Japan's half-Indian Miss World contestant a challenge to its self-image

Thu Sep 8, 2016 8:12am EDT
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By Hyun Oh

TOKYO (Reuters) - Priyanka Yoshikawa says she hopes that being crowned Miss World Japan will spur greater acceptance in her homeland of people with parents from different ethnic backgrounds, such as herself.

With a Japanese mother and an Indian father, Yoshikawa, 22, offers the latest challenge to Japan's self-image as a racially homogeneous nation, after she was selected on Monday to represent the country in the Miss World contest.

"I have a responsibility," said Yoshikawa. "I have to make things happen because I made a difference, being crowned as a mix."

She joins a wave of prominent "hafu", as many Japanese call those with parents from different ethnic backgrounds, among them Mashu Baker, who won a gold medal in judo at the just-concluded Rio Olympics, and Asuka Cambridge, who anchored the silver medal-winning men's 4x100 meters relay team.

Some children of mixed ethnicity in Japanese schools have been bullied because they look different. Other "hafu" have won fame in entertainment, but may yet not be regarded as genuine Japanese.

Yoshikawa is the second Japanese of mixed ethnicity to win a beauty contest in as many years.

Last year, Ariana Miyamoto, whose father is African-American, was chosen as Japan's representative to the Miss Universe contest, a victory that Yoshikawa said had inspired her to enter for Miss World.

Miyamoto's win sparked a social media backlash, but the response to Yoshikawa has been more nuanced.   Continued...

Priyanka Yoshikawa, winner of Miss World Japan 2016, poses for a photographer as she chooses a dress which she is going to wear in the Miss World competition, at a designer's atelier in Tokyo, Japan, September 7, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon