Osaka charms Japan with her manners — and broken Japanese

TOKYO (AP) — Naomi Osaka’s halting Japanese, her manners — she bowed and apologized after beating Serena Williams in the U.S. Open final — and her simple charm have swelled national pride in Japan and eclipsed many questions about her mixed-race parentage in a famously insular country.

Two days after becoming the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam tennis title, Osaka is still filling the front pages of the country’s three major daily newspapers and leads the discussions on talk shows.

The perspective from Japan on Monday: Osaka is being embraced as Japanese despite her mixed background. National pride — at least for now — is overriding questions of cultural identity and what it means to be Japanese.

Williams’ dramatic behavior during a chaotic final on Saturday, a hot topic in the United States and around the world, has been largely brushed aside in Japan with the focus on Osaka’s poise under pressure.

Japan’s largest newspaper, Yomiuri, called Osaka a “new heroine that Japan is proud of” and characterized her appeal as “the contrast between her strength on the court and her innocent character off the court.”

Yomiuri centered Osaka’s photograph holding the U.S. Open trophy at the top of its Monday front page — as did the two other large dailies. In a headline inside the paper, Yomiuri called her an “Overnight Queen — Powerful and Stable.”

The Asahi newspaper also called her the “New Queen,” picking up on her mix of “strength and gentleness.”

None of the main-line newspapers dwelled too much on her background, which has been well reported. She was born in Japan to a Japanese mother and Haitian father, moved to the United States when she was 3 and now lives in Florida where she has trained for more than a decade.

COMMENTS