Ukrainian-born model, Karolina Shiino, was crowned Miss Japan at the Keio Plaza Hotel in Shinjuku, Tokyo on Monday.  

Breaking Down Racial Barriers  

As well as being the first person born outside Japan to walk away with the top prize, at 26, she is also the oldest ever winner. In her speech after receiving the crown, Shiino said, “It was like a dream. The moment they called my name, I couldn’t stop crying. 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.” 

Shiino was born in Ternopil to Ukrainian parents in 1998. She moved to Japan at the age of 5 after her mother remarried a Japanese man. Getting to grips with the language, she felt Japanese in both “speech and mind,” though over time she had a complex because people commented on how she looked different. Her goal was to “create a society where people are not judged by their appearance,” which led to her applying for the Miss Japan contest after she acquired Japanese citizenship in 2022.  

Miss Japan: The Country’s Oldest Beauty Pageant  

Shiino is the 56th Miss Japan Grand Prix winner. The oldest beauty pageant in this country, it was started in 1950 by the Yomiuri Shimbun to select goodwill ambassadors to go to the United States as a thank-you message for relief supplies sent to help children suffering from malnutrition after World War II. Fujiko Yamamoto walked away with the first crown. She then went on to become one of Japan’s leading actresses, featuring in more than 100 films between 1953 and 1963, including works by the likes of Yasujiro Ozu and Kon Ichikawa.  

A Mixed Response  

Miss Japan is one of a number of beauty pageants held in this country. The most famous is arguably Miss Universe Japan, which made headlines in 2015 when Ariana Miyamoto became the first ever mixed-race winner. That decision garnered a mixed response from netizens, with the then 20-year-old receiving thousands of messages of support, but also criticism as some felt she didn’t “look Japanese enough.” Unsurprisingly, some people have also criticized the decision to award Shiino the Miss Japan Grand Prix, with one person on X commenting that the competition is “discriminating against Japanese faces.”


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