At restaurants, people give me an English menu and praise me for being able to eat with chopsticks.”
In May of this year, Ariana Miyamoto was crowned Miss Universe Japan. Which was a very big deal because she is biracial – or hafu, as children of mixed race are called in Japan.
In a country where only 20,000 babies are born each year to mixed couples (3% of the total), she was seen as an unlikely choice for a Japanese beauty queen. Her father is African-American, and many believed she was ‘not Japanese enough’. Yet she grew up there, only got to know her father in recent years, and has always felt Japanese.
Her story is a familiar one, in that she was bullied at school and had a friend (also mixed race) who was bullied to such an extent she killed herself. When she ran for Miss Japan (in part to raise awareness of hafu Japanese), she expected criticism – and got it. Japan, she admits, still has a long way to go in terms of embracing diversity.
For more information, please check out these links:
- an interview with Ariana on Al Jazeera America
- a really interesting article about being hafu (which describes the experience first-hand)
- the following trailer for Hafu, a documentary on the subject made in 2013: