Naomi Osaka and Mizuhara Kiko have no time for racists. Period.
After police officers killed George Floyd, Black Lives Matters protests started taking place across cities around the world, including rallies in Osaka and Tokyo. People have also been vocal about Black Lives Matter online, using platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. George Floyd’s death was not an unusual event, and people are demanding justice for the many black lives that have been lost at the hands of the police, and protesting systematic racism, police brutality, and the unjust and racist experiences black people have when encountering the police.
Tennis player Naomi Osaka has been one of the most vocal voices in Japan, helping spread the Black Lives Matter movement to the archipelago. Naomi Osaka has also done something that Japanese public figures rarely do: calling out racists; and her tweets have garnered many likes both in Japan and overseas.
When a man whose profile picture at the time showed him next to a huge fish he had just caught had the audacity to tell Naomi that sports and politics didn’t mix, Naomi was quick to issue a response.
I hope that fish eats you. https://t.co/AW5cnD8IVw
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) June 4, 2020
Naomi’s tweet has been retweeted more than 4,000 times, and eventually, the man responsible for the tweet ended up deleting it after the backlash he faced. That started to become a common trait. Naomi would expose a racist tweet, and the original user would eventually delete what they had shared.
HOW ARE YOU NOT EVEN JAPANESE??? HOWWWWWWWW???? You move to a whole different country and still have the time??? Your racism is showing Ryan 😔 try to hide it better. https://t.co/uf683rAX9Z
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) June 5, 2020
And since there had been many tweets stating that athletes had to stay in their field, Naomi issued a quick statement to debunk that failed logic:
I hate when random people say athletes shouldn’t get involved with politics and just entertain. Firstly, this is a human rights issue. Secondly, what gives you more right to speak than me? By that logic if you work at IKEA you are only allowed to talk about the “GRÖNLID” 🤷🏽♀️?
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) June 4, 2020
In June, police officers in Atlanta shot and killed Rayshard Brooks. Racists were quick to use the circumstances that resulted in his killing as a way to justify the police officer’s actions; and once again, Naomi was not having it:
A “what if” shouldn’t be the reason your life is taken away. https://t.co/flyjBFLzdJ
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) June 14, 2020
Naomi also reminded people that, even though she has been exposing racist Japanese tweets, that it didn’t mean that she dislikes Japan.
I know I’ve been attacking a lot of racist Japanese tweets the last few days but Japan is actually a really amazing place. I really don’t want to give the misconception that the entire country is racist, they just have a few bad apples like everyone else. Love you guys ❤️
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) June 10, 2020
While Naomi Osaka was fighting those opposing Black Lives Matter, famous Japanese model Mizuhara Kiko was facing a different battleground.
Mizuhara Kiko has also been vocal about the Black Lives Matter movement, but the racist attacks she received had to do with the model’s heritage.
As it was the case with Naomi Osaka, the person to whom Mizuhara responded ended up deleting their tweet. The individual in question had said they were mad because Mizuhara Kiko didn’t have a Japanese citizenship, and that they hoped she would stop acting like a Japanese person.
— Kiko Mizuhara 🌱 水原希子 (@kikoxxx) June 15, 2020
Mizuhara Kiko’s response roughly translates to “When did I act “Japanese”? Is there any problem if I am not Japanese? I grew up in Japan and have been living here for 29 years. I was raised and educated in Japan. I have no idea what the problem is.”
In Japan, there are ethnic Koreans who have either permanent resident status in Japan or Japanese citizenship. The group consists of Koreans who immigrated to Japan before 1945 and their descendants. The official term is Zainichi Korean, however, racist groups in Japan have used the term to attack the group. For that reason, it’s a term that has fallen out of favor.
Mizuhara Kiko’s mother is ethnic Korean, which is why Mizuhara has been the target of racist comments for years. Mizuhara Kiko is one of the most Japanese models, and her fame and popularity extends across many countries. That has infuriated racist Japanese nationals.
The most recent attacks occurred on June 16, 2020, and involved Twitter users using words like “Japanese feeling,” “acting Japanese,” and whether Mizuhara Kiko had the right to call herself Japanese. Racist people also used Twitter in 2017 to attack Mizuhara after a successful Suntory campaign that featured her, calling the model “anti-nationalistic” and that she was “pretending to be Japanese.”
Throughout the years, Mizuhara has shared tweets, posts, and Instagram Stories to talk about racism and hate speech; and the recent events have made her even more vocal.
Mizuhara and Osaka’s Twitter responses also serve as a reminder of how the hugely successful platform has failed to block hate speech and racist comments in Japan.
It’s very rare for celebrities and public figures in Japan to speak up since it can lead to backlash and criticism that can ruin their careers, but things have started to change. Whether it’s Kyary Pamyu Pamyu criticizing the current administration, Rola talking about the environment, and Naomi Osaka and Mizuhara Kiko tackling racism, celebrities have started to take a more active role expressing their opinions. Neither Osaka Naomi nor Mizuhara Kiko will stay silent against racism, and neither should you. Period.