Ariana Miyamoto made history on March 8 when she was crowned Miss Universe Japan. The beautiful 20-year-old model was born to a Japanese mother and an African American father. To some people in Japan, somehow she is not Japanese enough even though she is a Japanese citizen born and raised in Japan, because she is a "hafu," a word describing multiracial or multiethnic half-Japanese people.

Japan is considered one of the least ethnically diverse places on Earth. There is a strong pride in the unique Japanese culture, and to many Japanese citizens, this pride is intertwined with the homogeneity of Japanese society.

It explains, perhaps, why the new Miss Universe Japan has said that she may not “look Japanese” on the outside, but on the inside, there are "many Japanese things about her." She said it in a very nice way, but the fact that she felt compelled to make that statement to the media makes one feel that she's preparing for negative reactions to her new stature.

Let's pause a minute here, and take stock of how Japanese she is: Ariana was born and raised in Nagasaki, Japan. Her mother is Japanese. She speaks fluent Japanese (like any native would) and has mastered the art of Japanese calligraphy. She is not only a Japanese citizen, but she also identifies with Japanese culture and considers herself Japanese.

Nevertheless, criticism and negative comments have already started. Some examples of the online comments include the following:

“Is it ok to choose a haafu to represent Japan? Sometimes the criteria which they use to select Miss Universe is a bit of a mystery”

“Even though she’s Miss Universe Japan, her face is foreign no matter how you look at it!”

“Beauty contest. Miss Universe Japan is….wha? What kind of person? She’s ….not…..Japanese…right?”

To those of us who live in societies and countries that accept and praise diversity and equality, these comments are not just odd but also disturbing. It should be noted that about 20,000 half-Japanese people, including both multiethnic and multiracial people, are born in Japan each year, but long-held bias against hafus takes time to change.

Ariana knew what she was up against because she admitted to her hesitation before entering the pageant. However, she considers American pop singer Mariah Carey as the most influential person in her life because “She went through a lot of difficulties before becoming a popular singing sensation…She faced some racial hurdles, similar to myself, but she overcame them and became a top star, so she’s been a big influence on me.”

There you have it. Ariana is clearly a beautiful, intelligent, and strong young woman. We should applaud the judges at the Miss Universe Japan pageant for having selected Ariana to represent Japan in the 2015 Miss Universe pageant.

Congratulations to Ariana Miyamoto, Miss Universe Japan, and best of luck for your bright and limitless future!

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~ NancyZdramaland

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