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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Ukrainian-born Miss Japan rekindles an {old} query: What does it imply to be Japanese?

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TOKYO — Topped Miss Japan this week, Ukrainian-born Karolina Shiino cried with pleasure, grateful for the popularity of her id as Japanese. However her Caucasian look rekindled an {old} query in a rustic the place many individuals worth homogeneity and conformity: What does it imply to be Japanese?

Shiino has lived in Japan since shifting right here at age 5 and have become a naturalized citizen in 2022. Now 26, she works as a mannequin and says she has as robust a way of Japanese id as anybody else, regardless of her non-Japanese look.

“It actually is sort of a dream,” Shiino mentioned in fluent Japanese in her tearful acceptance speech Monday. “I’ve confronted a racial barrier. Despite the fact that I’m Japanese, there have been instances after I was not accepted. I’m stuffed with gratitude right this moment that I’ve been accepted as Japanese.”

“I hope to contribute to constructing a society that respects variety and isn’t judgmental about how individuals look,” Shiino mentioned.

However her crowning triggered a debate over whether or not she ought to symbolize Japan.

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Some individuals mentioned on social media that it was incorrect to choose a Miss Japan who would not have even a drop of Japanese blood even when she grew up in Japan. Others mentioned there was no downside with Shiino’s crowning as a result of her Japanese citizenship makes her Japanese.

Japan has a rising variety of individuals with multiracial and multicultural backgrounds, as extra individuals marry foreigners and the nation accepts international employees to make up for its quickly growing old and declining inhabitants.

However tolerance of variety has lagged.

Chiaki Horan, a biracial tv persona, mentioned on a information program Thursday that she was born in Japan and has Japanese nationality, but has usually confronted questions of whether or not she is de facto Japanese or why she is commenting on Japan.

“I’ve discovered that there are some individuals who require purity of blood as a part of Japanese-ness,” she mentioned. “I’m wondering if there’s a lack of an understanding that there could also be individuals of numerous roots from completely different locations in the event you simply return a number of generations.”

Shiino is simply the most recent to face the repercussions of questions over what constitutes Japanese.

Ariana Miyamoto, a local of Nagasaki who has a Japanese mom and an African American father, additionally confronted fierce criticism when she was chosen to symbolize Japan within the Miss Universe pageant in 2015.

When tennis star Naomi Osaka lit the Olympic cauldron on the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Video games in 2021, she was lashed by nationalists on social media for not being “pure Japanese,” although she was additionally warmly welcomed by many.

Rising up, Shiino mentioned she had issue due to the hole between how she is handled due to her international look and her self-identity as Japanese. However she mentioned working as a mannequin has given her confidence. “I’ll look completely different, however I’ve unwavering confidence that I’m Japanese,” she mentioned.


AP video journalist Ayaka McGill contributed to this report.

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