The first ever mixed race Miss Japan has been forced to defend herself against accusations that she ‘isn’t Japanese enough’ because her father is African-American.
Ariana Miyamoto was born and raised in Nagasaki, speaks fluent Japanese, and has been chosen to represent Japan in the Miss Universe pageant.
But the 20-year-old beauty queen used her first television appearance after her selection to apologetically explain to reporters that while she doesn’t ‘look Japanese’ on the outside, on the inside, there are ‘many Japanese things about her’.
There is a feeling in the country, one of the least ethnically diverse in the world, that mixed-race people are not fully Japanese.
Website Byokan Sundayand Naver Matomereport that Twitter users have posted comments such as: ‘Is it okay to select a hafu to represent Japan?’ and ‘Because this is Miss Universe Japan, don’t you think hafu are a no-no?’
Others commented that she didn’t ‘look Japanese’, her face was ‘too gaijin’, meaning literally ‘outside person’, or that the country deserved a ‘pure-blooded Japanese’ beauty.
Elsewhere online, one person commented, ‘It makes me uncomfortable to say she’s representing Japan.’
Miyamoto, grew up in Japan in Sasebo, Nagasaki, close to a major American naval base, but later moved to the United States for high school,
When she returned home to Japan, after a part-time bartending job, she decided to become a model and try her hand at pageantry – not expecting to get far due to her ‘foreigner look’.
Her selection as the first-ever biracial Miss Universe Japan comes at a time when Japanese attitudes about race are beginning to change, NBC reports.
The vast majority of Japan is made up of homogeneous people.
It is one of the least ethnically diverse countries on earth, proudly counting more than 98 percent of the population as Japanese nationals.
Megumi Nishikura, whose film, Hafu: The Mixed-Race Experience in Japan, looks at the lives of multiracial Japanese citizens, highlights the fact that 20,000 half-Japanese people, including both multiethnic and multiracial people, are born in Japan each year.
Nishikura told NBC that Miyamoto’s selection as Miss Universe Japan ‘is a huge step forward in expanding the definition of what it means to be Japanese. The controversy that has erupted over her selection is a great opportunity for us Japanese to examine how far we have come from our self-perpetuated myth of homogeneity while at the same time it shows us how much further we have to go’.
Miyamoto is aware of the struggles she faces as a ‘hafu’ beauty queen representing Japan.
In interviews she has called Mariah Carey a major inspiration because of ther multiracial background, according to RocketNews24.
‘She went through a lot of difficulties before becoming a popular singing sensation,’ Miyamoto said.
‘She faced some racial hurdles, similar to myself, but she overcame them and became a top star, so she’s been a big influence on me.’