Updated January 25th, 2024 at 12:20 IST

Ukrainian-born Model Gets Crowned As Miss Japan 2024, Sparks Debate Over Japanese Identity

"I've had to face barriers that often prevent me from being accepted as Japanese, so I am filled with gratitude to be recognised" - Miss Japan 2024.

Miss Japan 2024 Carolina Shiino | Image:@TraVelingJuice on X
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Ukrainian-born model, 26-year-old Carolina Shiino, was crowned Miss Japan at the Keio Plaza Hotel in Shinjuku, Tokyo on Monday. The model, who can speak impeccable Japanese and has lived in the country since she was five years old, became the first naturalised Japanese citizen to win the pageant. However, her victory has inadvertently raised questions amongst the community on what are the criteria to be a part of such pageants, and should bi-racial or naturalised Japanese people allowed to be a part of them.

Carolina’s controversial victory

Carolina’s victory has met with criticism from the beauty community in Japan, who say that a person with Euro-centric features cannot be crowned “Miss Japan” as she does not truly represent what it looks like to be Japanese. A similar debate was raised in nearly 10 years ago when Ariana Miyamoto became the first bi-racial woman to be crowned Miss Japan in 2015. With a Japanese mother and African American father, Miyamoto's victory was controversial as many people raised questions on whether bi-racial people should represent Japan in international pageants.

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Carolina’s victory has drawn ire because she has no Japanese parentage, unlike Miyamoto whose mother was Japanese. Carolina moved to Japan when her mother got remarried to a Japanese man. The social media reactions to her victory in the oldest pageant are divided. While some are looking at it as looking beyond appearances and judging her based on talent, others think Miss Japan being a Ukraine-born model is problematic.

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Social media backlash

An X user posted, “ There's a lot to be said about a white woman winning Miss Japan. I do wonder if the same people celebrating this were celebrating Ariana Miyamoto and Priyanka Yoshikawa when they won, if not then we know the reason why” while another commented, “ The backlash against Miss Japan is why—despite loving A LOT about Japan—I also understand my place. You, as a foreigner, will NEVER be Japanese. Because it’s both an ethnic group and a nationality. You could, perhaps, finesse yourself into a passport. But that’s it.”

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Published January 25th, 2024 at 12:20 IST