Carolina Shiino, a 26-year-old Ukrainian-born model, has stirred a national conversation on the concept of “Japaneseness” and shifting demographics after being crowned Miss Japan. Having moved to Japan at the age of five and becoming a naturalized citizen after more than 20 years in the country, Shiino won the top prize in the Miss Japan contest in Tokyo.
During her acceptance speech, Shiino expressed gratitude for being recognized as a Japanese person, despite facing barriers related to her background. She emphasized her commitment to fostering a society where people are not judged by their appearance, asserting her Japanese identity from both “speech and mind.”
However, Shiino’s victory sparked debates across Japan about national identity. Some questioned the essence of “Japaneseness” in her win, while others pondered the influence of the Ukraine conflict or a preference for Western beauty standards. Organizers of the pageant noted that Shiino’s victory offered an opportunity to rethink perceptions of Japanese beauty.
The social media reaction echoed the 2015 controversy surrounding Ariana Miyamoto, emphasizing the ongoing struggle with diversity and acceptance in beauty pageants. Shiino hopes people will look beyond her appearance, emphasizing her Japanese spirit despite her foreign looks.