Is Japan Unhappy With Its Latest Beauty Queen?

Photo: Bloomberg/Getty Images.
Ariana Miyamoto is Japan's first biracial beauty queen. She grew up in Japan, speaks Japanese, and was born to a Japanese mother and an African-American father. But, as gorgeous and smart as she is, some people are unhappy with her being crowned Miss Japan last month. 
Miyamoto doesn't fit the traditional archetype of a Japanese woman — especially a beauty queen — and after she received her title, she was met with racist remarks across Twitter and Japanese media outlets. "What is a half-Japanese doing representing Japan?" one website wroteKotaku.com translated some of the tweets to, "Is it okay to select a hafu [biracial person] to represent Japan?" and "Because this is Miss Universe Japan, don't you think hafu are a no-no?" Some even said the country deserved a "pure-blooded Japanese."

The website also reported that Miyamoto had to explain herself to the Japanese press, telling them about her background, saying she was "born and raised in Nagasaki, and that while she doesn't 'look Japanese' on the outside, on the inside, there are many Japanese things about her. "
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Miyamoto spoke out to Bloomberg: "Japan is always saying it’s globalizing, but I feel it hasn’t yet dealt with basics such as racial discrimination." Growing up, classmates didn't want Miyamoto to use the same swimming pool as they did. And, these days in Tokyo (where she currently resides), although she feels more comfortable, often when she enters a store the clerks speak to her in English.

While Miyamoto's win is exposing some pretty backwards thinking in Japan, it also points to progress. Why? Because the girl won. “It’s very good for Japanese people to be challenged, and made to think whether their stereotypes about who looks Japanese are really correct anymore,” Tessa Morris-Suzuki, PhD, a professor at the Australian National University in Canberra told Bloomberg. "The more that people who look slightly different from the stereotypical image of Japanese come to represent Japan, the more people will get used to that idea."

Hopefully, this will lead to more progress in Japan — and, in turn, around the world. And, Miyamoto is a good role model for such a movement. “I want to use my involvement in Miss Universe to travel to other countries and talk to people who have experienced the same things I have,” she told Bloomberg. “I hope to be able to give them courage.” That's a beautiful answer, if we ever heard one. (Bloomberg)  
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