Japan will be represented at this yearâ€™s Miss World contest by a woman with a Japanese mother and Indian father after Priyanka Yoshikawa became the countryâ€™s second mixed-race contestant in a row chosen for a major international pageant.
The qualified elephant trainer who counts kickboxing among her hobbies said she would use her title to promote greater inclusiveness in Japan where, according to government statistics, haafu â€“ those born with one non-Japanese parent â€“ comprised 2% of all children born in 2012.
Miyamoto, the child of a Japanese mother and African American father, endured a racist backlash on social media, with some asking why the title had not been awarded to a â€œpureâ€ Japanese, although many other commenters celebrated her victory.
â€œBefore Ariana, haafu girls couldnâ€™t represent Japan,â€ Yoshikawa told AFP after winning the title in Tokyo on Monday night. â€œThatâ€™s what I thought too. I didnâ€™t doubt it or challenge it until this day. Ariana encouraged me a lot by showing me and showing all mixed girls the way.â€
Yoshikawa said her background did not disqualify her or other mixed race people from representing Japan. â€œWe are Japanese,â€ she said. â€œYes Iâ€™m half Indian and people are asking me about my purity â€“ yes my dad is Indian and Iâ€™m proud of it, Iâ€™m proud that I have Indian in me. But that does not mean Iâ€™m not Japanese.â€
Miyamoto, who was born and raised in Nagasaki, complained in 2015 that she had been bullied as a child for looking different. â€œIn school people used to throw rubbish at me,â€ she said in an interview with CNN. â€œThey also used racial slurs.â€
Some social media users questioned her right to represent Japan, with one saying that her title was a â€œcontradictionâ€ given her parentage.
The response to Yoshikawaâ€™s victory was more muted, although some Twitter users wondered if a â€œpureâ€ Japanese contestant would ever win the title. â€œWhatâ€™s the point of holding a pageant like this now? Zero national characteristics,â€ one poster said. Another complained: â€œItâ€™s like weâ€™re saying a pure Japanese face canâ€™t be a winner.â€
Japanese children born to international marriages were also in evidence at the Rio Olympics. They included Mashu Baker, who took gold in the menâ€™s under-90kg judo, and Aska Cambridge, who was part of Japanâ€™s silver medal-winning menâ€™s 4x100m relay team.