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Miyamoto and others of half-Japanese descent are commonly referred to as “hafus.” Because Japan is one of the most homogenous countries in the world, mixed-race people often encounter stigmatism. Miyamoto, for example, endured racism all throughout her childhood. Some children refused to touch her, fearing that her black skin would “rub off” on them. Others mocked her, calling her “kurombo”-a derogatory term for people of color.
At the age of 13, Miyamoto moved to Jacksonville, Arkansas to live with her father and learned more about her African American heritage. For the first time, she was surrounded by people who shared her skin color, but due to her limited English and Japanese mannerisms, she still had difficulty adjusting to her new home. She spent two years in Arkansas and started high school there, but never graduated. Missing her home country, Miyamoto returned to Japan and worked as a bartender for a short period of time.
The current Miss Japan has a wide variety of interests including volleyball, cooking, and motorcycle riding. She has her motorcycle license and hopes one day to be the owner of a Harley Davidson motorcycle. The multi-talented Miyamoto is a 5th degree Japanese calligraphy master, meaning that she is proficient in the ancient art of calligraphy.
In 2014, a close friend of Miyamoto’s committed suicide in part due to the racism he faced as a half-white, half-Japanese boy growing up in Japan. The tragic loss of her friend spurred the 21 year-old Miyamoto to enter the Miss Universe competition to confront Japanese racial stereotypes.
Like other beauty queens of African descent such as Denny Mendez who became Miss Italy in 1996, and Lola Odusoga who became Miss Finland the same year, Miyamoto’s crowning has been controversial. Despite the international attention she has received, her reign has been almost completely ignored by the Japanese media, She has also been criticized by many Japanese individuals and organizations. Online commentators, for example, stated that she is not “Japanese enough,” does not have a “real Japanese face,” and is unfit to represent Japan. Miyamoto responded to her critics by arguing that her becoming Miss Japan is a specific challenge to that stereotype. The 5’8” beauty believes that her Miss Universe Japan victory is a sign of racial progress and will help start a much-needed dialogue on what it means to be Japanese.
Miyamoto is currently trying to become a model and hopes to earn enough money to go to college in the United States. She is set to compete for the Miss Universe crown in January of 2016.
The Face of Japan: Japanese and Black-American Ariana Miyamoto is Miss Universe Japan 2015, http://www.blacktokyo.com/2015/03/13/the-face-of-japan-japanese-and-black-american-ariana-miyamoto-is-miss-u; http://www.blacktokyo.com/2015/03/13/the-face-of-japan-japanese-and-black-american-ariana-miyamoto-is-miss-universe-japan-2015/; Biracial Beauty Queen Challenges Japan’s Self-Image,
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/30/world/asia/biracial-beauty-queen-strives-for-change-in-mono-ethnic-japan.html?_r=2&module=ArrowsNav&contentCollection=Asia%20Pacific&action=keypress®ion=FixedLeft&pgtype=article; The Beauty Contest Winner Making Japan Look at Itself, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-32957610.
Los Angeles Pierce College
Whoever said that Niigata Prefecture is home the most beautiful women in Japan may need to think again. For the second year in the row, the Japanese representative for the Miss Universe competition hails from Nagasaki, with last year’s crown holder being Keiko Tsuji. As cool as that is, the real story of the year is that the 2015 representative, Ariana Miyamoto, is half-Japanese.
It’s no surprise that Western features are considered beautiful in Japan. Sometimes, due to their alluring features, "haafu" are not always treated the same, or even as Japanese, as their native peers. Miss Nagasaki faced her fair share of race-related challenges too and although some people are against her acting as a representative for Japan due to her mixed heritage, she is also receiving a lot of support.
The final of the 18th Miss Universe Japan contest was held in Tokyo on March 8. As you’d expect, Miss Nagasaki faced some tough competition of equally beautiful and graceful young ladies, but it’d be a stretch to say that she didn’t stick out. However, it really was only her looks that set her apart, being born and raised in Japan, she is not only a Japanese citizen, but she identifies with Japanese culture and considers herself Japanese.
Twenty-year-old Ariana was born to a Japanese mother and an African-American father in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, the location of a major American naval base. After junior high graduation in Sasebo, she spent her high school years studying in the U.S. Upon returning to Japan as a young adult she set her sights on becoming a model.
Working part-time as a bartender, Ariana hesitantly entered the pageant scene, feeling that with her “foreigner look,” she would never make it far. How wrong she was!
But she’s not just a 173-cm bombshell; Ariana is described as a "saishoku kenbi," “a woman blessed with both intelligence and beauty.” Growing up in Japan, she is no stranger to Japanese culture and even has a 5th degree mastery of Japanese calligraphy. She lists her hobbies as cooking and “touring,” having obtained her motorcycle license, a rare thing for a young woman in Japan.
In an interview she revealed that the most influential person in her life is American pop-star Mariah Carey.
“She went through a lot of difficulties before becoming a popular singing sensation… She faced some racial hurdles, similar to myself, but she overcame them and became a top star, so she’s been a big influence on me.”
It’s wonderful that she has such a strong woman she can look up to, as well as a lot of very supportive friends, fellow contestants and fans. But unfortunately, not all Japanese people are excited about a half-Japanese girl representing their country. Being a very homogenous society, some people still have a time considering haafu as truly Japanese.
Although this should be a joyous occasion for the young beauty, Ariana is facing challenges that no other Japanese Miss Universe contestant to date has had to face, with those opposing Ariana voicing their dissent online with statements such as “She has too much black blood in her to be Japanese.”
As sad as it is, luckily, Ariana also has a very supportive fan base who are making an even bigger impact on social media with praise and congratulations.
“Don’t lose to discrimination and with a strong heart do your best to go win the Miss Universe prize.” “Having a different ethnicity in you doesn’t make you ANY LESS JAPANESE!”
Ariana appreciates the support that helped her get to this point and promised, “The world competition is going to be tough, but I’ll believe in myself and continue doing me best!”
She has a long road ahead of her before the Miss Universe pageant in January of next year. She will be trained in walking, talking, make up, style and even physical training. We would love for her to win the world competition, because who better to represent the world (and universe) than a woman with a racially diverse background?
Sources: Model Press, Naver Matome, Twitter
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