THE JAPAN TIMES IN TOKYO WRITES: A half-Indian beauty queen with an elephant trainer’s license was crowned Miss Japan on Monday, striking a fresh blow for racial equality.
Priyanka Yoshikawa’s tearful victory comes a year after Ariana Miyamoto faced an ugly backlash for becoming the first black woman to represent Japan.
Social media lit up after Miyamoto’s trailblazing triumph as critics complained that Miss Universe Japan should instead have been won by a “pure” Japanese rather than a haafu — the Japanese for “half,” a word used to describe mixed race.
“Before Ariana, haafu girls couldn’t represent Japan,” Yoshikawa said in an interview after her exotic Bollywood looks helped sweep her to the title.
“That’s what I thought too. I didn’t doubt it or challenge it until this day. Ariana encouraged me a lot by showing me and showing all mixed girls the way.”
Yoshikawa, born in Tokyo to an Indian father and a Japanese mother, vowed to continue the fight against racial prejudice in homogenous Japan, where multiracial children make up just 2 percent of those born annually.
“I think it means we have to let it in,” said the 22-year-old when asked what it signified for her and Miyamoto to break down cultural barriers.
“We are Japanese. Yes, I’m half Indian and people are asking me about my ‘purity’ — yes, my dad is Indian and I’m proud of it, I’m proud that I have Indian in me. But that does not mean I’m not Japanese.”
Yoshikawa, like Miyamoto, was bullied because of her skin color after returning to Japan at the age of 10 following three years in Sacramento and a further year in India.
“I know a lot of people who are haafu and suffer,” said Yoshikawa, an avid kickboxer whose politician great-grandfather once welcomed independence campaigner Mahatma Gandhi for a two-week stay at their home in Kolkata.
“We have problems, we’ve been struggling and it hurts. When I came back to Japan, everyone thought I was a germ,” she added.
“Like if they touched me they would be touching something bad. But I’m thankful because that made me really strong.”
Yoshikawa, who speaks fluent Japanese and English and towered over her rivals at 1.76 meters tall, will contest for the Miss World crown in Washington this December.
“When I’m abroad, people never ask me what mix I am,” said Yoshikawa, who earned her elephant trainer’s license to add spice to her resume.
“As Miss Japan, hopefully I can help change perceptions so that it can be the same here too. The number of people with mixed race is only going to increase, so people have to accept it.”
EXCERPTED FROM THE JAPAN TIMES, THE INTERNATIONALLY ACCLAIMED ENGLISH-LANGUAGE DAILY NEWSPAPER OF JAPAN.