Multiracial Miss Japan hopes to change homeland's thinking on identity

Thu Apr 2, 2015 12:16pm EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Elaine Lies and Shiori Ito

TOKYO (Reuters) - Ariana Miyamoto hadn't planned to enter a Japanese beauty contest because she figured her multiracial origins meant she couldn't 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 1.73 m (5.7 ft) 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 U.S. national, told Reuters.

"He always felt unaccepted by Japanese ... and that made him unable to accept himself," she added, 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 social media commenter 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 U.S. high school.

But the pull of her birthplace was too strong and she returned, though she said she is handed English menus and otherwise treated like a foreigner every day.   Continued...

Miss Universe Japan Ariana Miyamoto speaks during an interview with Reuters at a gym in Tokyo April 1, 2015.   REUTERS/Toru Hanai