Ariana Miyamoto, the biracial woman recently named Miss Universe Japan, is hoping to persuade her country's citizens into broadening their perception of what is authentically Japanese. Miyamoto was the focus of an illuminating piece in last week's The New York Times by Tokyo Bureau Chief Martin Fackler:

"Ms. Miyamoto is one of only a tiny handful of 'hafu,' or Japanese of mixed race, to win a major beauty pageant in proudly homogeneous Japan. And she is the first half-black woman ever to do so.

Ms. Miyamoto’s victory wins her the right to represent Japan on the global stage at the international Miss Universe pageant expected in January. She said she hoped that her appearance — and better yet, a victory — would push more Japanese to accept hafu. However, she said, Japan may have a long way to go."

Miyamoto laments that she is treated as foreign by members of the press and public despite the fact she was born and raised in Japan. Fackler notes that the Japanese public tends to be stubborn about its mono-ethnic self-image. The island nation lacks many of the fiery racial tensions of the West because the country is so homogenous. Those who stand out are often belittled or ignored.

Yet the fact Miyamoto and her unique complexion won the beauty contest seems to signal that a portion of the population is ready to expand the perceived characteristics of the Japanese woman. Miyamoto has grasped her opportunity and ignited a campaign to end discrimination. The biracial beauty queen has Japan talking, and that's a start.

Read more at The New York Times

In the video below, everyone's favorite Science Guy, Bill Nye, uses dogs as a focus point for a discussion on the human construct of race:


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