that they think these are the real Japanese and the “slit-eye” is for non-Japanese.

        So in a way, “yellowface” a deeply entrenched part of nihonjinron propaganda where they apply all Asian stereotypes to NJ as a way to distinguish and separate Japanese and non-Japanese. As offended as Japanese may be by “yellowface” they have no qualms about pulling a “yellowface” to describe NJ Asians in a heartbeat and more often then not, casually and naturally.

        Reply
    • I go to tournaments around the world and I know Naomi very well. She’s fantastic. She’s the most gifted WTA player I’ve seen since Serena. She’s also very sincere and shy. She’s doing her best to deal with media repeatedly questioning her identity and misunderstanding her. She looks you in the eye, smiles and tries to help you with an interesting answer. We all love her. That’s why I’m concerned about what I’m seeing this week in Tokyo. She’s becoming increasingly fed up with the post-match interviewers on court pretending that she doesn’t understand Japanese. Have you seen this? They ask her questions in English, because they assume that Naomi can’t understand Japanese. Then Naomi surprises them by answering in Japanese. (“I’d like to thank the fans for cheering for me.” “Actually I was nervous today.” “I ate some rice balls earlier today”.) In fact, Naomi understands Japanese very well. She proves this every week. The Japanese tennis media, who speak good English and cover events around the world, typically ask her questions in Japanese at the press conferences. It’s basically the same questions they ask Nishikori, Sugita, Nara or other Japan players. Then Naomi answers in English, even though she could answer in Japanese. This is very thoughtful of her, because it allows international media and the tournament organizers (who don’t understand Japanese) to write down and post her answers online. Yet, when she’s playing in Tokyo this week, somehow the on-court interviewers are treating Naomi like an alien who can only understand English. I feel embarrassed watching this charade. This is really embarrassing for Naomi-chan too. You can see her frustration with this. Is this racism or discrimination? If so, I don’t think it’s intentional. The on-court interviewer probably thinks she is trying to help Naomi understand the question. But Naomi doesn’t need this special treatment. She’s a Japanese citizen, and though living in US since age 3, she is representing Japan and she doesn’t need special treatment in Japan. I really wish they would treat her like a normal person and not like a circus freak.

      Reply
      • “The Japanese tennis media, who speak good English and cover events around the world, typically ask her questions in Japanese at the press conferences. It’s basically the same questions they ask Nishikori, Sugita, Nara or other Japan players. Then Naomi answers in English, even though she could answer in Japanese. This is very thoughtful of her, because it allows international media and the tournament organizers (who don’t understand Japanese) to write down and post her answers online. Yet, when she’s playing in Tokyo this week, somehow the on-court interviewers are treating Naomi like an alien who can only understand English. I feel embarrassed watching this charade. This is really embarrassing for Naomi-chan too.”

        Not sure I get your point. The Japanese media ask her questions in Japanese, same as any other Japanese player, but they also ask her questions in English. And that is frustrating for her? Not sure I get the point.

        Reply
    • Here’s the link to the awkward post-match interview. When Naomi says “I served out of trouble”, the interviewer misunderstands her English, thinking Naomi said her serve caused her trouble. In fact, Naomi meant that her serve helped her get out of trouble.
      Also notice the British announcer at the end surprised that Naomi “has been learning Japanese” and can talk about food. In fact, Naomi has been fielding difficult press conference questions in Japanese for more than a year. She’s an intelligent young lady, not a circus monkey https://twitter.com/WTA/status/1043392886128009216

      Reply
      • This. “the British announcer at the end surprised that Naomi “has been learning Japanese”” I said it before, (good) British media are thin on the ground in Japan these days, Cutbacks from London in all parts of East Asia, The Beeb, the Brit Council etc.

        Reply

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