Japan 2020

Why do the Japanese still seem so ambivalent about Naomi Osaka?

It had all started so well for Naomi Osaka. Dressed in the colours of the Japanese flag, the tennis star was given the signal honour of lighting the cauldron in Friday’s opening ceremony at the Tokyo Olympics. She was presented as a symbol not only of Japan, but also of the Olympic movement’s self-proclaimed diverse and progressive philosophy. Yet her hopes of glory were extinguished just four days later after an error-strewn performance against world number 42 Markéta Vondroušová. Her underwhelming Olympic adventure prompted words of sympathy from many. US gymnast Simone Biles, who had her own disappointment to deal with, cited Osaka as an ‘inspiration’, and the novelist Yuji Taida