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Model of Ukrainian descent becomes Miss Japan 2024, sparking debate

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Carolina Shiino, a 26-year-old Japanese model of Ukrainian descent, became the center of controversy after winning the title of Miss Japan 2024 on Monday.

About Shiino: Shiino was born in Ukraine and moved to Japan at the age of 5 after her mother remarried a Japanese man. She became the first naturalized Japanese citizen to win the Miss Japan Grand Prix pageant.

“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 said on stage, according to The Independent.

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Online skepticism: Despite declaring herself Japanese in “speech and mind,” her victory sparked skepticism on social media, with some questioning the choice of crowning someone who is not of Japanese descent.

“This person who was chosen as Miss Japan is not even a mix with Japanese but 100 percent pure Ukrainian. Understand she is beautiful, but this is ‘Miss Japan.’ Where is the Japaneseness?” one person said.

“I think that Japanese people naturally (would) get the wrong message when a European looking person is called the most beautiful Japanese,” another noted.

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“As a non-Japanese person living in Japan, I also think that the choice of someone with no ethnic connection to Japan is beyond ridiculous,” one weighed in.

Judges’ defense: However, event organizers justified the selection of Shiino, highlighting that the judges were impressed by her “confidence." Ai Wada, the pageant organizer, also emphasized that “Japanese beauty exists not in the appearance, not in the blood, but it exists firmly in our heart,” urging viewers to contemplate on the essence of Japanese beauty.

“She speaks and writes in beautiful and polite Japanese,” Ai Wada added. “She is more Japanese than we are.”

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