How Nissin Represented Naomi Osaka: Race, Gender, and Sport in Japanese Advertising

Michelle H.S. Ho, Hiromi Tanaka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


In January 2019, instant noodle giant Nissin Foods released two animated advertisements online featuring Naomi Osaka, which elicited backlash over “whitewashing” the multiracial professional tennis player who represents Japan. Although Nissin has since pulled the advertisements and officially apologized for portraying Osaka as lighter-skinned, underlying these issues are also those of gender, especially its intersections with race/ethnicity, nation, and sport in Japanese media. Employing discourse analysis of these two advertisements, this article examines how Nissin represented Osaka and what ideologies these representations reflect in Japanese society. Drawing on intersectional and transnational feminist cultural studies approaches, we argue that the advertisements’ representation of Osaka and the ensuing controversy reflect racialized and gendered ideologies in an allegedly homogeneous Japanese society, informed by local media and popular cultures that regularly portray “racially neutral” characters, celebrate lighter-skinned hāfu (half; multiracial) women, and diminish sportswomen’s athletic abilities. This article contributes to communication and sport studies by situating Osaka within broader contexts of how hāfu and sporting women are depicted in Japanese media and how elite sportswomen and multiracial athletes are portrayed in international media. Our article concludes by offering two suggestions on how to research multiracial sportswomen in the media.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)594-615
Number of pages22
JournalCommunication and Sport
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


  • Japan
  • Naomi Osaka
  • gender representation
  • hāfu (half)
  • multiracial athletes


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