You may have heard Naomi Osaka’s name over the weekend. That’s because the young tennis professional won the Grand Slam singles tournament making the 20 year old one of the youngest ever to take home the title.
Not only did she take home the top prize, but she did so in defeating one of tennis’ greatest players in Serena Williams in a controversial championship match of the 2018 US Open filled with problematic actions of a line judge.
It wasn’t anything that Osaka did that has caused a lot of the negative buzz after her win, but the questionable calls that led up to her victory. But that’s for another post. We’re here to celebrate Osaka, who made history as the first Japanese woman to not only advance to the championship round of any tennis Grand Slam, but brought home the trophy.
What is Naomi Osaka’s Race?
Of course, Japanese people around the world celebrated Naomi’s historic win.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe congratulated Osaka on Twitter.
“(Osaka) doesn’t display her joy so excessively. Her playing style is aggressive, but she is always humble in interviews. I like that.” Japanese tennis fan Naoko Ohno told the New York Times.
But Osaka isn’t Japanese even though she has some Japanese features.
Born in Chūō-ku, Osaka, Japan on October 16th, 1997 to a Japanese mother and a Haitian father; Osaka is a unique blend of two races. Her mother’s name is Tamaki Osaka and her father’s name is Leonard “San” François.
Naomi and her older sister Mari kept their mother’s maiden name because it made more sense to have a Japanese surname as the family were living in Japan when they both were born. This was likely done to avoid problems and assimilate the daughters into society. Still, one doesn’t live their life on paper, there was obvious visceral confusion. In a 2016 interview, Osaka said: “When I go to Japan, people are confused. From my name, they don’t expect to see a black girl.”
Osaka is referred to as a hāfu in Japan where the country has a very low percentage of biracial people. “Hāfu” is Japanese for biracial.
Who are Naomi’s Mom and Dad
Naomi’s parents — Tamaki and Leonard — met and married in Japan. Leonard moved to Japan after graduating from New York University to pursue business opportunities, but all things weren’t blissful in the racially-homogeneous country. When Tamaki’s father discovered that was dating a black man, he was very angry. So angry that Tamaki didn’t speak with her family for over a decade.
Tennis fans around the world celebrated Osaka’s win. it’s not just a point of pride for Japanese and Haitian people, but for biracial and multiracial people. The impact Naomi Osaka’s US Open win continues to push her mother’s home country to redefine what it means to be Japanese.
Now the family lives in Florida where she grew up in Fort Lauderdale. Haitian-Japanese-American Osaka speaks both English and Japanese and holds dual citizenship in United States and in Japan.