On Monday, Priyanka Yoshikawa became the second biracial Japanese woman to win the title of Miss Japan. A licensed elephant trainer (!), Yoshikawa has a Japanese mother and an Indian father.
“Yes, I’m half-Indian and people are asking me about my ‘purity,'” Yoshikawa said in an interview with Agence France-Presse. “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.”
Only 2% of the babies born in Japan annually are multiracial, or haafu (Japanese for “half”). Yet, incredibly, Yoshikawa is the second consecutive mixed-race woman to win the title of Miss Japan—drawing into sharp relief the stigma that pervades around the country’s multiethnic citizens.
A number of trolls have already questioned Yoshikawa’s so-called “purity,” tweeting “What is the point of holding a pageant like this now? Zero national characteristics” and “It’s like we’re saying a pure Japanese face can’t be a winner.”
Ariana Miyamoto, whose father is African-American and whose mother is Japanese, became the first-ever multiracial Miss Universe Japan in 2015 and soon found herself the target of criticism. In fact, Miyamoto told AFP in an interview last year that the very reason she chose to participate in the pageant to “raise awareness of racial discrimination” after a friend with a mixed racial background committed suicide.
Yoshikawa is appreciative of her trail-blazing predecessor. “Before Ariana, haafu girls couldn’t represent Japan. 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 told AFP.