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Ukrainian-born Japanese woman sparks debate after being crowned Miss Japan

Carolina Shiino, whose both parents were Ukrainian, arrived in Japan at age of five

Shweta Sharma
Thursday 25 January 2024 07:17 GMT
Related: Man invades beauty pageant stage and smashes crown after partner comes in second

A Japanese woman who was born to Ukrainian parents has sparked a debate after being crowned Miss Japan 2024.

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

Mr Shiino moved to Japan when she was five years old after her mother remarried a Japanese man, according to Tokyo Weekender.

“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,” Ms Shiino said in her speech in Japanese from the stage of Miss Japan Gran Prix pageant.

She said was Japanese from both “speech and mind” and she aims to create a society where “people are not judged by their appearance”.

However, that didn’t stop many people on social media from raising questions over her victory. Some questioned how a person with no Japanese parentage can be called “Miss Japan”.

“Many Japanese people, including people I know, aren’t happy with the choice of Miss Japan. If people keep assessing Japaneseness based on roots and see only those with pure Japanese blood as their own, instead of embracing multiculturalism, Japan will run out of Japanese people,” said Magdalena Osumi on X.

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

Many questioned whether the decision was linked to the geopolitical situation in the world and why western beauty was 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 alleged.

“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 organiser of the pageant, said after the announcement of her name that it "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.

In 2015, Ariana Miyamoto became the first bi-racial woman to be crowned Miss Japan. She was born to a Japanese woman and her father was African American. Even at that time, questions were raised over the crowning of a mixed race person at the pageant.

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