In March, Ariana Miyamoto, a mixed-race woman of Japanese and African-American descent, was crowned Miss Universe Japan.
Issues with beauty pageants aside, I never expected Japan to place a black or even half black woman in such a position. In my four years here, I have watched Japan stretch and grow and change for the better, becoming more inclusive and making more effort to respect other cultures, but I had no idea the country was capable of this.
While living here, I’ve come to realize that, as in many other parts of the world, there is a bias toward Anglo features when it comes to determining beauty. The most visible representation of this is in Japanese anime. You would think a country as homogeneous as Japan would almost exclusively feature protagonists that look just like them in their animation right? But Japanese anime is full of blond-haired beauties and dashing blue-eyed heroes. And you’ll rarely find a black character at all, much less as a main character.
So to see Ms. Miyamoto crowned was extremely, pleasantly shocking for me. However, she has faced some backlash. By her own admission the reception has been mixed, with a number of people saying she shouldn’t have won because she’s not “really Japanese”. But I’m still so happy that she was chosen.
There are so many things I love about Japan, and the racial issues have been one of the things that hurt my heart while living here. I’m really rooting for Japan when it comes to being more flexible and considerate in regards to other cultures, so this has me grinning from ear to ear.
Way to go Japan! And congratulations Ms. Miyamoto!