Last year after crowning Miyamoto Ariana—a “hafu”, half-Black half-Japanese beauty Miss Japan 2015 to represent the country at the Miss Universe pageant, Japan has crowned Yoshikawa Priyanka, a 22-year-old half-Indian half Japanese to represent it at the Miss World Competition.
I checked the dates… not mine. That's her in the photo above, taken from her Facebook page. None of the photos I saw from the pageant appeared to do her justice.
By the way... all Japanese names are surname first.
The news of a twice-in-a-row Japanese beauty pageant contestant winning the honor with a bi-racial background is stunning, to say the least, as about two percent of all babies born in Japan nowadays are bi-racial or hafu. Hafu is the katakana way of saying ‘half’.
The fact that Japan still needs to quantify such distinctions shows it is still a bit behind the global times, but by having the courage to choose not only one bi-racial woman, but a second to represent a country known for its homogeneity is… well… hopeful.
No kidding, though, not everyone is pleased… but let’s lay off Japan for those unhappy few.
You American readers may recall that there was an uproar when the drop-dead gorgeous Nina Davuluri—a beauty of Indian descent—was crowned Miss America 2014. The U.S. is certainly more diverse than Japan, and still a few (many) bad apples weren’t thrilled that anyone other than a White woman was chosen to represent the country… which is still dumb considering it has had more than its fair share of other skin tones lead the way.
|Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri... Aoooooooooo-ga!|
Miss World Japan 2016 Yoshikawa Priyanka says she is Japanese, saying that her dad is from India, and she is proud to have a little Indian in her.
I’ve been using a variation of that line for years. Use your imagination. It's what I do nowadays.
While I have embraced being Canadian wholeheartedly, I know next-to-nothing of my Indian background, might reluctantly eat the food once or twice a year, don’t speak the language(s) and have never been to the country, while knowing more about hockey and baseball and Canadian history than the vast majority of people calling themselves Canadians, and have traveled across the country seeing the sights and meeting the great people of this country.
I point this out because Miss World Japan 2016 has an elephant training license…
I got nothing… except to say that I guess she has embraced both her Japanese and Indian heritages.
Critics of her win point to nothing else except that a “pure” Japanese woman should have been crowned. There’s nothing there to suggest that she’s not smart enough, or talented enough, or pretty enough…. just that she’s not Japanese enough… as in 100 percent Japanese.
I’m going to state right now that when I was in Japan, my experience was as close to 100 percent free of racial intolerance as a gaijin could expect. Yes, there were people pointing and staring and muttering “gaijin” - outsider/foreigner, but one needs to understand the context… and in pretty much every instance, there was no malice involved. It was just a term that most gaijin have come to accept as unflattering.
But just like the Blacks have taken the word ‘nigger’, the homosexuals the word ‘fag’, in a less political way the foreigners in Japan have used the word gaijin as a word of empowerment… taking away the effective sting that was originally implied decades and decades ago (and maybe a bit still nowadays).
Of course, if you aren't part of those population segments, I would refrain from using such terms.
However… in Japan… I was insulated and protected for the most part. For people who are hafu in Japan… it ain’t easy…
Tipping her crown to Miss Universe Japan 2015 MIyamoto Ariana, Miss World Japan 2016 Yoshikawa Priyanka said she herself was encouraged by Miyamoto’s win, feeling that until last year's win, no hafu woman could ever represent Japan.
Yoshikawa says that she knows a lot of people in Japan who suffer simply because they are hafu, noting that after a spell away from the country, upon her return she was made to feel like she was a germ, saying many Japanese were afraid to touch her.
Being the type of person she is, it only made her stronger.
By the way… Miss World Japan 2016 Yoshikawa Priyanka, besides being a license elephant trainer, she is also into kick-boxing… so don’t make her angry.
PS: For some stupid reason, I mistakenly thought she was a 2016 Miss Universe contestant... as of February 1, 2017, this has been altered to note she is the Miss World Japan 2016 representative.