Monday, 20 February 2017

New Miss Japan Priyanka Yoshikawa on Her Indian Origins: I Thought I Wasn’t Normal

When Priyanka Yoshikawa was growing up in Japan, she was referred to as: “hafu,” or “half” due to her dual Indian-Japanese heritage.

This week, Ms. Yoshikawa was crowned Miss World Japan, the second woman with dual heritage to win a major beauty pageant in a country that prides itself on its homogeneity.A small number of children with one or both non-Japanese parents are born in the country every year.

“When they announced my last name, I was like ‘Oh, it’s me. I did it!’” she said in an interview Wednesday.

Ms. Yoshikawa, 22 years old, was born to an Indian father and a Japanese mother. Growing up, she knew only a handful of other mixed-race children in Japan.

“When I was in fifth grade, I was the only half in my school. I thought I was not normal,” she said.

She struggled with her identity as a biracial person for years before she decided to feel proud of her Indian origins.

“If I was weak or acted like one (a mixed-race person), I thought people would attack me more,” she said.

Ms. Yoshikawa says Japanese is her mother tongue but she can also speak Bengali and English. She will represent her country at the Miss World competition this year in November in Washington DC.

But it wasn’t nearly as easy for her predecessor Ariana Miyamoto, who has African-American and Japanese heritage and competed in the Miss Universe pageant last year. She faced criticism within Japan for not looking Japanese enough.

Despite the labels, people in Japan are beginning to accept people of mixed races, said Ms. Yoshikawa, who recently thanked her supporters on Twitter.

With her eyes set on the Miss World crown, she is already thinking of life after the competition. She wants to start a charitable home for children in her father’s hometown: the city of Kolkata in India’s eastern state of West Bengal.

“I was 9 and I saw a 6 year old girl chasing our cab – begging. It just felt wrong,” she said.

Ms. Yoshikawa, who has worked as a freelance translator and an English teacher to doctors, is also a Bollywood fan and sees Aishwarya Rai, who won the Miss World competition in 1994, the year she was born, as a role model.

She also has an elephant-training license, which she got in Laos in Southeast Asia. “I really like elephants,” she said.

(Source: WSJ)

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