What Is It Like to Be a “Hafu” and Win a Beauty Pageant in Japan?

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  • Every year, beauty pageants are held. And when it comes to international beauty pageants, people are especially excited to see the various beauties from different countries come to a single stage to compete. One of the more popular international beauty pageants is Miss World, and each year, pageants are held at a national level to pick respective beauties to represent their countries. The finale of Miss World Japan this year was held on the 5th of September 2016. And once again, the results shocked the nation because a person of mixed ancestry was crowned as the winner of an international beauty pageant title in Japan.

    The Biracial Winner of Miss World Japan 2016

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    In 2015, Chika Nakagawa was crowned as Miss World Japan. But the Miss World Japan 2016 title was given to 22-year-old Priyanka Yoshikawa who is a mix of Indian and Japanese descent. As a winner of the pageant, Priyanka will be representing Japan in the upcoming Miss World 2016 pageant to be held in December 2016 in Washington.

    Indians are known to be blessed with beautiful, exotic, and sharp features, thus India is known to produce a great number of women who win international pageants. On the other hand, Japan is known for producing cute women with beautiful skin. Given the genetic lottery of Indian heritage from her father and Japanese heritage from her mother, Priyanka is a strong contestant in the beauty pageant.

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    Standing at 176 cm tall, naturally, Priyanka also gravitates towards modeling apart from trying her luck in the Miss World Japan contest. Competing against 30 other girls, Priyanka was certainly elated to be crowned as the winner. However, the 2016 pageant has been criticized by naysayers for having a comparatively weaker batch. Similar to many other international beauty pageants, the runners-up were also announced. The first runner-up was Misato Makino, the second runner-up was Natsuki Robertson, while the third runner-up was Yamashita Himawari.

    As Priyanka Yoshikawa is not the first “hafu” to win an international beauty pageant title in Japan, her victory does not trigger a huge outrage. But undoubtedly, there are still individuals who are not satisfied with her being chosen as the winner of the beauty pageant.

    The term “hafu” comes from the English word “half” and is used to denote a person who is half-Japanese and half of another race. In other words, biracial.

    As Priyanka Yoshikawa is of mixed ancestry, there are debates as to whether she is the right candidate to represent Japan. This is because while Priyanka was born in Tokyo, she does not look like a “pure” Japanese person. While some countries like the United States and Malaysia are multiracial and therefore have no qualms about having people of various races to represent their country, Japan is a country which is rather homogenous.

    Being an American or a Malaysian reflects the nationality, but being a Japanese person can mean either or both nationality or/and ethnicity. Obviously, Priyanka represents Japan in terms of nationality, but there are some who argue that she does not represent Japan ethnic-wise, and therefore is not suited to represent Japanese beauty.

    The First Biracial to Win Miss Universe Japan

    In 2015, Ariana Miyamoto was crowned as Miss Universe Japan in which she faced a lot of backlash for being a hafu. Ariana Miyamoto was born to a Japanese mother and an African-American father. Her victory inspired debates as to what being a Japanese really means.

    Even though Ariana Miyamoto does not look like a typical Japanese person due to her darker complexion and curly hair, she was born and raised in Japan until the age of 13 before emigrating to the United States to attend high school there. When she returned to Japan, she worked odd jobs.

    In 2015, she was crowned as Miss Nagasaki and then represented her prefecture in Miss Universe Japan 2015 in which she emerged as the winner. After that, she went on to compete in the Miss Universe 2015 pageant in which she managed to land a place in the top 10 spot, therefore proving herself as a strong and deserving contestant!

    Priyanka Yoshikawa’s Struggles of Being a Hafu in Japan

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    According to Priyanka Yoshikawa, mixed girls could not represent Japan before Ariana was crowned. Like many others in Japan, Priyanka used to think that hafu girls should not represent Japan and hence, she did not challenge the idea until the crowning of Ariana proved otherwise.

    Priyanka Yoshikawa said that she had been encouraged by Ariana Miyamoto and vows to fight against racial prejudice. Being a hafu which forms the minority in Japan, Priyanka mentioned that she had been bullied or has faced racial prejudice as a result.

    Every year, only 2 percent of mixed race babies are born in Japan. Priyanka claims to have struggled with being a hafu and have faced experiences that hurt her. She cited an example that when she came back to Japan at the age of 10 (after she had spent 3 years in Sacramento and another year in India), she felt as if people thought of her as a germ and that if they touched her, it would be akin to touching something bad.

    Nevertheless, Priyanka is thankful for the bad experiences which made her a stronger person today. Priyanka Yoshikawa is proud of having Indian genes in her but she said that that does not discount her as a Japanese as she is very much one. She said that she has been living in Japan for a long time and that she feels like a Japanese.

    Priyanka Yoshikawa is fluent in both Japanese and English. Besides that, she is an avid kickboxer who also has an elephant trainer’s license! Another trivia is that her great-grandfather was a politician who once welcomed Mahatma Gandhi to stay at their home in Kolkata for 2 weeks. She hopes that with her being crowned as Miss Japan, she would be able to change the perceptions of the society so that they would be more accepting of mixed race people. May she do well in Miss World 2016!

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