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Priyanka Yoshikawa is the second ‘hafu’ beauty queen in two years to receive backlash online. Photo credit: Screenshot.
Priyanka Yoshikawa, born to an Indian father and a Japanese mother will be representing Japan in the Miss World contest this year. This is something that may not have happened two years ago.
The 22 year-old Tokyo native spent some time in Indian and the United States as a child before settling in Japan. The licensed elephant trainer is the second hafu to represent Japan in an international beauty contest within the past 2 years.
Hafu, is a Japanese term for mixed race people who are half Japanese, a growing trend in Japan. One in 49 babies are born to families with at least one parent who is not Japanese each year, according to the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.
Fellow hafu and pageant queen, Ariana Miyamoto was Yoshikawa’s inspiration to enter the pageant.
“Before Ariana, hafu girls couldn’t represent Japan,” Yoshikawa told AFP news agency after her win.
In 2015 Miyamoto, whose mother is Japanese and father is African American, was the first half Japanese person to win Miss Universe Japan. Her win stirred up backlash from people who thought that Japan should be represented by a ‘pure’ Japanese person.
This time around Yoshikawa didn’t experience the intense criticism that Miyamoto did for her win. Although she does not have as many critics, there are still people who think she is not Japanese enough to win the title.
“There was a time as a kid when I was confused about my identity,” she admitted. “But I’ve lived in Japan so long now I feel Japanese,” she said in an interview with the Japan Times.
Although she might feel Japanese some people don’t agree with her.
On Ni Channel, a Japanese site that lets people post their opinions anonymously one user wrote, “I’m not saying she is not good enough, but I would prefer a pure Japanese female to represent Japan.”
“I don’t mean to complain, but I wonder if it is okay to choose a hafu to represent an individual country,” another user wrote.
However, there are many people who have responded positively to Yoshikawa’s win. One person commented on a Huffington Post article, “Regardless of the race or ethnicity the most beautiful contestant wins.”
Another person wrote, “In this society a pure race doesn’t exist.”
Although hafus are frequently seen on TV or are models in Japan there is a big difference between how hafus are treated when they are not on the screen. Miyamoto said she when she was younger she was bullied and called racial slurs.
Yoshikawa said she had similar experiences while she was growing up in Japan. “We [hafus] have problems, we’ve been struggling and it hurts. When I came back to Japan, everyone thought I was a germ,” she said in an interview with the Guardian. “Like if they touched me they would be touching something bad. But I’m thankful because that made me really strong.”
I am very honored to be chosen as Miss World Japan 2016 and would genuinely like to thank everyone who supported me. pic.twitter.com/qG92tV6ki9
— PriyankaYoshikawa (@Miss_priyanka20) September 6, 2016
Yoshikawa is also trying to use her win to change the definition of beauty in Japan.
“We’ve been told how Japanese look, we have to be pale or [have] the Asian look, but things change, it’s a small country but we have more hafus each year,” said Yoshikawa in an interview with the Star Online.
Yoshikawa want to make sure she uses her title to help other hafus.
“I have to make things happen because I made a difference being crowned as a mix [person] for the second time.”
The number of hafus in Japan continues to rise. In 1980, Japanese governmental statistics recorded 5,545 mixed race marriages. By 1985 that number had doubled to 12,181. In 2004 there was a recorded 39,511 mixed race marriages. One third of these marriages are Japanese-Chinese. Considering the size of the Japanese population, this accounts for about 5.5 per cent of marriages in Japan.
While exact numbers are difficult to find, Japanese filmmaker Megumi Nishikura, who researched the topic for her documentary, Hafu: The Mixed Race Experience in Japan, estimates that there are 20,000 half-Japanese babies born each year.
Yoshikawa will be competing for Japan in the Miss World pageant this December in Washington.