The foreign-born Miss Japan winner, who shook up the country’s sense of self, has given up her title following a newspaper report detailing her alleged affair with a married man.
Model Karolina Shiino, 26, became the first person of European descent to win the beauty pageant on January 22. She was born in Ternopil, Ukraine, and became a Japanese citizen in 2022 after moving to the country at the age of five with her mother, who married a Japanese man.
Shiino’s victory sparked debate among social media users. Some people accused the pageant organizers of “whitewashing” by giving the crown to someone who wasn’t ethnically Japanese.
Others suggested that Shiino’s win could be an opportunity to challenge traditional ideas of what it means to be Japanese.
However, the conversation around Shiino’s heritage came to an abrupt end when she announced plans to give up her title on Monday.
However, the discussion about Shiino’s heritage came to an abrupt halt when she announced her intention to relinquish her title on Monday.
The resignation came after local tabloid Shukan Bunshun wrote that she was in a relationship with a married man, as reported by BBC News on Tuesday.
According to the BBC, the Miss Japan Association initially defended Shiino, claiming that she was unaware that the man was married. However, the company retracted its previous statement on Monday, stating that the model had admitted to knowing about the man’s marriage from the beginning, according to the publication.
Shiino did not immediately return a request for comment. Representatives from the Miss Japan Association could not be reached.
Shiino’s resignation put an end to an important debate about Japanese identity.
Shiino’s resignation is significant because it brought a premature end to an important debate over Japanese identity that had yet to be resolved.
According to The Japan Times, some viewers criticised the model for not representing “true Japanese beauty,” which is the Miss Japan Association’s official goal.
Others questioned whether Shiino had prevented the association from promoting traditional Japanese beauty standards.
“If the Miss Nippon contest is based on the concept of beauty, I personally wish that it would be based on standards of Japanese beauty,” historian Hiroe Yamashita wrote, according to an English translation by CNN.
“But with Karolina Shiino’s appearance, a (ethnically) Japanese girl has no chance of winning under the modern values of beauty,” she went on to say.
There’s also the issue of cultural identity. Despite having lived in Japan for over 20 years, Shiino stated that she did not feel accepted as a citizen until she won the competition.
According to BBC News’ Tokyo correspondent Shaimaa Khalil, the model acknowledged “racial barriers” and the challenge of being accepted as Japanese during her acceptance speech.
“I was concerned about whether they would accept me as Japanese and, more generally, whether they would take me. After winning the contest, she expressed shock in an interview with Ukrainian news channel TSN, as reported by The New Voice of Ukraine.
“I didn’t think I would win.”