Japan, controversy over the national miss: she is of Ukrainian origin

What does it mean to be Japanese? This is the debate that has been raging in the Land of the Rising Sun since January 22, regarding the choice to award Karolina Shiino, of Ukrainian origin, as Miss Japan. Shiino is the first naturalized Japanese citizen to win the fifty-sixth edition of the country’s oldest beauty pageant. She was born in Ukraine, but at the age of five she moved to Nagoya, together with her mother. In 2022, she obtained citizenship, writing on Instagram that despite her appearance, her mind felt Japanese in every way. Yet, the authors of the comments that have filled the social platforms in the last two days do not think the same way.

“Where is the Japaneseness?”

“This person is a pure, 100% Ukrainian. Where is the Japaneseness?”, we read on given the opportunity to rethink what Japanese beauty is. It does not exist in appearance nor in blood, but it exists firmly in our heart,” she said after the victory was announced. Shiino also stated that her desire was to contribute to the creation of a society without any judgment on physical appearance. She added that she was grateful for having won, especially in light of the racial discrimination she suffered for not being aligned with national aesthetic standards.

For many, it was a political choice, with the aim of siding alongside Ukraine engaged in the war against Russia. The competition, in reality, allows anyone between the ages of 17 and 26 and of Japanese nationality to register, both requirements met by Karolina Shiino.

It is not the first time that a debate has arisen around the Grand Prix. In 2015, the winner was, in fact, Ariana Miyamoto, whose father is African-American.