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Hi Blog. I am increasingly impressed by the resilience of Ms. Miyamoto, as she manages to keep her message on track:
Miss Universe Japan Ariana Miyamoto spurns ‘half Japanese’ label, seeks end to prejudice
November 15, 2015 (Mainichi Japan), Courtesy of JK
As Japan’s internationalization continues, the country’s representatives in competitions abroad are also becoming increasingly diverse. The 31-man roster of the national rugby team that so electrified Japan in the recent Rugby World Cup, for example, boasted no less than 10 players born outside the country. And then there is Ariana Miyamoto, who this year became the first mixed-race woman to be crowned Miss Universe Japan.
“There are foreigner athletes representing Japan, and then there’s also me,” Miyamoto, 21, told the Mainichi Shimbun in a recent interview. “I think Japanese society has changed a bit, but it still has a ways to go.” Miyamoto, the daughter of an African American father and Japanese mother, is set to represent Japan in the annual Miss Universe pageant on Dec. 20 this year.
Though she has become a positive symbol of Japan’s internationalization, when she was selected to represent Japan in the pageant, she was also the target of many Internet attacks that she “doesn’t look Japanese.”
Miyamoto was born and raised in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, where her father worked at a U.S. military base. As a child, she was bullied for her different appearance, and even had garbage thrown at her. She spent two hours every morning before going to school straightening her hair to try and look the same as her classmates.
“I hated the term ‘beautiful whiteness’ that was used so much in cosmetics commercials on TV, because you can’t really become white-skinned with makeup,” she recalled.
She began to break free of such painful feelings when she started playing volleyball in the third grade. She proved very good at the sport, and in junior high school she was invited to attend a school in the prefecture renowned for its volleyball team.
However, Miyamoto said she began to build real self-confidence when she went to the United States for high school. Her parents had divorced and her father had moved to Arkansas. Miyamoto moved in with him and went to the local high school, where she was complimented by classmates for her beautiful skin color. It was then that Miyamoto says she realized how diverse the world really is.
After returning home to Japan, Miyamoto worked a number of jobs including as a bartender. She also had a mixed-race friend who had grown up in similar circumstances to herself. Her friend, however, was deeply pained by being unable to fit in inside Japan — a sorrow that eventually drove the person to suicide.
“I want to end racial prejudice,” said Miyamoto, adding that this was her reason for auditioning to represent Japan at the Miss Universe pageant.
According to a Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare demographic statistics, the number of international marriages in Japan began to rise from the mid-1980s, peaking in 2006 with 44,701 couples tying the trans-border knot. That made up 6.1 percent of all marriages, or one in 17. Currently, fewer unions between Japanese citizens and partners from Asia have pushed the ratio of international marriages down to about 3 percent of the total. Nevertheless, they are hardly uncommon in today’s Japan.
Meanwhile, the Japanese sports world is also looking more diverse, with Japan-born athletes like high school sprinter Abdul Hakim Sani Brown and baseball player (and recent Nippon Professional Baseball draftee) Louis Okoye making their mark.
“I don’t want to be summed up with the word ‘haafu’ (half),” said Miyamoto, referring to the Japanese colloquial term for those with one foreign parent. “It’s the same as saying they’re not really Japanese,” she went on, and expressed hope that the presence of mixed race Japanese people like herself will eventually be considered completely natural.
COMMENT: Super, Ms. Miyamoto. Bravo. But of course, the Japanese media is making sure her message of tolerance and inclusiveness is being contained and rendered ineffectual. This article, for example, was not featured as a Japanese article, for a Japanese-reading audience. Which, naturally, is the audience that most needs to hear it and be convinced by it. Here is a screen capture of web search from the same site in Japanese. It’s not there:
Keep at it, Ms. Miyamoto. Someday your message may even get through the editors of Japan’s most liberal daily national newspaper. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito