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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

1959 Miss Universe Japan

Okay... I figure I owe this lovely lady a better blog entry considering she was the first of a new breed of beauty queen.

Back in 1959, the then 22-year-old Miss Universe Japan, Kojima Akiko (surname first), pulled off one of the greatest upsets in Miss Universe history when she captured the title.

Not considered a favourite going in, she became the first winner from Japan, and indeed, all of Asia.

However, the surprise win wasn't without its controversy. Of course.

Born on October 29, 1936 in Tokyo, Japan, the main problem for the Japanese model was that she was built... well, built like the a non-Japanese woman. Stereotypes, eh?

Prior to her win as Miss Universe 1959, she had tried to enter the contest earlier but a car accident halted that dream for a while. Before coming to Long Beach, she was already a very successful model - a traveling model for a Japanese garment manufacturer.

Kojima stood (stands) 5'-7" (1.70 meters) tall and had (has?) the jaw-dropping measurements of 37-23-38 inches (bust-waist-hips... but everyone knows that!) ) (94-58-96 centimeters, which is just one set of numbers which always looks better when not written in Metric!).

Being built like a Hollywood starlet, many believed her figure was unbelievable... just not in a good way. But we'll get to that later.

In the final round of the 1959 Miss Universe competition, few seemed to give Miss Japan a chance, as she was up against Miss Norway, Miss USA, Miss England and Miss Brazil for the title.

Now... keep in mind that in this, the eighth running of the Miss Universe pageant, every single contest had been held in Long Beach, California in the US of A. So, immediately, Kojima was also going up against the host nation.

When she won the title, the next day the Los Angeles Times newspaper had a headline similar to its war time editions stating: "JAPAN WINS!" It was a double whammy. This was also the last year Long Beach would have a grip on the pageant, as the event had become so internationally popular, it was decided to move it around the world on a yearly basis.

When Kojima won, it was immediately after the swimsuit competition, so most photos of Kojima show her wearing a one-piece swim suit, holding flowers and wearing her crown. While she still looks stunning, it certainly isn't a glamorous look, but she does manage to look stunning.
On July 25, 1959, Kojima was escorted in to the Grand Ballroom of the Lafayette Hotel in Long Beach for her coronation by U.S. Pensacola Cadet escort, Kenneth Gifford. This was considered the city's social event of the year. Kojima wore an exquisite ball gown—a prize given to her by the Schick dress store that was designed by a Beverly Hills couturier. Her orchid corsage was pinned at her waist as was her rosette, stating she was Miss Universe 1959.

Nineteen days later, after one of the best days of her life, a scandal broke.

Those awesome dimensions - particularly her bust size - were under close scrutiny - and not in a good way.

A glory-seeking plastic surgeon from Tokyo - Dr. Toshizo Matsui, piped in via the media saying he gave a bust-enlarging plastic injection to Kojima before she won the Miss Japan and Miss Universe contests.

Kojima, of course, denied ever having breast augmentation surgery of any kind.

The Sankei Shinbun (Sanke Newspaper), a sponsor of the Miss Japan pageant, also vehemently denied the allegation, stating in an editorial: "There was no need for her to get bust surgery of any kind."

Amen. Regardless of no one being able to prove the plastic surgeon's claims, there was still a cloud over Kojima's title... but that was just sour grapes... like with Italy who was upset that their representative didn't win.

Uh... yeah... that's because she didn't even make the Top 5. Why blame Miss Japan? Why not blame the other four contestants... but no, Italy was upset at their former WWII partner. In fact... Miss Italy, Maria Grazia Buccella (PHOTO), was eliminated in the first round - despite being the pre-show favourite. Maybe she should be mad at the judges who did not vote her past the first round. From what I have heard, it was the fact that Miss Italy's gown, while sexy, was far too revealing for the judge's tastes.

It was also true that Miss Korea was more of the Asian favourite than Kojima. While the Korean cutie may indeed have had a truly gorgeous face (PHOTO), Kojima was said to have floated across the stage with far more grace and elegance than any of the other women - the perfect model for women in 1959.

(Editors Note: Miss Universe Greece - Zoe Kouroukli - was a semi-finalist in the competition. It was later discovered that she was only 15-years-old at the time (PHOTO))  

After her whirlwind year as the most beautiful woman on the planet (or the universe), Kojima got married - to the famous Japanese actor Takarada Akira (surname first) who was part of Toho Studios (the ones who did the Godzilla flicks). While she did have two children with him, their marriage did not last. Kojima did continue to model for a while, and was a high fashion model for Harper's Bazaar fashion magazine. 

Nowadays, Kojima is still with us, though she shuns the spotlight. In fact, after Japan's Mori Riyo (surname first) won the Miss Universe title in 2007, Kojima was asked but refused to have anything to do with a meet and greet event.

Japan - It's A Wonderful Rife can look at that apparent snub in a few ways: she really didn't want to steal any of the thunder out from under Mori; or she was concerned her own looks were not up to anyone's expected standard for a former beauty queen who was now 70+ years-old; or really, she just wants to be left alone.. like Greta Garbo.

This blog feels the fan need not worry. While beauty does indeed fade, Kojima was still one of the most beautiful women of her generation. Perhaps that's the vision she wants the world to remember. 

Files compiled by Andrew Joseph

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