The Guardian — Japan will be represented at this year’s Miss World contest by a woman with a Japanese mother and Indian father after Priyanka Yoshikawa became the country’s second mixed-race contestant in a row chosen for a major international pageant.
The qualified elephant trainer who counts kickboxing among her hobbies said she would use her title to promote greater inclusiveness in Japan where, according to government statistics, haafu – those born with one non-Japanese parent – comprised 2% of all children born in 2012.
The 22-year-old Yoshikawa, who was born in Tokyo but also spent some of her childhood in India and the US, praised Ariana Miyamoto, who won Miss Universe Japan in 2015, for giving her the confidence to enter Miss World.
Miyamoto, the child of a Japanese mother and African American father, endured a racist backlash on social media, with some asking why the title had not been awarded to a “pure” Japanese, although many other commenters celebrated her victory.
“Before Ariana, haafu girls couldn’t represent Japan,” Yoshikawa told AFP after winning the title in Tokyo on Monday night. “That’s what I thought too. I didn’t doubt it or challenge it until this day. Ariana encouraged me a lot by showing me and showing all mixed girls the way.”
Yoshikawa said her background did not disqualify her or other mixed race people from representing Japan. “We are Japanese,” she said. “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.”
Miyamoto, who was born and raised in Nagasaki, complained in 2015 that she had been bullied as a child for looking different. “In school people used to throw rubbish at me,” she said in an interview with CNN. “They also used racial slurs.”
Some social media users questioned her right to represent Japan, with one saying that her title was a “contradiction” given her parentage.
The response to Yoshikawa’s victory was more muted, although some Twitter users wondered if a “pure” Japanese contestant would ever win the title. “What’s the point of holding a pageant like this now? Zero national characteristics,” one poster said. Another complained: “It’s like we’re saying a pure Japanese face can’t be a winner.”