Igarashi Kanoa, California-born athlete who won Silver for Japan in 2020 Olympics, rates himself worthy of representing Japan because “My blood is 100% Japanese. That’s something that you don’t change.” Dangerous old-school Olympian thoroughbred-ism.


Books, eBooks, and more from Debito Arudou, Ph.D. (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free
“LIKE” US on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/debitoorg

Hi Blog. Just a follow-up on my Shingetsu News Agency column of this week. When I was talking about the roots of the Olympics, I made the case there that the Games are less about athleticism than national demonstrations of power, particularly in the vein of racial superiority and thoroughbred-ism.  In my summary of their history, I wrote:

SNA: Thanks to my background in political science, I’m trained to view nationalism with a critical eye: How governments convince people to live, fight, and even sacrifice their lives for their country. The Olympics are rooted precisely in these attitudes, and forever filter athleticism through the lens of national representation and superiority.

Remember that the Olympics were first framed as a way for the ancient Greeks to assert their superiority over neighboring city-states.

When the Games were resuscitated by aristocrats in 1896, in spirit they were still grounded in contemporary attitudes equating national strength with physical strength. Thanks to the racialized social theories in currency at the time, including Social Darwinism and eugenics, the Games soon became a public demonstration of the social engineering of supermen, which depended on how racially “thoroughbred” an athlete and a society was. It’s not difficult to draw a straight line from the geneticist attitudes promoted by the prewar Olympics to The Final Solution.

Even in the postwar Games, despite all the emphasis on individual athleticism and sportsmanship, the legacy of national superiority still exists. You easily find it in the schlong-measuring national medal tallies, and the enormous pressure put on athletes to prove themselves worthy of all the national attention and hype they’re getting.

Japanese athletes in particular must get Gold (especially in sports Japan thinks it owns, such as judo or karate) or publicly apologize for taking Shameful Silver or Despicable Bronze. This culture of self-sacrifice for the sake of nationalism is one reason why, as I have written elsewhere, Japanese athletes live surprisingly shorter lives, and why I constantly wince at the nasty nationalistic coverage in NHK and Japan’s sports newspapers.

Full article at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2021/08/16/visible-minorities-tokyo-2020-olympics-postmortem/

I want to highlight how one athlete, who won Silver for Japan in Surfing, decided to depict himself. Again, as I wrote for SNA above:


SNA: Kanoa Igarashi, US-born resident of Huntington Beach, CA, indicatively promotes himself on his Olympics website entry in classic Olympic “thoroughbred-ism”: “I have so much support here in the USA and America will always be part of who I am. But I’ve grown up with a lifestyle and in a generation where things can seem a bit borderless. And so representing Japan felt like a solid, comfortable decision. My blood is 100% Japanese. That’s something that you don’t change.”


His statement in context, courtesy of https://olympics.com/tokyo-2020/olympic-games/en/results/surfing/athlete-profile-n1316618-igarashi-kanoa.htm#addInformation.


His bio in brief, courtesy of


COMMENT:  Now that’s playing to type. Blood type, in fact.  As I responded in my column:


SNA:  Good for his bloodline, I guess. But for mongrel non-medalists like Osaka Naomi, as the New York Times noted, Japan’s social media pounced, contesting her Japanese language ability, her standing to represent Japan, and even her Japaneseness…


In sum, I wanted to highlight one of the main arguments of my column:  how The Olympics also brings out racist attitudes not only in its governments but also in its athletes.

Again, you can self-identify with and play for whatever country will have you.  But a person like this who has benefited from both systems does not deserve respect for this throwback-Eugenicist attitude, and it should be challenged appropriately in public. Doing so here.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

UPDATE:  According to the Japan Times, Igarashi faced online hate during the Olympics. While I feel for Igarashi’s situation when it comes to online hate and racism, he doesn’t seem to have reflected on how his express pure-blood-ism further encouraged by Japan’s blood-oriented nationalism and Olympic attitudes encourages those hateful and tribal attitudes as well. Excerpt from the JT article in Comments Section below.

Do you like what you read on Debito.org?  Want to help keep the archive active and support Debito.org’s activities?  Please consider donating a little something.  More details here. Or if you prefer something less complicated, just click on an advertisement below.

24 comments on “Igarashi Kanoa, California-born athlete who won Silver for Japan in 2020 Olympics, rates himself worthy of representing Japan because “My blood is 100% Japanese. That’s something that you don’t change.” Dangerous old-school Olympian thoroughbred-ism.

  • Debito here. While I feel for Igarashi’s situation when it comes to online hate and racism, he doesn’t seem to have reflected on how his express pure-blood-ism further encouraged by Japan’s blood-oriented nationalism and Olympic attitudes encourages those hateful and tribal attitudes as well. Japan Times on this, excerpt:

    Surfer Kanoa Igarashi braces himself for a bright future post-Olympics (excerpt)
    Japan Times, August 11, 2021


    […] Unfortunately, Igarashi also had to face the uglier side of society during the Olympics.

    He was bombarded with online abuse following his win over Medina, with some saying the semifinal was rigged and others simply resorting to insults and racism. Many of the messages directed at him were in Portuguese — which Igarashi speaks fluently.

    Fans taking issue with the scoring in judged events is nothing new. Igarashi has surfed for most of his life and has become accustomed to seeing the reactions that come when fans take issue with judging. Igarashi says he takes the opinions of his inner circle to heart and blocks out outside noise. He was not impacted by the hate that came his way, but still wants to speak out against it.

    “We can’t be living in a world now, in 2021, where racism is still a thing,” he said. “Not just racism, but attacks toward athletes and not understanding the mental challenges that every athlete faces.

    “We’re not just here to entertain people. We’re also human. I think some people forget that. It’s understandable, because they only know us as athletes, they only see us doing our sport.”

    Igarashi says such messages are often rooted in the passion fans have for sports and their favorite athletes. What he hopes, however, is that fans remain cognizant about not crossing the line.

    “I really feel like all the hate and all the negative stuff should stay within the sport, stay within surfing,” he said. “You can’t blame someone for being passionate. As long as it stays within surfing, it’s fine. I think as soon as it goes outside surfing — it goes into race, it goes into nationality, it goes into family — that’s a whole other world. I feel like it shouldn’t go that far.”

    Full article at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/sports/2021/08/11/more-sports/igarashi-surfing-wsl/

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Lolz, he’s a genuine ‘surf-Nazi’ with his weird blood purity spewing.
    There’s no news here Dr. Debito; myopic undereducated sports ‘star’ fired some synapses and had a ‘thought’.

    Like Naomi Osaka, another high level sports person who assumes sporting excellence also gives them access to intellectual heights that non-athletes are incapable of and that their every utterance is surely a mind-blowing, perspective-altering revelation for the rest of us mortals who have been experiencing actual ‘real life’ 24/7.

    And while people Kanoa, Nishikori, Osaka (all permanent California residents) and Hanyu (Canada) ram their ‘Japaneseness’ down throats, kids with one NJ, one Japanese parent, who live in Japan are being discriminated against every day.

    These super-patriotic ex-pat sports stars need to STFU.

    • chris clancy says:

      Spot on, JDG!

      I’ve been living in Japan & trying to fit into society longer than the tennis & surfer stars in question have been alive. In a sense, I’m more Japanese than them.
      Sporting here is outta control. I’ve been with Japanese friends who have criticized past naturalized Japanese national soccer team stars for not being “made in Japan.” Now they revere the national rugby team, despite its being composed of nearly 50% athletes from other countries who only require 6 months residency in the country to represent the nation. The there’s baseball in which the likes of Shohei Tanaka are essentially banned from the national team & are seen a traders by the crusty old conservatives who preside over that sport. Identity is definitely in chaos here🤣

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    It’s not just some athletes who are ardent believers of blood purity eugenics when representing Japan. Japanese mainstream media, elites, and pundits are also touting this tribalistic ethnocentrism in the narrative of national achievement through sports, politics, and cultural events, days in and days out. And even some NJ including western news writers and columnists have blind faith in Japanese as mono-ethnic tribe nonsense.

    I’m not saying anyone who promotes or defends pure Japanese bloodline superiority should be censored for good, but there ought to be rigorous scrutiny on the status quo that normalizes this nativistic discourse in the sick prism of unscientific, evidence-free, mono-ethnic, monocultural eugenics.

  • So he wants the benefits of being a racist -“I am 100% Japanese blood” (although real old school Japanese used to say a Japanese who has left Japan for five years is no longer Japanese so no, he aint Japanese by their definition), but cried “racist, no fair” when people abuse him for that race. Go, Team Japan!

    Just a racist. He who lives by racism, dies by racism. Still, a surfer. just my experience but not intellectual giants, usually. Especially as in Japan salaryman and surfer lifestyles arent really compatible (there was a TV drama about how a guy had to chose one or the other)

  • Japan and Surfing, btw, is full of post modern irony. “Safaaa” in the 90s was an identity to be acquired, more a look than a sport. So then there was the pithy pisstake comeback “Oka Safaa” ie the only surfing you really do is down a slope or hill.

    So its quite rich, or fitting actually, that the this sport dovetails with Japanese blood myths as its quite deeply engrained in post bubble societal stereotypes. Its kind of like Sumo, except its “cooler” because its American but now, Japanese. And therefore, if you have that Japanese blood you should be able to “do well at it”
    File under, Cultural Appropriation of Americana rebranded as Japanese Nationalism.

    • Jim Di Griz says:

      Like my ‘favorite’; Manzai (rebranded Martin/Lewis, Abbot/Costello schtick whose origin has been forgotten in Japan).

      • like “Pure Japanese baseball” without NJ players, which was mentioned in “You Gotta Have Wa” though have forgotten which American baseball player in Japan wrote that.

  • Lots of racist Japanese benefitting off of America; they live there to escape the pressures they would face in Japan by not fitting in, yet are just as inflexible as the people the escaped from.

    I believe no matter how much racism they face now with COVID-induced anti-Asian nonsensical hate crime, there are quite a few Japanese who still wish to identify with racist, “pure blood” Nihonjinron and Nazi eugenic beliefs, and white supremacy. This kid should move back to Japan, and not capitalize off American sports for his benefit: too many Japanese do this while Japan is completely intolerant and xenophobic.

    • There is that type, like Utada Hikaru’s Americana wannabe family, ie. benefitting from US housing policies but decrying any gaijin buying a house in Japan, and then there is the sociologically proven type (Boye De Mente) that the most socially conservative are (or were at time of writing) Japanese-Americans as they “hold (false/imagined?) traditional views of a bygone Japan”- Debito mentioned his paranoid Nissei aunt-in-law who would tiptoe around Japan afraid to upset any imagined cultural mores or heaven forbid a faux pas like switch an AC on in an onsen, or such bollox.

      Probably were told too many Ware Ware NIhonjin(ron) stories by a Japanese (not Dutch) Uncle Erai Oyaji type.

    • -hey live there to escape the pressures they would face in Japan by not fitting in, yet are just as inflexible as the people the escaped from.

      This is so interesting. I would love a thread examining why this might be. You can take Taro out of Japan but not the Japan out of Taro, I suppose. So that would imply a part of what makes Taro “Japanese” is “inflexibility/sticking to the rules”? I ask this as a Devil’s Advocate and would hate for this to be the case.

      I also think it dovetails with the Official Narrative of Japan historically, ie. a top down hierarchical dictatorship for most of its history.

      But readers here will know there is an undercurrent of bohemian non conformism going on in Japan too. Though indeed, now I think back to eg. a bunch of non conformist, hippie, semi homeless artisans and DJs I used to hang with, they still followed sempai-kohai rules, decided everything in a group and criticized me for daring to go off and do my own thing (“You one man play!”) in downtime instead of “drinking with the team” all night, but I digress.
      I guess its that engrained, even deeper than surface behaviors like career choices.

      • Jim Di Griz says:

        Oh god yes! Artists, musicians, all of these creative ‘living outside of mainstream society’s box’ types STILL can’t do anything without their sempai’s ‘permission’ and are ‘obliged’ to subordinate everything to their sempai’s whim (eyeroll).
        Also, just a couple of thoughts about the surfer;
        Japanese love to describe America as a ‘melting-pot’ and ‘mongrel nation’ (when they think NJ aren’t listening). Does this mean that a Wajin who lives in America is dragging America down? How does the wajin in this situation get to walk away with all the ‘pure blooded’ nonsense after having contributed to the pejorative‘melting pot/mongrel ‘ness’ ?

        And OF COURSE this surfer is going to spout blood purity rubbish! It IS a cornerstone of Nazi nation myth. Spouting this rubbish IS the proof that he’s the ‘real deal’!
        Can you imagine if her said something like;
        ‘Living my whole life in America as a Californian I’ve been a part of the worlds most vibrant surf culture my whole life, AND I’M GRATEFUL THAT IOC RULES ALLOW ME TO PARTICIPATE IN THE OLYMPICS ON THE JAPANESE TEAM BECAUSE MY GRANDFATHER WAS FROM JAPAN’?
        That’s not something any ‘real’ Japanese person would say!
        Buying into blood purity lies and rejecting diversity IS a cornerstone of Japanese identity, that’s why they say it! They know it pushes all the ‘right’ buttons. And they know what will happen if they don’t.

        • -Oh god yes! Artists, musicians, all of these creative ‘living outside of mainstream society’s box’ types STILL can’t do anything without their sempai’s ‘permission’ and are ‘obliged’ to subordinate everything to their sempai’s whim (eyeroll).

          It comes in waves, though arguably going back with each generation. An older, 60s beatnik type gent who was a producer said he was surprised that a duo of younger DJs he had hired were following a “samurai era sempai-kohai” way of doing things and it doubled the cost and made the project mediocre. And you couldnt hire one without the more useless other.

          Same older guy also interestingly said “Sony was a typical American company” in that they were short term profit oriented but also needed 100% consensus to move forward on anything; the result being paralysis.

          Could it have been that the 60s era Japanese were quite rebellious but all that was crushed (by ANPO and the vasmpire of Manchuria, Kishi Nobusukebe no less) and so subsequent generations became more risk averse and reverted to following traditional power structures?
          More recently, in the 90s there was a kind of “Tokyo Spring” of designers and entrepreneurs living alternative lifestyles but then unfortunately the LDP wormed their way back in, the Livedoor President forgot to wear a necktie before it was officially sanctioned to do so (Coolbiz) and so it was back to being a Wage Slave again(?)

          • Jim Di Griz says:

            Re: 1960’s ‘artistic’ types, Julian Cope (formerly of The Teardrop Explodes) wrote an excellent history of postwar Japanese rock that covers this exceptionally well.
            They were more rebellious and free thinking, and then they were crushed.

        • Edward J Cunningham says:

          I have the perfect retort for anybody who thinks melting pots are “mongrels” and bad things. “Hapsburg.” That family once ruled countries across Europe, but their continual marriages to cousins within their family eventually backfired. The Hapsburg’s lost the Spanish crown because their inbred king couldn’t have any kids.

          Even in animal husbandry, so-called “mongrels” or “mutts” are healthier than pure-breds.

    • Yes, unfortunately. There is a Japanese on social media who went to the same college as mine in Vermont, USA. He is incredibly opinionated, and will criticize America for racism or stating that they must accept more refugees but when I said what about the few refugees allowed into Japan, well they don’t suit Japanese culture, Japan is a monoethnic culture, so japan cannot accept many refugees, blah, blah, blah. So quick to point out American flaws (in his opinion) but quick to defend Japan.

      • Thats very rude for a Japanese. We Japanese are polite and dont say things directly. Are you sure he is a “real Japanese?” (Using Blinky Ishihara techniques against his ilk)

  • Every time I asked for a definition of “who’s Japanese” I always get tilted heads and no clear answer.

    I suspect that if we ever get an official definition of a “My blood is 100% Japanese” a large percentage of the population would be excluded.

  • There is no such thing as 100% Japanese blood. I don’t even know what people who make such claims mean.

    If you think Japanese blood is a particular type of blood then please show me exactly what it is. Japanese people have A, B, AB and O blood types, like everyone else. Which one is Japanese? Or did you mean M N blood types? Or something else?

    Or do you mean you have Japanese DNA? Show me that Japanese DNA structure. Oh, you don’t know the dna structure, so how can you prove 100% Japanese dna?

    Supreme idiocy.

    • I mean, as much as I hate to talk about 23 and me, because of their terrible unscientific methodology, could you show me one – just one – valid 23 and me report that says you are 100% Japanese? It isn’t possible.

      • Jim Di Griz says:

        I remember a UK documentary from about 20 years ago that took people from different continents and analyzed their mitochondrial DNA (passed on through the matriarchal line) that showed that all these people shared one relative in the past, and that the black guy from Africa and the Japanese were related by a common ancestor.
        It was hilarious watching the cognitive dissonance kick-in and the science denial.

  • NotDiGrizOrBaud says:

    Come on. You’re giving this guy way too much oxygen.
    Twenty something waxheads are not known for the clarity of their thinking.

    I mean it’s not like serious people in positions of power are putting out this nonsense…

    • Baudrillard says:

      People in power, the erai hito, ARE putting out this Japanese blood purity myth. This Surfer Waxhead is tapping into it to fit into the Nihonjinron so he can comptete at Olympics with the Divine T. Mori’s Erai Oyaji blessing.
      Mori said he wanted a “Pure Japanese man” instead of Naomi Osaka to light the torch, after all.
      But yeah, athletes shouldnt use their podium and their brain cell (singular) to spout this crap.

    • Jim Di Griz says:

      I guess you forgot Aso’s explanation of the Japanese peoples superior ‘民度’ being responsible for Japan’s lower Covid levels (that didn’t age well, did it?) and Aso’s only the Deputy Prime Minister. Not a high enough level for you? Go read Abe’s pre-second term biography- it’s bloated with this kind of Nazi ‘blood & soil’ rubbish.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>