This week’s featured article


Amid the excitement of Naomi Osaka winning the women’s title at the U.S. Open tennis tournament on Sept. 8, some in Japan are wondering whether she will continue to compete for their country at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The 20-year-old has dual nationality — Japanese and American — and under Japanese law will have to choose one by the time she turns 22 on Oct. 16 next year, although that regulation is rarely enforced. While the Justice Ministry officially has the right to warn dual nationals to choose one, it has never done so, and the Foreign Ministry has said it does not track dual nationals.

Osaka, whose world ranking rose 12 spots to No. 7 on Monday, made history on Sept. 8 in New York by becoming the first Japanese to win a Grand Slam singles title, beating decorated veteran Serena Williams in straight sets. Although Osaka was born in Japan, she moved to the United States with her family — including her Japanese mother and Haitian-American father — at age 3. She lacks confidence in her Japanese language ability as a result, and is often assisted by an interpreter during news conferences and other events here. She is among a growing number of prominent athletes representing Team Japan who have fathers from overseas.

Kohei Kawashima, professor of sports sciences at Waseda University, emphasized the importance of embracing a “broader, multicultural” notion of what makes someone Japanese. As for the possibility that Osaka might choose to represent the United States in the future, Kawashima said, “I think it’s best for society to respect” any decision she makes.

Osaka is said to have expressed her intention to represent Japan at the Tokyo Games.

Speaking mostly in English at a news conference in Yokohama on Thursday, hours after arriving from the United States, Osaka didn’t seem concerned despite the attention some have paid to her background.

“I don’t really think too much about my identity or whatever,” she said when asked what she thinks of overseas media reporting about her Japanese roots. “For me, I’m just me. And I know that the way that I was brought up — I don’t know — people tell me I act kind of Japanese, so I guess there’s that.”

First published in The Japan Times on Sept. 15.

Warm up

One-minute chat about identity.


Collect words related to nationality, e.g., country, passport, parents.

New words

1) dual: having two of something, e.g., “Both the mom and dad work, so it’s a dual-income family.”

2) prominent: important and well-known, e.g., ” She’s a prominent figure in the scientific community.”

Guess the headline

Naomi Osaka is J_ _ _ _’s tennis darling, but could she eventually decide to play for the _._.?


1) What are people with dual nationality supposed to do under Japanese law?

2) What is Osaka’s background?

3) What does Osaka think about her identity?

Let’s discuss the article

1) How did you feel about Naomi Osaka’s win?

2) Which country do you think she will represent in the future?

3) What things do you feel are key to your identity?




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