The newly-crowned Miss Japan Ariana Miyamoto has made history: She’s the first mixed-race woman to win the title. She had previously won the Miss Nagasaki title.
The 20-year-old Miyamoto, born to a Japanese mother and an African-American father, will go on to represent Japan at the Miss Universe 2015 pageant.
This is huge for Japan, as the country is known being very racially homogenous. According to a July 2014 estimate, those who self-identify as Japanese comprise 98.5% of the total population. By contrast, “other” races (under which African-American falls) holds onto only .6%. The estimate puts the country’s population at 127M+, so that would mean “other” races would number around 762K+. (To put that in context, self-identifying Japanese would number around 125M+.)
“Hafu” (mixed-race) marriages have grown steadily since 1980, when the Japanese government recorded 5K+ “international” marriages. In 2004, mixed-race marriages numbered 39K+, which represented 5%+ of all marriages within the country.
Though it’s clear that the number of interracial marriages, and multi-racial citizens, are rising, it’s difficult to find because racial data isn’t collected in Japan (only nationality is acknowledged). But Japanese filmmaker Megumi Nishikura found that “20K+ half-Japanese are born in Japan each year, including both multiethnic and multiracial people” through her documentary “Hafu: The Mixed-Race Experience in Japan.”
Though Miyamoto is already getting backlash for “not being Japanese enough,” she’ll now be seen by the world as the new face of Japan.