Asia Black Japanese Miss Universe Japan Strives For More Acceptance In Her Homogeneous...

Black Japanese Miss Universe Japan Strives For More Acceptance In Her Homogeneous Home Country

Ariana Miyamoto, Miss Universe Japan
Ariana Miyamoto, Miss Universe Japan

Ms. Miyamoto is one of only a tiny handful of “hafu,” or Japanese of mixed race, to win a major beauty pageant in proudly homogeneous Japan. And she is the first half-black woman ever to do so.

Ms. Miyamoto’s victory wins her the right to represent Japan on the global stage at the international Miss Universe pageant expected in January. She said she hoped that her appearance — and better yet, a victory — would push more Japanese to accept hafu. However, she said, Japan may have a long way to go.

Even after her victory in the national competition, local journalists have had a hard time accepting her as Japanese.

“The reporters always ask me, ‘What part of you is most like a Japanese?’ ” said Ms. Miyamoto, who has the long legs of a foreign supermodel, but shares the same shy self-reserve of many other young Japanese women. “I always answer, ‘But I am a Japanese.’ ”

“I had hoped winning Miss Universe Japan would make them notice that,” she added.


Sadly, Ariana is still facing some of the same criticism and being seen as a foreigner in her own homeland that she has fought since a small child:

The child of a short-lived marriage between an African-American sailor in the United States Navy and a local Japanese woman, Ms. Miyamoto grew up in Japan, where she says other children often shunned her because of her darker skin and tightly curled hair.

That experience has driven her to use her pageant victory as a soapbox for raising awareness about the difficulties faced by mixed-race citizens in a country that still regards itself as mono-ethnic.

“Even today, I am usually seen not as a Japanese but as a foreigner. At restaurants, people give me an English menu and praise me for being able to eat with chopsticks,” said Ms. Miyamoto, who spoke in her native Japanese and is an accomplished calligrapher of Japanese-Chinese characters. “I want to challenge the definition of being Japanese.”

Seems like she’s doing a good job thus far…

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