US Open champion Osaka has been featured in a major advertising campaign by Japanese noodle company Nissin in which she has been portrayed as a manga character.
But Osaka, who is half-Haitian half-Japanese, is depicted as a pale-skin character with Caucasian features and wavy brown hair – leading to accusations she has been 'whitewashed'.
Nissin insist they had no intended to change the 21-year-old's appearance but admit they need to be more aware of diversity issues going forward.
A spokesperson said: “There is no intention of whitewashing.
“We accept that we are not sensitive enough and will pay more attention to diversity issues in the future.”
Osaka, who has dual Japense-American citizenship, is featured in the ad along with Kei Nishikori but it has been openly criticised for trying to make her more commercially appealing.
Baye McNeil, and African-American writer who lives in Japan, said: "I’d been anticipating Osaka’s appearance since it isn’t often that a high-profile woman of colour is featured in a major Japanese ad campaign.
"So when I cued it up on YouTube I was truly disappointed to see that there was no woman of colour to speak of in the commercial.
"Instead, I found a whitewashed representation of Osaka.”
McNeil then went on to suggest Nissin had wasted an opportunity to "show that Japan is striving to be increasingly inclusive, diverse and forward-moving – with companies like Nissin leading the way”.
Both Nishokori and Osaka have made it through to the latter stages of the Australian Open, which is in no way linked to the controversial campaign.
Neither player has commented in public about the Nissin commercial.
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