"I’m proud that I have Indian in me. But that does not mean I’m not Japanese," Priyanka Yoshikawa told AFP.

Everyone thought I was a germ Half-Indian Miss Japan triggers debate on racePriyankaYoshikawa/Twitter
Features Racism Tuesday, September 06, 2016 - 17:50

When twenty-two-year-old Priyanka Yoshikawa, of half-Indian and half-Japanese heritage, was crowned Miss Japan on Monday, she also triggered a debate about racial prejudice in Japan. 

She will be representing Japan at the Miss World contest in Washington in December.

After her win numerous complaints have arisen that a "haafu" (meaning "half" in Japanese and used to describe persons of mixed race), was given the crown instead of a "pure Japanese"

Yoshikawa's win comes a year after another bi-racial contestant was crowned Miss Universe Japan, creating a similar sort of stir. 

Ariana Miyamoto, who won the Miss Universe Japan 2015 pageant, became the first half-black woman ever to do so.

“Before Ariana, haafu girls couldn’t represent Japan. That’s what I thought too. I didn’t doubt it or challenge it until this day. Ariana encouraged me a lot by showing me and showing all mixed girls the way," Priyanka told AFP in an interview after winning the contest. 

While Yoshikawa's father is Indian, her mother is Japanese. Born in Tokyo, she spent a few years of her childhood in the US and India, before returning to Japan at age 10. 

“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," she told the agency. 

Yoshikawa is a qualified elephant trainer and counts kickboxing among her hobbies. She speak both Japanese and English fluently. 

Growing up, she told AFP, she was bullied for her skin colour. “We have problems, we’ve been struggling and it hurts. When I came back to Japan, everyone thought I was a germ. Like if they touched me they would be touching something bad. But I’m thankful because that made me really strong."

Ariana Miyamoto, who was born in Tokyo to a Japanese mother and African-American father, has also spoken up about having similar experiences. 

During her teens, she lived in the US with her father for two years before moving back to Japan. 

"I was born and I was raised in Japan, so I think I'm Japanese; however people call me a foreigner," Miyamoto told Bustle last year.  

She also said that the reason she took part in the Miss Japan contest was because a biracial friend committed suicide due to constant bullying. 

In racially homogeneous Japan, 98.5 percent of Japan's 126 million strong population is ethnically Japanese. 

A very small part consists of the "haafu" population. Approximately 36,000 children born each year – or three percent of total births in the country – have one non-Japanese parent, according to Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, says an Aljazeera report.

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