As someone who was born in Japan, grew up in America and plays tennis for Japan, Naomi Osaka‘s nationality can seem complicated to some. Naomi—whose mother is from Hokkaido, Japan, and whose father is from Jacmel, Haiti—was born in Chūō-ku, Osaka in Japan on October 16, 1997.
In a 2018 interview with The New York Times, Naomi’s mother, Tamaki, explained that Naomi and her sister, Mari, took their mother’s last name, Osaka, instead of their father’s, Francois, so that it would be easier if the sisters stayed in Japan and enrolled in school or rented apartments. However, after she was born, Naomi didn’t stay in Japan long. When she was 3 years old, Naomi and her family moved to the United States. They first lived with her father Leonard’s grandparents in Long Island, New York, before moving to Florida when Naomi was around 8 years old.
Florida was where Naomi and Mari, who is also a professional tennis player, trained for most of their tennis career. When she was 13, Naomi’s father decided for her and Mari to play tennis for Japan instead of the United States after the United States Tennis Association showed little interest in the sisters. “My dad thought that since I grew up around my mom and I have a lot of Japanese relatives,” Naomi told The New York Times. “I don’t necessarily feel like I’m American. I wouldn’t know what that feels like.”
For most of her life, Naomi had dual citizenship in both the U.S. and Japan. However, October 2019, Naomi relinquished her American citizenship. Though the decision allowed her to play for Japan in the 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics, that wasn’t the main reason. Under Japan’s Nationality Act, those with dual citizenship must choose one before their 22nd birthday. Naomi’s decision to to relinquish her US citizenship came six days before her 22nd birthday.
Had Japan allowed dual citizenship for those over the age of 22, Naomi would still be able to compete in the 2021 Summer Olympics as a citizen of both the U.S. and Japan. According to a bylaw to Rule 41 of the Olympic Charter, athletes with dual citizenship can choose to represent either country. Those who gain new citizenship or wish to change the country they play for at the Olympics can do so as long as three years have passed since their most recent Olympics for their previous country. “It is a special feeling to aim for the Olympics as a representative of Japan,” Naomi told Japanese broadcaster NHK in 2019. “I think that playing with the pride of the country will make me feel more emotional.”
Naomi’s mother told The Wall Street Journal in 2018 that both Naomi and her sister have always felt more Japanese, which is why she plays tennis for Japan instead of the U.S. “She was born in Osaka and was brought up in a household of Japanese and Haitian culture,” Tamaki said. “Quite simply, Naomi and her sister Mari have always felt Japanese, so that was our only rationale. It was never a financially motivated decision nor were we ever swayed either way by any national federation.”
Though Naomi is a citizen of Japan, she also has a home in the US. In 2021, she bought a $7 million home in Beverly Hills, California. The house, which was previously owned by Nick Jonas, has three bedrooms and four bathrooms and is 4,100 square feet.
For more about the Olympics, check out Jeremy Fuchs’ 2021 book, Total Olympics: Every Obscure, Hilarious, Dramatic, and Inspiring Tale Worth Knowing. The book, which was called an “indispensable Olympic resource” and “pure fun” by The New York Times, follows the history of the Olympics, from how it began in a a Victorian English town called Much Wenlock to the discontinued sports that are no longer around like tug of war, firefighting, painting and, yes, live pigeon shooting. The bestseller, which features hundreds of true tales and historical photographs, also includes stories from both internationally known and little known athletes like gymnast Shun Fujimoto, who led his team to victory with a broken knee.
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