Japanese instant noodles giant Nissin has pulled an ad of biracial Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka after it depicted her as a light-skinned cartoon character.
Osaka, who is half-Japanese and half-Haitian, rose to fame after defeating 23-time major champion Serena Williams in the US Open in September 2018. The 21-year-old is the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam singles tournament and is currently ranked fourth in the world, the highest-ranked Japanese player in history.
The anime-style advertisement by Nissin was drawn by Takeshi Konomi, a manga artist whose series ‘The Prince of Tennis’ is popular in Japan, portrayed Osaka with lighter skin tone alongside Kei Nishikori, Japan’s number one male tennis player.
Aware that biracial people like her in Japan, known as hafus, are not widely accepted by the Japanese public as the standard for Japanese beauty, Osaka had previously spoken about the topic to The New York Times.
Nissin, which is a sponsor of Osaka, apologized for the “the confusion and discomfort”, with a spokesman called Daisuke Okabayashi, telling NYT that the characters had been developed in line with Konomi’s anime series and that the company had communicated with Osaka’s representatives.
“There is no intention of whitewashing,” he said. “We accept that we are not sensitive enough and will pay more attention to diversity issue in the future.”