[Bookmark] Musashi Suzuki: proud to be one of the many Japanese with a different skin color



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The bookmark is a JAPAN Forward feature that gives you long reads for the weekend. Each edition presents a global thought that branches out to a wide variety of themes. Our hope is that readers find new depths and perspectives to explore and enjoy.


(Read part 1 here.)

Musashi Suzuki, born to a Japanese mother and Jamaican father and raised in Japan, has been bullied about his skin color and hair texture since he was a child. Yet, confident in who he is on the inside, the talented footballer has been able to overcome these detractors and demonstrate the leadership and integrity that inspires fans, teammates and above all the many mixes of young half-Japanese in the world of today.

This is the conclusion of a 2-part series for JAPAN Forward compiled from extracts from the book Musashi and Musashi (Tokuma Shoten Publishing, 2021), and an article in the sports magazine NumberWeb.

Excerpts follow.

In November 2019, I was the target of a discriminatory message on social networks.

I was relaxing at home when it happened. I took a look at one of my social media accounts on my smartphone to find a tweet from a supporter saying: “Suzuki-san, someone wrote this about you.”

I was curious so I took a look at the tweet:

“The cheek of playing for Japan looks like this,” It said.

“Ugh,” I was thinking.

I instinctively closed my eyes and let go of my smartphone. I was shocked, saddened and angry. I struggled to stay calm. My heart was pounding.

I stared at the ceiling for a moment and thought about it.

“I’ve been told that sort of thing before. There will always be a few people who will never accept me as a Japanese playing for Japan. Even though I’m not on the national team, people would probably continue to comment on my appearance. “ I was thinking.

I tried to accept it. But then I thought to myself: “OK, so I might look different, but I worked hard using my Japanese soul. How the hell am I supposed to be accepted? “

I was overcome with feelings of anger and hopelessness. After a period of amazement, I picked up the phone that I had thrown on the couch.

I looked at the tweet again. Instead of being moved, I read it calmly this time.

“I think I should say something about this.”

I suddenly felt a sense of responsibility.

I am grateful to have been raised in this wonderful country, Japan

The old me probably would have ignored the message. But as a Japanese and as a player for the national football team, I felt that I needed to do something.

So how should I respond? I thought about it calmly, but then I got moved: “I was the target of this disgusting discrimination!” “Look at this shameful abuse!”

But on reflection, responding in this way would only put me on the same level as the abuser. Nothing would be won.

I am proud to be half black and I am proud to be Japanese. Also, there are a lot of kids in Japan like me with different skin color.

If I remained silent or responded in a childish manner, it could cast a negative shadow not only on me, but also on these children. I really didn’t want that. Therefore, I thought about expressing my true feelings in a mature way.

I decided to do it on my own without consulting anyone. Finally, I managed to open my social media account and write the following message:

“Thanks to the person who informed me of this tweet. Its good. All I can do is respond with my feet on the football field. Because that’s all I’ve done since I was little. To be honest, I couldn’t have played for Japan without my dad’s genes. I am proud to be half black. And I’m grateful that I grew up in this wonderful country, Japan. “

Driven by hate to lose

The abuser is also just one person. I didn’t want to attack a specific person. All I did was express my feelings in a mature way.

Shortly after posting my tweet, I was inundated with a wave of direct messages. Some were supportive, but many of them were abusive.

Nonetheless, I was glad I posted my tweet.

In fact, I have no hard feelings against those who sent me negative messages. Because if my life had been just a series of positive messages, I wouldn’t have been driven by my hatred of losing and my desire to prove people wrong – which is my biggest driving force. .

If I had been spoiled and lost all my aspirations, the current self would not exist. The current self is the result of receiving negative feedback and responding with thoughts such as “I will not lose” and “I’ll prove them wrong.”

I was determined to push myself further and reach the next level. It showed on the ground. This mentality has been my driving force and I believe it will continue in the future.

If I find myself facing something negative, I try to think that it could possibly be something positive, and that I might end up being grateful.

Of course, not everything that is happening is negative. But if you try to see things in a positive way, you become a positive person. I really believe that.

With that said, there are some things you need to be careful of.

I wanna be like Musashi Suzuki

In the end, I became able to deal with negativity, but there are sometimes hurtful situations that are difficult to get rid of.

Words help sometimes, but they can also be very sharp. Some people are aware of this, but others are not. As a result, there will always be an element of suffering in a society made up of different personalities.

The experience could be even more painful for the children. Therefore, the advice of someone in my position who has had a difficult experience may resonate more with these children.

For me, representing the Japanese national team on behalf of the Japanese people is a huge honor. Since my selection, I feel immense pride as a Japanese.

In particular, since I joined the national team, I have received many more messages from half-Japanese children.

“My friend’s child is half African and half Japanese. The other day he said he wanted to be like Musashi Suzuki.

“I am half Nigerian, half Japanese. I aim to be like you. “

But while it may be the case, I too am inspired by other famous half-black, half-Japanese sports professionals such as Naomi Osaka, Rui Hachimura, Abdul Hakim Sani Brown and Asuka Cambridge. They make me want to keep trying.

In particular, I feel close to Asuka Cambridge because just like me, he has a Jamaican father, and our Japanese mothers were acquaintances in Jamaica.

Before I joined the Japan football team, I used to think to myself: “How can I become Japanese?” But, later when I was part of the team, I realized that there were people who encouraged me to be successful.

Therefore, whenever I receive abuse, I try to stay dignified and not let myself be affected. I try to climb higher.

And then, in December 2019, I scored my first international goal for Japan.

(Find the book by Musashi Suzuki on which these extracts are based at this link, and the related magazine article in Japanese on the sports magazine website Numberthe Web, at this link.)

Author: Musashi Suzuki

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