This Ramen Company Had To Pull Their Ad After Making An Offensive Change To A Celebrity’s Skin

Naomi Osaka ramen ad

Instant noodle manufacturer Nissin recently pulled an ad featuring professional tennis player Naomi Osaka. Osaka, who beat Serena Williams at the now-famous final match of the 2018 U.S. Open, appeared as an anime character in a recent commercial for the ramen brand as part of an endorsement deal. However, the ad has since been taken down after the brand caught flack for seemingly whitewashing Osaka’s character.

Osaka is half-Japanese, half-Haitian, and has spent much of her life in both Japan and the U.S. She, with her darker complexion and curly black hair, has been praised for challenging Japan’s “longstanding sense of racial purity and cultural identity,” as The New York Times wrote following her U.S. Open win.

But clearly someone on Nissin’s team missed that memo. Osaka’s character is depicted with pale skin and light brown hair — a far cry from Osaka’s actual appearance.

“The current situation creating social controversy is not what we had intended, and therefore have decided to stop the campaign,” Nissin told Munchies in a January 24th statement. They continued to state that whitewashing Osaka’s character was unintentional, and character sketches were shared with Osaka’s management team before they hit the air.

“Going forward, we will continue to hold respect for diversity, and will carefully consider campaign contents,” the Nissin spokesperson concluded.

There’s truly no resemblance between Osaka and her character. That is, except for the hair texture…?

The side-by-side says it all. Osaka was absolutely whitewashed.

Whether the whitewashing was intentional or not, people are pissed. It’s disturbing that the ad passed through several people, and yet, no one commented on the change in skin tone.

“Hm…I don’t know about this, guys.” Honestly, this entire thing could have been avoided.

The instant noodle company is definitely in some hot water. No pun intended.

True. We definitely see more Federer than Osaka.

If people can’t even tell it’s Osaka, that should tell Nissin something. That’s a big problem.

Like we said — a big problem. Yikes.

We’re shaking our heads, too. It’s an uncomfortable situation.

“Skin-lightening makes her more digestible to Japanese consumers.”

Nissin’s unintentional whitewashing of Osaka’s complexion clearly points at a bigger diversity issue within Japanese society. The ad implies that otherness is looked down upon in Japan and should therefore be changed.

The inner anime world also has a long way to go with diversity. It’s rare we see a non-white anime hero.

Even if there was an ulterior motive to Nissin lightening Osaka’s skin, there’s really no good enough reason to do so. Her skin is her skin.

Osaka was asked during a January 24th Australian Open press conference about the whitewashing situation. “I’ve talked to [Nissin] and they’ve apologized,” she said. “I’m tan, it’s pretty obvious. I don’t think they did it on purpose to be whitewashing, but I think the next time they portray me or something, they should talk to me about it.”


Seems like common sense to us. We’ll be interested to see if Osaka decides to work with Nissin in the future.

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