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‘I am absolutely Japanese’: Ukrainian-born model sparks debate by winning Miss Japan pageant

In a surprising twist at the annual Miss Nippon contest, Karolina Shiino, a 26-year-old Ukrainian-born model, took home the title of Miss Japan, sparking a lively debate on cultural identity and beauty standards.

The contest, which seeks to honor the “Foremost Beauty of All Japanese Women,” faced criticism for choosing a winner with European roots. Shiino, a naturalized citizen residing in Nagoya since childhood, shared her heartfelt desire to be acknowledged as a true Japanese person. Her victory is seen as a catalyst for challenging stereotypes about Japanese identity, a noteworthy message in our diverse era.

Living in a country known for its homogeneity, Shiino’s win raises poignant questions about the intersection of nationality, appearance, and beauty ideals. While some argue for an inclusive approach based on citizenship, others advocate for beauty standards rooted in Japanese heritage.

The incident mirrors the 2015 crowning of Ariana Miyamoto, the first biracial Miss Universe Japan, adding to the ongoing discourse about diversity and representation in beauty pageants. Unlike global competitions, Miss Nippon operates independently and remains unaffiliated with major pageant circuits.

Controversy aside, Shiino’s triumph is attributed by contest organizer Ai Wada to her qualities as a “hard-working, yet humble, Japanese woman with a very strong sense of consideration for others.” Regardless of differing opinions, this event sheds light on the evolving landscape of cultural perceptions and beauty standards in contemporary Japan.

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