Tokyo: A half-Indian beauty queen with an elephant trainer’s licence was crowned Miss Japan on Monday, striking a fresh blow for racial equality.
Priyanka Yoshikawa’s tearful victory comes a year after Ariana Miyamoto faced an ugly backlash for becoming the first black woman to represent Japan.
Social media lit up after Miyamoto’s trail-blazing triumph as critics complained that Miss Universe Japan should instead have been won by a “pure” Japanese rather than a “haafu” — the Japanese for “half”, a word used to describe mixed race.
“Before Ariana, haafu girls couldn’t represent Japan,” Yoshikawa told AFP in an interview after her exotic Bollywood looks helped sweep her to the title.
“That’s what I thought too. I didn’t doubt it or challenge it until this day. Ariana encouraged me a lot by showing me and showing all mixed girls the way.”
Yoshikawa, born in Tokyo to an Indian father and a Japanese mother, vowed to continue the fight against racial prejudice in homogenous Japan, where multiracial children make up just two percent of those born annually.
“I think it means we have to let it in,” said the 22-year-old when asked what it signified for her and Miyamoto to break down cultural barriers.
“We are Japanese. Yes, I’m half Indian and people are asking me about my ‘purity’ — yes, my dad is Indian and I’m proud of it, I’m proud that I have Indian in me. But that does not mean I’m not Japanese.”
Yoshikawa, like Miyamoto, was bullied because of her skin colour after returning to Japan aged 10 following three years in Sacramento and a further year in India.
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