On Monday, 5 September 2016, when Priyanka Yoshikawa won the title of Miss World Japan at a Japanese beauty pageant, it was a memorable moment for her.
Having been born to an Indian father and a Japanese mother, Yoshikawa has been a victim of racial discrimination through most phases of her life. Many revolted and were not quite accepting of Priyanka Yoshikawa winning a Japanese beauty pageant as they believed that she is not a complete Japanese. On social media, critics fussed about the 22-year-old Priyanka being a ‘Haafu’. The term ‘half’ is used in Japanese to describe people who are a mixed race.
This is a rather similar incident to the time when Ariana Miyamoto faced a major backlash for being a black woman and winning the title of Miss World Japan. Priyanka Yoshikawa said: “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.”
When she was questioned about the issue of multi-cultural background and what it meant to her and the former Miss World Japan Ariana Miyamoto, she said: “I think it means we have to let it in”.
She made a strong claim about being proud of her Indian and well as her Japanese heritage. “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 genes in me. But that does not mean I’m not Japanese,” she said.
With a heavy heart, she confessed that everybody considered her a “germ” because of the colour of her skin. She narrated her experience of being bullied, much like the fate suffered by Ariana Minamoto, for her mixed-race after she settled in Japan at the age of 10. Before moving to Japan, Yoshikawa spent a few years of her life in the United States, another chunk of her life was spent in India.
There is a total of 2 per cent population in Japan which falls under the category of mixed race. On the same issue, Yoshikawa commented: “I know a lot of people who are haafu and suffer.”
“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 touch me, they would be touching something bad. But I’m thankful because that made me really strong,” she said.
Interestingly enough, apart from being the face of the Japanese beauty pageant winner, she has ancestral ties with Bengal’s first Chief Minister Prafulla Chandra Ghosh. She is the first half-Indian to have ever won a Japanese beauty pageant, following the footsteps of Ariana Minamoto, who was the first Black woman to have won the same, last year.
She is a licensed elephant Trainer as well as a kickboxer.