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Japanese thrilled over Mori's win

fashion-and-trends Updated: May 30, 2007 12:23 IST

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News of Japan's first Miss Universe win in nearly 50 years was flashed across television screens nationwide on Tuesday, sparking pride and pleasure amid a raft of bleak domestic news.

Television stations showed Riyo Mori, a vivacious 20-year-old dancer from Shizuoka prefecture, near Mount Fuji south of Tokyo, being crowned winner of the contest in Mexico, beating other finalists from beauty hothouses such as Brazil and Venezuela.

The news came as light relief amid media reports dominated by a wake held following the suicide of Japan's scandal-tainted farm minister on Monday.

Mori, encouraged by her dance teacher mother and her grandmother, has become only the second Japanese woman to take the top prize at Miss Universe. Last year Kurara Chibana, another Japanese contestant, came second in the pageant.

"I am happy that Japanese people's bodies have reached world standards, although I am sure she also worked hard on her inner self," said 39-year-old housewife Noriko Hasegawa, a judge at a male swimwear modelling contest coincidentally being held in Tokyo on Tuesday.

"As a Japanese, I am proud of her," she added.

The triumph came after months of preparation by Mori, who said in a recent interview with Metropolis magazine in Tokyo that she had been to France to learn the right mannerisms and how to handle interviews.

After hearing from friends that Japanese women often seemed suppressed, Mori told the magazine she wanted to show the world Japan also boasted "passionate women like me."

A spokeswoman for Shizuoka town hall said workers there were delighted and were considering how best to celebrate Mori's return home.

"My sincere congratulations," the town's mayor, Zenkichi Kojima, said in a message to Mori. "As the representative of the people of Shizuoka, I must tell you we are delighted. I hope you will make the world your stage and reach even greater heights," he said.

Others also expressed pleasure that Japanese were making their names known across the globe.

"It is great that more young people in the entertainment business are venturing out into the world and being ambitious, not only in beauty pageants," said Yoko Sato, a 40-year-old housewife also attending the men's swimwear contest.