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Ukrainian-born model named as Miss Japan sparks debate surrounding identity
Featured Image Credit: Kyodo News

Ukrainian-born model named as Miss Japan sparks debate surrounding identity

Carolina Shiino made history as she was crowned Miss Japan in Tokyo

A Ukrainian-born model has sparked a debate around identity after being crowned Miss Japan in a pageant in Tokyo.

Carolina Shiino was in tears as she accepted her crown in Shinjuku, Tokyo on Monday (22 January), and officially became the first person born outside Japan to win the Miss Japan title.

Carolina Shiino is the oldest person to win the title.

The 26-year-old, who moved to Japan when she was five-years-old, said as she accepted her win that she had faced 'racial barriers' in the country.

"It has been challenging to be accepted as Japanese," Shiino added.

The model admitted she 'couldn't stop crying' when the host called her name as the winner, saying: "I’ve had to face barriers that often prevent me from being accepted as Japanese, so I am filled with gratitude to be recognized at this competition as a Japanese person.”

Many people joined Shiino in celebrating her success, but others hit back to claim she didn't truly represent Miss Japan due to her lack of Japanese parentage.

In a post on X, one person wrote: "This person who was chosen as Miss Japan is not even a mix with Japanese but 100% pure Ukrainian. Understand she is beautiful, but this is 'Miss Japan'. Where is the Japaneseness?"

Shiino's win sparked debate online.

Another suggested the win could be detrimental to those who might consider the pageant winner a role model, saying: "I think that Japanese people naturally (would) get the wrong message when a European looking person is called the most beautiful Japanese."

In spite of the backlash, the organizer of the Miss Japan Grand Prix pageant, Ai Wada, told the BBC that the judges had 'full confidence' in choosing Shiino as the winner.

"She speaks and writes in beautiful and polite Japanese," Wada said. "She is more Japanese than we are."

Carolina Shiino received Japanese nationality in 2023.

Shiino previously stuck up for herself after she received Japanese nationality last year, saying she 'may not look Japanese', but that she had 'become Japanese' as she grew up in the country.

Her supporters stood by her after the win, with one fan writing on X: "There is no doubt that she is the right candidate for Miss Japan. Anyway, she is definitely Japanese since she has Japanese citizenship."

As well as becoming the first person not born in Japan to win the title, Shiino is also the oldest person to ever win the competition.

Her success comes after judges in the competition sparked controversy in 2015 by naming Ariana Miyamoto as their Miss Japan, making her the first bi-racial woman to win the title.

Topics: Beauty, World News