Miss Japan Winner, Priyanka Yoshikawa, Fires Back At Racist Criticism

In what was probably the proudest moment in her life, Priyanka Yoshikawa was crowned Miss Japan on Monday, and that achievement will enable her to represent Japan in the Miss World pageant later this year. Priyanka’s moment in the sun was eclipsed, however, when the people of Japan showed contempt for the idea that someone who is not of pure Japanese descent could represent the country. While Yoshikawa was born to an Indian father and Japanese mother, she is a Japanese citizen.

Ariana Miyamoto previously won the Miss Universe title, having represented Japan in the 2015 Miss Universe pageant.

Miss Japan Crowns Priyanka Yoshikawa, Spurring Protests From The Japanese Community

According to The Telegraph, Priyanka was raised in Tokyo, where she learned to train elephants. Growing up in Japan, after having spent time in India and in the United States, Ms. Yoshikawa reveals that bullying and racism are not new to her. She says she was bullied by her Japanese classmates, due to her biracial ethnicity. Her triumph in the Miss Japan pageant has only served to magnify that aspect of racism with many from the Japanese community criticizing her win and protesting the idea that anyone lacking pure Japanese ethnicity may be eligible to compete for the Miss Japan title.

“Just pick a proper Japanese,” demanded one unnamed critic.

“What is the point of holding a pageant like this now? Zero national characteristics,” tweeted another angry commentator.

“It’s like we’re saying a pure Japanese face can’t be a winner,” added another, implying that Yoshikawa’s win was a mark against other Japanese women.

“The idea is to have a Japanese representing Japan,” said a fourth.

The list goes on and on with a great many finding fault with the decision to crown 22-year-old Priyanka Yoshikawa as the Miss Japan winner.

Miss Japan Priyanka Yoshikawa Defends Herself Against Racist Purists

Even before Priyanka Yoshikawa came along, there have been issues raised with the electing of a biracial or non-Japanese contestant as Miss Japan with Ms. Ariana Miyamoto’s 2015 win stirring anger for being the first black woman to be awarded the crown. Now, as India.com reports, Yoshikawa shows gratitude toward Ariana for being the first to break that barrier and for taking the harshest backlash in relation to who might be eligible for the Miss Japan title.

“Before Ariana, haafu girls couldn’t represent Japan,” Yoshikawa says. “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.”

Priyanka says many people have asked her about her Japanese purity, since winning the Miss Japan title, but she won’t be intimidated by such bold implications. She explains that she is Japanese and has spent most of her life living in Japan, but she adds that she’s part Indian and she’s equally proud of her Indian heritage. She says her Indian ethnicity does not make her any less Japanese.

Ms. Yoshikawa also took the time to recognize the many other biracial people of Japan, who all experience bullying in their day to day lives. Priyanka, like many other “haafu” in Japan, has suffered at the hands of children and adult bullies, who publicly ridicule her for her mixed race heritage.

“We have problems, we’ve been struggling and it hurts. When I came back to Japan, everyone thought I was a germ,” Yoshikawa added. “Like if they touched me they would be touching something bad. But I’m thankful because that made me really strong.”

Yoshikawa admits that the bullying contributed to her frustration in identifying herself and feeling able to accept her mixed heritage, but, over time, she came to love herself and recognize that there are reasons to be proud of both her Japanese and her Indian cultures. Now, as Miss Japan, she hopes to show the rest of the world that she’s deserving of the Miss Japan title, and with a little luck, the Miss Universe tiara.

[Image by Priyanka Yoshikawa/Facebook]