The coronation of Miss Nagasaki Ariana Miyamoto as Miss Universe Japan stirred a multitude of negative reactions from the Japanese people.
Miyamoto is born to a Japanese mother and an African-American father. Although she is a native of Nagasaki, her mixed cultural heritage is evident in her physical features. For one, Miyamoto has brown skin, and that feature alone makes her stand out from pure-blooded Japanese women.
Keseharian Miss Universe Japan 2015 Ariana Miyamoto bersama keluarganya di rumah pic.twitter.com/HawK91i1Ma
— Sahabat Pageant (@Sahabat_Pageant) March 16, 2015
On Twitter, an upset user posted: “Even though she is Miss Universe Japan, her face is foreign no matter how you look at it!” Furthermore, other netizens also criticized Miyamoto commenting that ‘she wasn’t Japanese enough’ to represent the country in the Miss Universe pageant.
“Even though she’s Miss Universe Japan, her face is foreign no matter how you look at it!” ~@2ygravity Okay… http://t.co/nUnn0gjYgl
— rufai ajala (@rufaiajala) March 22, 2015
The issue about Miyamoto’s mixed cultural heritage has put Japan’s openness to diversity into focus. Despite the country’s globalization in the fields of commerce and industry, it has remained conservative about cultural diversity and continues to take pride in its homogeneity.
Japan’s skepticism towards diversity can be traced back as early as the mid-1600s during the Tokugawa shogunate. Enacted in 1635, the country’s “sakoku” policy isolated Japan from the rest of the world. It declared that no foreigner can enter the country and no Japanese person can leave. Those who were caught breaking the policy could have faced punishment by death. The “sakoku” policy was later abolished. However, its implementation instigated the Galapagos effect.
“… Japan, having been isolated from foreign influence, developed its own kind of insular norms and values,” Kyle Cleveland, an associate professor in Sociology at Tokyo’s Temple University, said. This explains why, despite the growing number of foreign residents in the country, Japan still remains as one of the most culturally homogenous nations in the world.
Moreover, the country also has a negative cultural impression of African Americans. This is evident in Japanese theatres where some entertainers don “blackface,” which is a symbol traditionally used to create negative stereotypes about African Americans.
“The blackface thing is emblematic of a larger Japanese politics and civil society in which diversity is not recognized, or cultivated or respected,” Cleveland also explained.
In spite of all the opposition, the local media in Japan positively described the 20-year-old as a “saishoku kenbi,” which in English translates to a woman blessed with both intelligence and beauty. Aside from being a beauty queen, Miyamoto is an expert in Japanese calligraphy and holds a fifth degree mastery of the traditional art.
[Image via MissUniverseJapan]