Sat, Apr 04, 2015 - Page 4 News List

Multiracial Miss Japan hopes to provoke change

Reuters, TOKYO

Ariana Miyamoto had not planned to enter a Japanese beauty contest because she thought her multiracial origins meant she could not win. Then a close multiracial friend committed suicide.

So Miyamoto, the daughter of a Japanese woman and an African-American man, whose bronze skin and height of 1.73m are unusual in Japan, where she was born and brought up, took part in the pageant and won, becoming Miss Japan.

“I thought that, for my friend’s sake, if there was something I could do to change Japan, I should,” Miyamoto, 20, a dual Japanese and US national, told reporters.

“He always felt unaccepted by Japanese ... and that made him unable to accept himself,” she said, in perfect Japanese.

Miyamoto’s selection last month as Japan’s representative to the Miss Universe contest set off an internet firestorm, despite a push to welcome foreigners ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics.

“That big mouth, that gaudy face. This is Miss Japan?” one netizen wrote. Another said she resembled an ant.

The carping was not new for Miyamoto, who attended a Japanese public school where children would refuse to touch her because “my color might rub off,” she said. Fed up, she attended a US high school.

In 2013, international marriages were 3.3 percent of the total, government figures show, or four times the 1980 figure. Mixed-race children made up 1.9 percent of those born that year.

“My sense is there is a growing shift among younger generations to accept that people with all faces can speak Japanese and function successfully in Japanese society,” Hitotsubashi University researcher Greg Dvorak said.

“Japan is trying to change itself,” Miyamoto said. “I’d like to help it change even more.”

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