Voices | VIEWS FROM THE STREET

Views From Tokyo: What is it that makes someone — like Naomi Osaka — Japanese or not?

by Megha Wadhwa

Contributing Writer

In the wake of Naomi Osaka’s historic triumph in the U.S. Open, The Japan Times asked people what they think makes a person Japanese. Is it parentage, language, culture or a combination of factors?

Hiroyuki Fujisawa, 71
Restaurateur (Japanese)

The way that Japanese think, to be Japanese, one of the most important things is to have Japanese blood. If you have that, then you are Japanese. But if you have Japanese citizenship and not Japanese blood, then you’re not a Japanese person.

You might be living abroad, can’t speak Japanese well, don’t know much about Japan, but if you have a Japanese father or mother, regardless of what your nationality is, you are Japanese.

Miguel Evangelista, 29
Travel agent (Filipino)

A person who can be accepted as Japanese is one who has a sense of Japanese culture. So, even if the person can’t really speak Japanese, stayed in another country, with one parent Japanese and the other not, I think you can still represent Japan as your home country if you love the country.

I’m from the Philippines and we have a lot of athletes who reside in Germany or the U.S. and come back to the Philippines and play for our country because they want to play for the people.

Ozoh Obinna, 29
Teacher training student (Nigerian)

If either your mom or dad is Japanese then I think the offspring is Japanese, because I believe in the concept of dual citizenship. Language shouldn’t be a deciding factor. Naomi Osaka should be addressed as American and also Japanese.

The world is becoming smaller by the day and the concept of global citizenship is taking hold, so I think the Japanese should let go the concept of “half” and embrace people as they are regardless of where both parents are from.

Ikumi Yuzawa, 32
Travel agent (Japanese)

Naomi Osaka had two choices — be an American or a Japanese — and she has chosen to be Japanese, so we should respect her choice.

I also have many friends who are referred to as “half,” “mixed” or “double.” They respect Japanese culture even though they can’t speak Japanese. I think we respect Naomi-san and also Naomi-san respects Japan. Connections between humans and their dedication to work are the most important things. The nationality doesn’t matter.

Arcee Chanco, 14
High school student (Filipino)

By law, if you have parents who are Japanese, then you are a Japanese person. But for people who are half-Japanese and half another nationality, you may not be always considered as a Japanese.

But if you were born here and adapted to the culture, language, people and how you live and through your ethics, I think through your personality you can consider yourself Japanese. You can decide yourself and I don’t think anyone has any problem with that.

Hanae Nakajima, 22
Student (American)

I might look Japanese as my parents are, but I think knowing the language and culture is what makes you Japanese.

I think the Japanese are accepting, but first, it is about looks: If you look Japanese then that makes you Japanese. But once they start talking to you and see you can’t really speak the language, then they are like, “Ah, that doesn’t make them Japanese.”

But for me, if you are born or raised here, know the language, know the culture, that’s what makes you Japanese.

Interested in gathering views
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