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Japan’s Diverse Olympic Stars Reflect a Country That’s Changing (Slowly)


But Tokyo itself remains remarkably monochrome. According to the city’s government, only about 4 percent of residents were born outside of Japan, roughly double the number for the country. (By comparison, more than 35 percent of London and New Yorkers were born overseas.)

Mari Nakagawa, a former Sengali-Japanese model, said growing up in Japan felt like an “alien.” Even today, she regularly hears the screams of men who say she is the ringleader of Ms. Osaka, whose propaganda for racial justice has forced the country to face a problem that many here don’t think is theirs.

“I hear experts say all the time that everything has changed since the days of Naomi Osaka, but the hooligans have remained the same,” said Ms. Nakagawa. “They weren’t re-educated.”

In 2019, when Ms Osaka won her second Grand Slam at the Australian Open Tennis Championships, Nissin portrayed her with pale skin and brown hair. in a marketing cartoon that invokes whitewash accusations.

“Obviously I’m tanned,” Ms. Osaka replied. Nissin apologized.

Takeshi FujiwaraThe 400 meter sprinter grew up in El Salvador, where his Japanese name raised eyebrows. His mother is from there, and his father is Japanese. Even after Mr. Fujiwara competed in the Athens Olympics for El Salvador, rumors of his nationality continued.

In 2013, he switched to Japan and moved to his father’s homeland. The reception was not immediate, he said, even if people spoke positively of his “macho-macho” muscles.

“When I came to Japan, I thought, ‘Hey, I’m here in my country.’ They would say, “Hey, where are you from?” Fujiwara said. “It’s better now, but we’re still far from where multiracial Japanese are considered the norm.”



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