Priyanka Yoshikawa has been crowned Miss Japan, and will go on to represent the country at this year’s Miss World contest. After Monday’s victory, the 22-year-old received backlash on social media from people complaining that a “pure” Japanese woman should have been chosen as the winner.
Read on to learn about Priyanka Yoshikawa.
1. She Has an Elephant Training License
Yoshikawa, who has an elephant training license (and was dubbed the ‘Elephant Whisperer’ by News18) was born in Tokyo to an Indian father and a Japanese mother. Growing up, she spent time in both Sacramento and Japan, where she was bullied for her skin color. In an interview with Japan Today, Yoshikawa said, “I know a lot of people who are ‘haafu’ and suffer.” Although Yoshikawa was judged for being half-Indian in Japan, she claims to never have received criticism from other parts of the world. “When I’m abroad, people never ask me what mix I am.”
The pageant queen, who stands at 5’9″, will be competing for the Miss World title this December in Washington.
2.She’s the Second Consecutive Biracial Winner
Yoshikawa has credited her win to Ms Ariana Miyamoto, who won the title in 2015. Miyamoto was born to an African American father who was stationed at a US Navy base in Sasebo, and a Japanese mother. Like Yoshikawa, she was bullied for her different looks as a child. In an interview with CNN, she said, “In school people used to throw rubbish at me. They also used racial slurs.”
After Monday night’s win, Yoshikawa told AFP, “Before Ariana, haafu girls couldn’t represent Japan. That’s what I thought too. Ariana encouraged me a lot by showing me and all mixed girls the way.”
3. She Has Received Criticism for Being Half-Indian
While Yoshikawa has received criticism for not being “pure” Japanese, her background has never disqualified her from competing or representing Japan. The Guardian reports her as saying, “We are Japanese. Yes I’m half Indian and people are asking me about my purity – yes my dad is Indian and I’m proud of it, I’m proud that I have Indian in me. But that does not mean I’m not Japanese.”
According to BBC, only about 2% of babies born in Japan each year are biracial.
Yoshikawa is determined to stand strong in the face of haters. “There was a time as a kid when I was confused about my identity,” she said, “But I’ve lived in Japan so long now I feel Japanese.”
4. She’s a Kick Boxer
Along with being an elephant trainer, Yoshikawa is an avid kick boxer. She is also the great-granddaughter of a man who, in the words of Japan Today, “…once welcomed independence campaigner Mahatma Gandhi for a two-week stay at their home in Kolkata.”
Yoshikawa is also a Japanese interpreter.
5. She Hopes to Promote Greater Inclusiveness in Japan
Now that she has claimed the title of Miss Japan, Yoshikawa hopes to promote more inclusiveness in the country.
She told Japan Today, “As Miss Japan, hopefully I can help change perceptions so that it can be the same here too. The number of people with mixed race is only going to increase, so people have to accept it.”