Miss Japan 2016 and why is it news?

Priyanka Yoshikawa, 22, was crowned as Miss Japan on Monday, October 3, 2016. She is a Tokyo native with an elephant trainers license and is the second woman of a multicultural background to be crowned as Miss Japan only a year after Ariana Miyamoto became the first multicultural woman to represent Miss Japan in the Miss Universe contest.[http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/09/05/national/social-issues/woman-of-indian-descent-crowned-miss-japan/#.V_rQyYb3aEc]

Yoshikawa was inspired by Miyamoto to compete and win the competition. She faced many different responses from her winning, with a majority being positive with a few negative sprinkled in. For the most part people are proud of her and wish her fame and success. However some did respond negatively stating that Yoshikawa does not represent Japan well because she is a Haifu which is the Japanese term for someone who is half Japanese. And because of this people voice that since she is not pure Japanese she cannot represent Japan. Tomoko Morikawa, director of the Miss World Japan office told CNN that the Japanese beauty standards are changing, and that Yoshikawa was chosen this year because of both her beauty and contribution to society.[http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/06/asia/japan-miss-world-half-indian-elephant-trainer/]

The response that Yoshikawa received was mild in comparison to what her predecessor Ariana Miyamoto revived the previous year when she won. In comparison, Yoshikawa win didn’t initially trigger outrage in the beginning though there were a few who went to voice their opinions to social media. One twitter user posted, “It’s like we’re saying a pure Japanese face can’t be a 12winner.”[http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2016/09/06/controversy-mars-priyanka-yoshikawas-miss-japan] In an article on the indianexpress.com, there is a quote from Megumi Nishikura, a filmmaker who produced and directed ‘Hafu’, a film about mixed race Japanese individuals and their multicultural experience living in modern day Japan. In the article Nishikura says, “Because of the pageant’s global nature, the international media picked up on Yoshikawa’s bi-racial heritage and made it a bigger deal than it is. The average Japanese doesn’t care about Yoshikawa’s heritage.”[http://indianexpress.com/article/blogs/priyanka-yoshikawa-controversy-japan-is-more-diverse-than-one-might-imagine/] In the same article, Arata Izumi, a half-Japanese, half-Indian football player currently with FC Pune City agrees with Nishikura saying, the fixation of pure Japanese identity is largely limited to smaller towns and cities that don’t see a lot of foreigners, leading to a lack of understanding about half-Japanese individuals.

Compared to Miyamoto, Yoshikawas winning was not met with as much criticism and was more accepted than Miyamoto. Although a few people still cry over the idea of “pure Japanese” most are accepting and proud of the Hafus that are giving Japan publicity.

Last years winner of the Miss Japan competition was also of mixed race. Ariana Miyamoto, who is half black and half Japanese, and was the first woman of multicultural background to win Miss Japan and represent the country in the Miss World Competition. Ariana Miyamoto was born and raised in Japan, she is also fluent in Japanese. 11Miyamoto was born to a Japanese mother and an African-American sailor who left Japan when she was a child. In March 2015 she became the first half-black, half- Japanese woman to be named Miss Universe Japan. Many people complained on social media that she didn’t deserve the title because she is a “Haifu” the Japanese term for being half Japanese. Miyamoto knowing the backlash that she would receive still ran for the title. She said that the criticism was to be expected and that it did not come as a shock to her when it happened. Miyamoto said that she faced a lot of comments like such during her childhood where she was constantly bullied, and called a “Kuronbo”, which is the Japanese equivalent of the N-word. It was so bad during her childhood that people used to throw garbage at her and even refused to swim in the same pool with her.

In the case of Miyamoto and Yoshikawa they are similar in how both were contestants in the same contest, but, at different times. Miyamoto paved the way for Yoshikawa to run in the competition because she gave Yoshikawa the confidence to run. Also Miyamoto, like Yoshikawa, is of mixed decent. Both were born and raised in Japan and are native to the country. They also speak the language fluently and understand the culture because it is what they were brought up in. The main difference is their mixture meaning how Miyamoto is half black and Yoshikawa is half Indian. Other than that the two case are similar in mostly every way. [http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2016/09/06/controversy-mars-priyanka-yoshikawas-miss-japan]

In my opinion I think that Japan which is a homogenous country is doing a remarkable job breaking its racial barriers by submitting to mixed raced woman as their Miss. Japan for two years in a row. I also find it inspirational that both women knowing the scrutiny and backlash that they’d potentially face still ran and won the pageant. It’s a door opener for hafus across Japan and is an encouraging step towards making the country more diverse. It terms of how the situation was handle, as I’ve said throughout the paper, compared to the back lash that Miyamoto faced Yoshikawa dealt with milder backlash. In this day and age it’s time to understand that the human race is the only race and we should stop letting the color of our skin diversify us.



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