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Ariana Miyamoto, The First Black Miss Universe Japan 2015

Miyamoto says she entered the competition after a mixed race friend committed suicide because of the teasing she received. So the backlash she’s received is nothing new and will fuel her fight to end racial prejudice.

“I was prepared for the criticism. I’d be lying to say it didn’t hurt at all. I’m Japanese — I stand up and bow when I answer the phone. But that criticism did give me extra motivation”.

“I didn’t feel any added pressure because the reason I took part in the pageant was my friend’s death. My goal was to raise awareness of racial discrimination,” added Miyamoto, who was bullied as a schoolgirl growing up in the port town of Sasebo, near Nagasaki.

“Now I have a great platform to deliver that message as the first Black Miss Universe Japan. It’s always hard to be the first, so in that respect what Naomi Campbell did was really amazing.”

“I want to start a revolution,” Miyamoto added with a laugh. “I can’t change things overnight but in 100-200 years there will be very few pure Japanese left, so we have to start changing the way we think.”

Women in Japan

Japans women movement started around the late 19th century and early 20th century. Some say it started because of western influence others argue that it was just something that needed to happen. Japan’s women movement differs greatly from western “feminism”. 

Same as many western countries, before this new social change, Women were expected to do as their father, brother, husband and in some cases sons told them to. During the Meiji restoration however several key things changed women were now aloud to request divorces and both boys and girls got an elementary education. Even more changes occurred after WW2 women were granted the right to vote and in the 1946 constitution men and women had equality. 

In the 1970 a movement closer to western feminism appeared called ūman ribu (woman liberation). however this still differed drastically from western feminism. Unlike western feminism which is the fight for female equality, uman ribu focused more on sei no kaihō (liberation of the sexes). This movement targeted not only the issues women faced but also that which the male population faced. 

In 1985 a convention that eliminated all forms of discrimination was adopted by Japan. However in 1986 it was found that Japan was one of the least equal countries for women. 

Today, women in Japan don’t really have any legal inequalities. Women in japan are taught higher education then in most other first world countries. There are still social and work related problems which need improving. Many women stop working once they have children, however this is also because many women don’t want to work and stop by Their own choice. 

Today in Japan you won’t see women marching down the street demanding the equality they already have (like in America) but there are women’s groups working behind the scenes, recently a lot in politics, to help break what Japan calls the bamboo ceiling. They call it the bamboo ceiling because it’s not very see through, extremely strong yet flexible.