Previous creative director Hiroshi Sasaki resigned after labeling a prominent Japanese comedian, who was scheduled to perform at the opening ceremony, as an “Olympig.”
And until February, the committee that appointed him was led by Yoshiro Mori, a former prime minister who said that women should not be admitted to the cabinet because they talk too much. The Asahi Shimbun reported Saturday that Mori, 84, will return to the Olympic organizing committee as an “honorary supreme adviser” despite his resignation over the comments.
Dr. Emma Dalton, an expert on the political under-representation of women in Japan at RMIT University, called Mori’s resignation in February a watershed moment. “It is very unusual for men in power to make these comments and resign,” he said.
Maki Kobayashi, executive director of the Tokyo Organizing Committee, promised that the Olympics will make society more accessible and easier for everyone. “This is a much bigger problem than the Olympics; hopefully it will help change the much larger structures that exist in Japanese society.”
But just five months later, it appears that Mori’s return could cement the conditions that have caused the world’s third-largest economy to remain stagnant at 121st in the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Gender Gap Index.
Osaka had called Mori’s comments “really uninformed and a bit ignorant,” the same labels she has used to describe her treatment as a Haitian-Japanese girl in Japan.
Hafu, The Japanese term for the children of foreigners and Japanese citizens like Osaka, is slowly becoming an empowering term for some community members, but for others, its statistics are still hard to escape. More than 98 percent of Japanese residents are ethnic Japanese, making racial diversity a rare and often marginalized attribute.
In 2017, the Ministry of Justice published a survey on racial discrimination in the country. It found that 40% of non-Japanese residents had been victims of housing discrimination and 30% had been the target of discriminatory speech.
Osaka said last year that one of her earliest memories as a tennis player was hearing other Japanese players talk about her. “Oh that black girl. Is she supposed to be Japanese? she said The Wall St Journal.
The 23-year-old said she was trying to “put a platform for all the Japanese who look like me and live in Japan and when they go to a restaurant, they hand them a menu in English,” she said.
Osaka, who has had to navigate a maze of public expectations and anxiety, said she had no intention of sticking to court matters.
“I hate when random people say that athletes shouldn’t get involved in politics and just entertain,” he said. “First of all, it is a human rights issue. Second, what gives you more right to speak than me? According to that logic, if you work at Ikea you can only talk about [furniture]? “
The Olympic flame has turned Osaka into the pantheon of Japanese national icons. The footage will play back for generations. When young Japanese fans look for decades to come, they will see Osaka, resplendent in the braids of her Haitian heritage, with hair dyed red for her Japanese birthplace.
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