Ukrainian model is crowned Miss Japan, sparking outrage

Thursday, January 25, 2024
 – A woman born in Ukraine to Ukrainian parents has sparked controversy after being crowned Miss Japan.

Carolina Shiino, 26, from Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, became the first naturalised Japanese citizen to win the pageant in Tokyo on Monday, Jan. 22.

Miss Shiino moved to the country when she was just five years old after her mother married a Japanese man, Tokyo Weekender reports.

"I've had to face barriers that often prevent me from being accepted as Japanese, so I am filled with gratitude to be recognised at this competition as a Japanese person," she said in her acceptance speech at the Miss Japan Grand Prix pageant.

Miss Shiino described herself as Japanese in both "speech and mind" and wanted to create a society where "people are not judged by their appearance".

However, people online still questioned her taking the crown, with some asking how a person with no Japanese ancestry could be Miss Japan.

"Many Japanese people, including people I know, aren't happy with the choice of Miss Japan," one user said on X.

Another said: "As a non-Japanese person living in Japan, I also think that the choice of someone with no ethnic connection to Japan is beyond ridiculous."

Many wondered if the decision was linked to the war in Ukraine and raised questions over whether Western looks were "preferred" over Asian.

"If she were born Russian, she wouldn't have won. Not a chance. Obviously, the criteria is now a political decision. What a sad day for Japan," one person claimed.

"I think that Japanese people naturally (would) get the wrong message when a European-looking person is called the most beautiful Japanese," another person said.

Ai Wada, the pageant's organiser, said Miss Shiino's victory "gave us an opportunity to rethink what Japanese beauty is".

"Following today's result, there is one thing I am convinced of… Japanese beauty exists not in the appearance, not in the blood, but it exists firmly in our heart," she added.

This is not the first time the winner of Miss Japan has sparked debate in the country.

In 2015, Ariana Miyamoto, who was born to a black American father and a Japanese mother, became the first woman with a mixed ethnic background to be crowned Miss Japan. Her victory also provoked controversy within the country.

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