Jaelen Guerrant: Mixedness in Japan: expansion or rejection of National identity

“She may be half of us but is she really one of us”. Mixed race people in Asian countries often have a split in how are they approached and perceived in their home county. They can be seen as almost mistakes in the ethnic purity of a country as in Japan’s example with pro tennis player, Naomi Osaka. Osaka who received great fame in defeating tennis legend Serena Williams in the 2018 US Open. She is half-Haitian and half-Japanese growing up predominantly in the US, but she gave up her American citizenship to play for Japan in the Olympics. In most modern terms she is considered Japanese based on the simple fact that she is a citizen of Japan. Japan refers to Osaka as Japanese for marketing purposes, but in honest actuality, Osaka is not really considered truly Japanese based on her partial fluidity in Japanese and her skin tone. This is a common phenomenon with Japan. Japan as a history of racial purity stemming from its imperial past whereas Japan’s immigration policy is one of the strictest for modernized nations. This firm grip of what it means to be Japanese limits not only the demographic diversity of the nation but its population growth as its population age and lack of youth to replace them. Mixed people in japan and of Japanese descent are stuck in that crossroads of acceptance but also rejection of what it means to be a part of a nation.


Works Cited:

Vouloumanos, Victoria. “Tennis Player Naomi Osaka Speaks English, so She Can’t Possibly Be Japanese.” Medium, Medium, 4 Feb. 2019, medium.com/@victoriavouloumanos/tennis-player-naomi-osaka-speaks-english-so-she-cant-possibly-be-japanese-61e4814d7b00.

  3 comments for “Jaelen Guerrant: Mixedness in Japan: expansion or rejection of National identity

  1. wjs3uh
    March 2, 2020 at 1:34 pm

    William Sweet

    Comment 1:

    Jae, I think this is a very insightful post that has brought to light a couple of the ways that Japanese social norms/values inherently perpetuate a structured form of discrimination. I was unaware of these kinds of specifics regarding Japanese social identities, but was intrigued to see how you related this social practice to the problems of the decreasingly proportionate labor force relative to the large elderly population and how implications could immediately result in a loss of diversity throughout Japan. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on what other way Japan’s world influence and presence in the global economy could possibly be effected through this societal perception of “racial impurity”.

  2. jkw7tt
    March 26, 2020 at 6:46 pm

    Hello Jaelen,

    The topic you chose is very interesting! I wasn’t aware of Japan’s true reaction over Naomi Osaka, but it is not surprising to hear about it. Like you said Japan has had a long history of valuing extreme racial purity, but I wonder if their reaction would have been different if Osaka was mixed with white. Osaka’s skin tone is on the darker end of the biracial spectrum, and I believe that this played a large role in their disowning. Generally, when a person is mixed with black, they portray that phenotype regardless of what other races they are mixed with because the black gene is strong— however when a person is mixed with white, and another race of color, they don’t look white because the white gene is usually weaker. Maybe the Japanese feel so strongly because she looks more black than she does Japanese. Whatever the reasoning, their reaction is problematic, but I think it’s interesting to examine.

  3. gmg3yn
    May 8, 2020 at 1:57 pm

    I was not aware of Japan’s policies and reactions to people of mixed race. The history of racial purity is very intriguing. I was not aware that Osaka faced the struggle of not truly being considered Japanese by Japan. These policies and attitudes could lead to a lack of diversity in Japan in the future. A lack of diversity in any country or region can be detrimental. It makes sharing of cultural and relating to fellow human beings more difficult. Diversity is important for acceptance and understanding of other cultures. A lack of diversity can lead to nationalist tendencies.

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