Did Naomi Osaka Make the Right Decision?

  • CULTURE
  • NEWS
  • by Martin Danker

    Every Japanese person who was born with dual citizenship faces an important decision as their 22nd birthday approaches: should they choose their Japanese citizenship, or should they choose the other one.

    Citizenship laws can be complicated, and each country will have very different laws that can make things either easy or complicated for their citizens. Mexico, for example, tends to be very open-minded when it comes to dual citizenship. Essentially, any person born in Mexico and who therefore become natural born Mexicans cannot be deprived of their nationality. There are very few actions that would make a Mexican citizen lose their citizenship, and the actions are so rare they are not really likely to happen. How many Mexican do you think accept a nobility titles from a foreign country each year? Because that’s one of the few actions that would result in loss of someone’s nationality. One does not have to spend valuable seconds trying to come up with an answer. The point being that, if you are born Mexican, you will die Mexican.

    Japanese citizens don’t enjoy the same luxury. According to Japanese law, a person who is born with dual citizenship will have to choose one of them by the time they turn 22. This can be a very huge decision for someone that young. After all, most people graduate from university at that age, meaning that they will start doing all the things one considers to be for adults. Let’s face it, we know filing taxes has no rival when it comes to rites of passage.

    Coming to think of it, it does make sense that the Japanese government would leave such decisions to 22 year-olds. Since everyone is making that big jump into adulthood, why not immediately take care of all things that link people to their childhoods? The problem is that, making that leap of faith is not always as smooth as it seems. Job hunting is stressful, the sight of the vast numbers of university students that go from company to company taking multiple examinations and attending interviews bringing back the terrible memories of the process to those who already have jobs.

    To make things worse, working is not always a rewarding thing. Just ask the millions of Japanese workers that have to work overtime and go drinking afterwards. Wouldn’t it make more sense to allow people to make the very important decision of whether they choose to retain their Japanese citizenship after they have a good taste of what life as an adult is like? But I digress.

    This is what brings us to Naomi Osaka, the young Japanese athlete that skyrocketed to stardom after winning the US Open in 2018 against Serena Williams. Naomi Osaka is a fantastic tennis player, and her skills mixed with her accomplishments and down-to-earth personality have made her an incredibly popular celebrity in Japan. Just in 2017 all trains featured ads with your regular celebrities: Mizuhara Kiko, Rola, Nishikori Kei, the members of Arashi, among others. Fast forward to 2019, and now you’ll see Osaka Naomi everywhere you turn. Perhaps the ads one can see more are inside drug stores, where Anessa, a sunscreen by Shiseido targeting people who exercise and play sports, has many stands featuring Naomi Osaka.

    Japan loves Naomi, that is something that no one will ever deny.

    In 2019, just after winning the Pan Pacific Open and the China Open, Osaka had to go through what many other Japanese citizens with dual nationalities face. It was something the public and the media had been awaiting. Osaka’s birthday falls on October 16, and in 2019 she would be turning 22. The deadline was approaching, and Naomi Osaka had to make a decision. On October 11, she did. Osaka picked her Japanese citizenship.

    As soon as the news broke out, people started to leave comments on various websites expressing their opinions. Some of them condemned the decision, stating that Naomi Osaka would never be recognized as a true Japanese individual because of being mixed, and that Osaka would not be happy living in Japan in the future.

    Comments like these are not uncommon these days, and I find the uproar to be simply idiotic. Naomi Osaka could have a million reasons to choose her Japanese citizenship, or she could have only one. It simply doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if she’s thinking about her future prospects in Japan, where she can bank a lot of yen due to the many sponsorships that have resulted from her celebrity status. It doesn’t matter if she is making this decision because she was born in Japan. It doesn’t matter if this decision stems from a desire to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics representing Japan. Nothing matters. Osaka’s decision is her decision.

    The tone of those who are wither content or upset with Osaka’s decision also has an ounce of patriotism. Many had viewed this moment as some sort of competition between Japan and the United States even though the whole process and outcome were fundamentally Osaka’s personal decision. Choosing one nationality over the other does not bring disrespect to the country that was not chosen. It’s also comical that people would think they can speak for Naomi Osaka’s best interests when mentioning Japan’s racial problems as if the U.S. had none.

    A decision like this is never taken lightly, people who have to reach these decisions often spend many hours through the course of years thinking about what they will do; and their final choice is theirs and only theirs. The same can be said for Naomi Osaka. She is in control of her life and her career, and this is her decision.

    Naomi Osaka will continue to dominate in tennis. She is one of the sport’s biggest representatives already, and her career is just in its early stages. Her rivalry with Bianca Andresscau even has the potential to become one of the biggest rivalries of all time. Whether her nationality is Japanese or American does not matter. She has her own heritage, and the decision

    *Featured Image by Naomi Osaka (naomiosaka) on Instagram
    : Naomi Osaka/