Although the initial reaction on Japanese social media to tennis star Naomi Osaka’s refusal to represent the press at Roland Garros this month, as mandated by organizers, as well as her subsequent withdrawal from the tournament following the backlash to This announcement, included strained attempts to explain his actions with reference to his Japanese origins, most Japanese Twitter users were supportive of Osaka and needed no further explanation. They accepted his admission of mental distress, which is only surprising since depression is still a relatively taboo subject in Japan (or, at least, it is when the subject of examination is a Japanese).

Osaka is Japanese by birth, so her connection to her mother’s country has been carefully discussed and analyzed by local media, but in the end, most of them have given up on trying to find her Japanese essence. She is what she is, and if the Roland-Garros dispute proves anything, it is that it will be nothing else. In fact, perhaps the local writer with the most critical take on the case is Robert Whiting, an American who lived in Tokyo and wrote about Japanese sport for many years and described the actions. from Osaka as childish in the tabloid. Yukan fuji.

With that in mind, the most useful advice offered to Osaka to deal with its aversion to celebrity obligations came from local TV personality Dave Spector, also American, who in a June 1 post on Twitter said that in the future, she should just prepare a script for the press conferences and then read it over and over verbatim, regardless of the question asked. Spector was thinking of how Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga works, who wrote the ruling party’s playbook to confuse troublesome press inquiries by repeating the same empty talking points until reporters raised their hands in frustration .

Spector was joking, but, in fact, Osaka is known to be a suspicious interview subject, which is one of the reasons for its popularity – both in Japan and abroad – as Louisa Thomas pointed out. in an article for the New Yorker. Thomas writes that few people involved in professional tennis enjoy press conferences, including the press, but they are useful depending on how you see famous athletes and whether they have an obligation to reveal themselves to the public.

While press conferences don’t always filter inane or redundant questions, they do filter out managers whose job it is to make sure their accusations don’t say anything embarrassing and, therefore, set conditions for one-on-one interviews. Osaka is one of the rare stars who has been able to go through the press conferences, as well as the few interviews she does, without questioning her values ​​and yet remaining an interesting interlocutor, if not necessarily totally cooperative.

The question that Thomas provokes but does not answer is whether this type of response is a coping mechanism. In an article for the online web magazine Sportiva, Akatsuki Uchida mentions comments made by Canadian journalist Stephanie Myles about Osaka’s behavior in the media. Myles is struck by the difference between Osaka’s attitude towards Western journalists and that towards Japanese journalists. With the latter, she is “professional” and talks about tennis, while with the former, she seems to act as the reporter expects her to act, ie “like Naomi Osaka”. Such an approach could actually be quite stressful.

That’s not to say that Japanese sports journalists don’t ask unnecessary questions like Western journalists do. Retired Baseball Star Ichiro Suzuki was always quick to express his displeasure with the Japanese media, but because these interactions were in Japanese, he could express his irritation freely and immediately. Osaka is not confrontational, but since her mastery of the Japanese language is not advanced, she has the luxury of dodging embarrassing questions from Japanese journalists due to misunderstanding. Myles’ assessment of Osaka’s behavior towards the Japanese media was based solely on his responses, which were in English. Not mastering Japanese, Myles did not understand the questions, sometimes unnecessary.

In an article for the weekly AreaAsahi Shimbun Editor-in-Chief Kosuke Inagaki wrote that one of the reasons for Osaka’s global popularity is his active interest in issues unrelated to tennis, including the movement Black Lives Matter. What Inagaki forgets to point out is that this willingness to engage in conversations about contentious matters sets her apart from most other internationally active Japanese athletes, who would never risk their position at home by courting controversy. . (The exceptions are basketball player Rui Hachimura and pitcher Yu Darvish, who are also of mixed heritage.)

However, none of his various sponsors in Japan seem to mind his outspokenness. They came to support her during this difficult time, and while they can just read the current situation, it’s hard to imagine her actions in Paris negatively impacting their brands. Thanks to its sponsorship agreement with Wowow, the satellite channel was the only media to speak to him after his only match in France, giving them the kind of scoop they could only dream of. Plus, due to the monetary nature of their relationship, Osaka could probably count on them not to ask tough questions.

So the only remaining sports venue where Japan can claim Osaka as one of their own are the Olympics, which is why some of the local coverage of its issues in Paris has been characterized by a nervous tone. Will she be good enough to show up at the Tokyo Games? After all, one of the reasons she chose Japanese citizenship over American citizenship at the age of 22 was because she could represent Japan.

Before the announcement last week of her participation in the Olympics, an article in the weekly women’s magazine Shukan Josei had combed through Osaka’s remarks in recent months in order to understand the risk of her eventually withdrawing. The only note of hope the article struck was that at least the organizers of the Olympics do not require athletes to appear at press conferences.

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, there are resources available. In case of an emergency in Japan, please call 119 for immediate assistance. the TELL Lifeline is available for those who need free, anonymous advice at 03-5774-0992. For those from other countries, visit International suicide helplines for a detailed list of resources and support. Visit for addenda to Media Mix contributions.

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