‘Hafu’ is a Japanese term that comes from the English word ‘half’, and is used to pertain to people with a mixed heritage. People who are ‘hafu’ are literally half Japanese and half different race. In international terms, they are called biracial. One beautiful lady in particular captured the public interest recently for being the first half African-American woman to ever win the prestigious beauty pageant Miss Universe Japan.
Biracial people are not new to Japan. In fact, several Japanese models and actresses have foreign blood and are often featured on television or in magazines. However, very few of them are half-black. In this aspect, Ariana Miyamoto (宮本エリアナ), the winner of 2015 Miss Universe Japan, broke barriers and admittedly started a nationwide debate on what it means to be Japanese.
A daughter who came from a short-lived marriage between a Japanese mother and an African-American father, Miyamoto was born and raised in Sasebo, Japan. Miyamoto may not look like a ‘traditional Japanese’ because of her skin color, hair texture, and her tall stature, but you can see the obvious influences of her Japanese ancestry in the way that she talks, moves, and perceives things.
She speaks in her native Japanese and is an accomplished calligrapher of Japanese-Chinese characters. Miyamoto’s politely reserved and demure manner and expression, as well as the soft lilting tone of her voice, are all clearly from her Japanese background. In one of her interviews, she also mentioned in passing that she still stands up and bows when answering the phone, which is an act stemming from a deeply ingrained formality in Japanese people. In everything else but her physical appearance, Ariana Miyamoto is a Japanese woman. In short, she is Japanese in everything that matters.
After winning the Miss Japan crown, Miyamoto went on to represent Japan in the Miss Universe International and made it to the top 10. Miyamoto’s success proved that Japan is slowly changing its views on diversity, especially towards people of mixed race. Don’t you also think she is a great inspiration, not only for her home country but for the whole world?