Miss Japan Ariana Miyamoto wants to prove the world is changing. But it’s not changing fast enough in Japan.
In an interview, Miyamoto expressed her surprise when she bagged the Miss Universe Japan crown at a pageant held March 12. Despite her striking figure, bronze skin and height, Miyamoto thought she wouldn’t win because of her mixed-race origins.
The daughter of a Japanese mother and an African-American father, the 5’7” Miyamoto was born and raised in Japan, can speak perfect Japanese and has a 5th degree mastery in calligraphy. Despite all that, she still experienced racial abuse growing up.
Miyamoto, who uses her mother’s maiden name, described her experience growing up. “I was called a n****r by some of my peers,” she said. They also hated her wavy hair and refused to touch her for fear that her color would rub off on them. “Some of them threw trash and even a blackboard duster at me.” Miyamoto added.
It’s a situation that a lot of multiracial Japanese experience in a land that prides itself on its racial purity. The Japanese think their society is unique, with a lot of people living with the mindset that there are no real foreign populations in Japan. This disturbing way of thinking has led to regular discrimination that’s almost bordering on apartheid. And this prejudice was clearly seen after Miyamoto was crowned when she received a firestorm of negative comments on her right to represent Japan.
“That big mouth, that gaudy face. This is Miss Japan?” one commenter wrote on social media.
But Miyamoto is determined to change this attitude. The beauty queen initially had no plans to join the pageant but the suicide of a biracial friend prompted her to change her mind.
“He always felt unaccepted by Japanese…and that made him unable to accept himself,” she shared. “I thought that, for my friend’s sake, if there was something I could do to change Japan, I should.”
There is hope though as Miyamoto’s sentiment is echoed by other people as well, especially among the younger generations who are more accepting of the idea that people of different colors and looks can still live well in Japanese society.