A Half-Japanese Woman Won The Miss Japan Pageant — & The Reactions Are Shocking

Photo: TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty Images.
On Monday, Priyanka Yoshikawa (a badass elephant trainer and kickboxer, according to The Guardian) was crowned Miss World Japan. She will go on to represent her country in the Miss World competition this December in Washington, D.C. However, Yoshikawa, who is half Indian, has also been the subject of some unfortunate — and frankly, racist — controversy.

Yoshikawa, who was born to an Indian father and a Japanese mother, is considered a "hāfu," the Japanese term for people who are ethnically half Japanese. And apparently, some people aren't too pleased that the Miss Japan winner was not "purely" Japanese.

"There’s news again about 'hāfu,' a word only countryside Tokyo uses," says a tweet translated by BuzzFeed. "Another woman with mixed-race is selected for an international pageant contest. But her face is dirty. When a Japanese is mixed, the face always becomes dirty. She’s the most disappointing Asian race."

"I won’t say that we shouldn’t select a hāfu, and she’s suitable for Japan to make an appeal that we don’t discriminate people," another user tweeted. "But I want them to select someone who’s seen as beautiful by everybody."

This racial backlash, unfortunately, is nothing new — Yoshikawa is actually the second mixed-race person in a row to win the pageant. Ariana Miyamoto, last year's Miss Universe Japan, is half-African American and half-Japanese. As it happens, Yoshikawa has credited Miyamoto for paving the way and serving as her inspiration.

"Before Ariana, hāfu girls couldn’t represent Japan… That’s what I thought too," she told AFP news agency, according to The Guardian. "Ariana encouraged me a lot by showing me and showing all mixed girls the way."

"We are Japanese," she continued. "Yes I’m half Indian and people are asking me about my purity — yes my dad is Indian and I’m proud of it, I’m proud that I have Indian in me. But that does not mean I’m not Japanese."

Yoshikawa is right — the fact that she is half-Indian doesn't cancel out the fact that she's also Japanese, and clearly identifies strongly with her Japanese heritage. It also doesn't mean that she can't represent Japan.

"There was a time as a kid when I was confused about my identity," she told AFP. "But I've lived in Japan so long now I feel Japanese."

Thankfully, not everyone has been discriminatory regarding Yoshikawa's background. The Indian embassy in Japan has congratulated her, as have others who see her win as a step forward for the country.
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Yoshikawa is aware of the criticisms that surround her and has taken it all in stride.

"When I'm abroad, people never ask me what mix I am," she told AFP. "As Miss Japan, hopefully I can help change perceptions so that it can be the same here too. The number of people with mixed race is only going to increase, so people have to accept it."
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