Call for more balanced language following gold and silver medals for Japanese figure skaters runs into strong backlash.

It’s been a good Olympics so far for Japan. When Nao Kodaira captured the gold in women’s 500-meter speed skating, it brought Japan’s medal count to 10, equaling its best-ever Winter Games total at the 1998 Nagano Olympics, and with several days of competition left before PyeongChang’s closing ceremonies, Japanese athletes may be coming home with more collective Winter Olympics glory than every before.

A major highlight for the Japanese team at the PyeongChang Games was the 1-2 finish in men’s singles figure skating by Yuzuru Hanyu and Shoma Uno, with the 23-year-old Hanyu becoming the first back-to-back men’s singles gold medalist since American Dick Button in 1948/1952. Hanyu was already a media darling in Japan, and the news of his second gold medal has been heavily featured on television news and talk shows.

However, in the midst of all the excitement and exuberant national pride, Japanese freelance journalist Shoko Egawa has a request for TV commentators, which is:

“People who work in television,

Stop with the ‘Japanese people are amazing!’ It should be ‘Hanyu is amazing! Uno is amazing!’

Like you’ll find in many countries, Japanese sports media has a strong tendency towards home team favoritism. Some Japanese reports of the men’s figure skating results, for example, stopped at telling viewers about Hanyu and Uno winning gold and silver, completely omitting any mention of bronze medal winner Javier Fernandez, from Spain. Add in the fact that the Japanese language doesn’t have much international diffusion, and Japanese broadcasters often feel no need at all to temper boastful remarks about Japanese culture or heritage, figuring that few, if any, of the people listening to them will be of anything other than Japanese ethnicity.

▼ Hanyu’s gold medal-winning performance at PyeongChang

As such, when a Japanese competitor succeeds on the world stage, it’s often presented in the media as a victory not just for the individual, but with a nuance that it’s a sign of the talents of the Japanese people/country as a whole. That’s something that’s apparently rubbing Egawa the wrong way, leading to her tweet asking for greater specificity when praising Japan’s Olympic athletes.

Egawa’s tweet has garnered over 6,000 likes so far, so she’s not entirely alone in her criticism. However, the vast majority of Twitter comments that have been left in response to her request have been negative, including:

“Japanese people are amazing!”
“Do you hate Japan that much?”
“Since you’re Japanese, why don’t you just be happy for Hanyu’s and Uno’s victory?”
“Does it bother you so much that Japanese people are amazing?”
“Why don’t you renounce your Japanese citizenship?”

Considering that Egawa has spent much of the Olympics trumpeting the success of Japanese athletes by tweeting about their accomplishments, accusing her of an anti-Japanese agenda is a definite stretch. Still, the swift backlash suggests that those sports media outlets in Japan which are singing the praises of the Japanese people as a whole probably aren’t going to be changing their tone anytime soon.

Source: Twitter/@amneris84 via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso