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Hi Blog. I’ve been withholding comment on the very good news about Miyamoto Ariana’s ascension to the role of Miss Japan (I’ve only brought it up on Debito.org here so far), and for the role that she is taking on of her own volition to fight “racial discrimination” (yes, explicitly jinshu sabetsu — something that the J-media generally refuses to even acknowledge exists in Japan). What I’ve been waiting for is how the J-media (as opposed to the predictable reaction from the J-xenophobes) would react to her activism. And here’s a good example from the Mainichi Shinbun (comment follows article):
Not Japanese Enough? Miss Universe Japan looks to fight prejudice
July 25, 2015 (Mainichi Japan), courtesy of JK
TOKYO (Kyodo) — At first glance, Ariana Miyamoto does not look like an ordinary Japanese woman. But the 21-year-old model and former bartender speaks the language like a native and thinks and acts like a typical Japanese her age. In March, she became the first mixed race contestant to be crowned “Miss Universe Japan,” but not everyone cheered the result.
Because of her darker skin she was criticized online for “not being Japanese enough” and there were those who wanted to know why a “pure” Japanese had not been chosen.
Even Ariana had her doubts when she was declared the winner out of 44 finalists. “Is it really all right that it’s me?” was her first reaction. She admits she worried a lot about what people thought.
But when she came to see that there were far more people supporting her than putting her down, she became brighter about the future and the kind of role she could play. “I’d like to participate in movements that fight against racism and stereotypes,” she says.
“My mother is Japanese and my father is African-American. Probably that’s why I got so much attention,” Ariana says with a laugh. Some of her classmates in Sasebo, Nagasaki, used to bully her, saying things like, “Don’t swim in the same pool ’cause your skin will rub off on me.”
As a biracial child wondering where she should fit in, Ariana would frequently turn to her mother, who would encourage her by saying, “Everyone envies you for your beauty.”
Ariana’s parents divorced when she was very young. When she went to the United States to visit her father, she felt comfortable because she found people of many different ethnicities.
After attending a local high school in Arkansas for two years, she returned to Japan. Arriving at Narita airport, she said she was shocked to discover how really Japanese she felt. Every Japanese sign she saw made her feel she was back home.
In a world where racial discrimination and hate speech show no signs of abating, whether in Charleston, South Carolina where nine African-Americans were gunned down in a church, or streets in Shin-Okubo in Tokyo where discrimination is aimed at ethnic Koreans, she wants to make a difference.
Taking advantages of her new fame as Miss Universe Japan, she hopes in the future to campaign for a Japan and a world without prejudice. “I think Japan is showing some signs of change. We see more and more ‘haafu’ (biracial) TV personalities coming onto the scene. I think we can really change,” Ariana said.
Ariana is still unsure about the exact role she will play.
“Now I’m concentrating to be fully prepared for the Miss Universe world event which will take place sometime in 2015. I wish I can participate in some activities to raise awareness and fight against racial discrimination after that.”
The date for the Miss Universe contest, the international beauty pageant owned by Republican candidate Donald Trump, who himself is embroiled in controversy over racially insensitive remarks he made about Mexican immigrants, has not yet been decided.
Hopefully, Ariana’s victory in Japan is a signal that Japanese society is opening to accept more diversity. An added bonus is the pride she will feel by representing her country in the same light when she steps on the world stage.
COMMENT FROM DEBITO: Okay, a few points:
1) The opening paragraph, where the article says, “But the 21-year-old model and former bartender speaks the language like a native and thinks and acts like a typical Japanese her age.” Well, she IS a native speaker of Japanese, and she IS a typical Japanese her age. Because she IS a Japanese. 100%. Even she says so. Front-loading the articles to reinforce the narrative that she isn’t a Japanese because she has mixed roots is one major problem in this unnecessary debate about Miyamoto-san’s identity.
2) The article is better than many (for example this one or this one) because it doesn’t have the “Duhhhh, duhhhh, she’s just soooo beautiful…!” fawning objectification that a lot of the stunned (male) reporters do when discussing her role and her future. However,
3) The article is basically bog-standard in terms of talking about Miyamoto, with no new news that hasn’t been reported elsewhere. One might say that it’s good that her voice is making a Japanese newspaper. But it really didn’t. This article didn’t appear in the Japanese version of the Mainichi. There is no link provided to the Japanese version like it is for other articles on the site (well, it is a Kyodo wire services article, not done by Mainichi reporters; and that’s also indicative). A search of the Mainichi revealed that it was basically sequestered to a foreign-language-reading audience. Once again, it’s basically showcase boilerplate for the Gaijin without making a domestic dent.
Anyway, Debito.org wishes Miyamoto-san well. I hope that she doesn’t get ground down by the boredom of the same questions over and over again, by the nasty people who police her identity, or by the frustration she may soon feel when she realizes that her optimism about Japan changing was just her being youthful.
Given that her narrative about fighting racial discrimination is basically only showing up in the foreign-language media, the only way I see her really making a change is if she wins Miss Universe. Then of course Japan and the media will fall all over themselves to claim her as “Japanese” (as they do Nobel Prize winners who move overseas and take foreign nationalities). And then she’ll have greater leverage. For that reason, among others, I hope she does win. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito