Naomi Osaka chooses Japanese citizenship over U.S.


Illustration by Alex Torres/The Runner

Justin Edler-Davis, Sports Writer

  Twotime Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka announced that she will give up her U.S. citizenship to represent Japan as the country hosts the 2020 Summer Olympics, which will be her Olympic debut.  

  This comes after her 22nd birthday, which serves as a deadline for dual-nationality citizens in Japan.  

  According to the CBS News article by Sophie Lewis titled Tennis star Naomi Osaka giving up U.S. citizenship to play for Japan in 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Osaka was born in Japan to a Japanese mother and Haitian father, but has lived in the United States since the age of three.  

  According to the Japan Times article written by Cory Baird and Sakura Murakami titled What does Japan’s Nationality Act really mean for its dual citizens?, the country’s fuzzy law and “don’t ask, don’t tell attitude” leads some to question if she needed to give up her U.S. citizenship.   

  While Japan’s Nationality Act nominally forbids citizens from having more than one nationality, the choice’ facing those with multiple nationalities is less clear-cut than many believe, the article says 

  The article also states that if someone does not choose which citizenship to use, it is the equivalent of a breach of contract more than someone breaking the law.  

  The article quotes Yasuhiro Okuda, a law professor at Chuo University in Japan, about the lack of enforcement of the dual nationality law from the Justice Ministry in Japan. 

  “For athletes like Naomi Osaka, the newspapers write under the impression that she must choose a nationality, but many people do not know that [the Justice Ministry] has never warned people [for not declaring one nationality],” Okuda said.  

   Since Osaka has chosen Japanese citizenship, her next step is to either provide proof that she has forfeited her non-Japanese nationality or to turn in a form to a local municipal office declaring her Japanese nationality, but there is no requirement to do so, meaning she can declare her nationality without legally giving up her U.S. citizenship. It is simply a formality.  

  With that, Osaka tells Japanese broadcaster NHK that it was a “special desire” of hers to choose Japanese citizenship. 

  “I think there’s no other place that I’d rather play my first Olympics. I think that will be one of the most memorable things that ever happens to me,” Osaka said.  

  A rising star who has climbed the ranks rapidly currently third in the WTA rankings after turning pro at the age of 16, Osaka won her first Grand Slam title at the 2018 U.S. Open beating Serena Williams, who is known as one of the greatest tennis players of all time and is currently ranked ninth in the world.  

  She became the first Japanese player to ever win a Grand Slam singles championship. Her second title came at the 2019 Australian Open when she defeated Petra Kvitová, who is currently ranked sixth in the world.  

  Japan has never won a gold medal in tennis at the Summer Olympics and with Osaka’s decision there is optimism that their fate will change.  

  The Summer Olympics will take place from July 24 to Aug. 9, 2020.