Half-Japanese, half-black: Why new Miss Japan isn't 'Japanese enough'

  • Sanya Panwar, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Mar 27, 2015 17:46 IST

She's Japanese. She's African-American. She was born and raised in Japan, but also travelled to the US to attend high school. She speaks Japanese as her first language and has a Japanese mother (and a black father).

Ariana Miyamoto is Japanese by legal definition, but the Miss Universe contestant is facing criticism from those at home who say she is not 'Japanese enough'.


(All Photos: Facebook/ Instagram)

In Japan, mixed-race people are known as "hafu", and Miyamoto's selection as Miss Universe Japan has prompted a storm of criticism in Japanese media, for whom a hafu just doesn't cut it. Her selection even has social media users asking if it is "okay to choose a hafu to represent Japan?"

The leggy model became the first ever mixed-race or biracial beauty who will represent the island nation in the Miss Universe pageant and also the first half-Japanese, half-black woman to compete in Miss Universe.


Despite her impressive accomplishments, success has not come without challenges for Miyamoto in one of the least racially-diverse countries in the world.

At six-feet tall in heels, the 20-year-old is being forced to defend herself after being abused for 'not being Japanese enough' because her father is a black American from Arkansas, US. Miyamoto, who grew up in Nagasaki, Japan, also travelled to the US for her education.


And some in Japan think all this makes her not traditionally Japanese, and hence unfit to represent the nation of her birth in an international beauty pageant.

So much so that the mixed-race beauty queen has been forced to insist that she is "Japanese on the inside." Miyamoto used her first television appearance after her selection to apologetically explain to reporters that while she doesn't 'look Japanese' on the outside, on the inside, there are 'many Japanese things about her'.


She also told CNN in an interview that she had always stood out in Japan and that when she was young, she was bullied for being different. "In school, people used to throw rubbish at me," she said. "They also used racial slurs."

According to a translation by Washington Post, a Twitter user posted, "Even though she’s Miss Universe Japan, her face is foreign no matter how you look at it!"

Another said, "Miss Universe Japan is... What? What kind of person is she? She’s not Japanese, right?"


Even as the website Kotaku hailed Miyamoto’s selection as a sign that change was occurring in Japan -- if "slowly", it noted that "many of the highest-rated comments" about Miyamoto on the Japanese site GirlsChannel "said that they wanted a more Japanese contestant to represent Japan".

However, not everyone thinks that way: Comments supporting her selection are all over social media, with people saying that the only thing that matters is whether or not she’s a Japanese citizen and loves the country or whether or not she was born and raised in Japan.


Others said criticizing the selection because she wasn’t 'Japanese' enough was "pathetic" and "outdated thinking."

Sample some of the reactions that poured in on Twitter, from around the world in Miyamoto’s support:

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