Ukrainian-Born Woman Wins Miss Japan Beauty Pageant, Sparks Controversy

A 26-year-old model who was born in Ukraine and moved to Japan at the age of five was recently crowned Miss Japan, sparking a heated debate regarding national identity.

Carolina Shiino speaks and writes impeccable Japanese, she spent most of her life in Japan and identifies as Japanese. But she wasn’t born in Japan and, most importantly, she doesn’t look Japanese, and for many, as the newly-crowned Miss Japan, that’s a big problem. Ukrainian-born Carolina is the first naturalized Japanese citizen to win the national beauty pageant, and while some accepted her win as a “sign of the times,” for others it is a tough pill to swallow. Everyone acknowledges the young woman’s beauty, but the fact that a European woman was voted Miss Japan is simply unacceptable.


“This person who was chosen as Miss Japan is not even a mix with Japanese but 100% pure Ukrainian. Understand she is beautiful, but this is ‘Miss Japan’. Where is the Japaneseness?” someone wrote on X (Twitter).

“If she was half [Japanese], sure no problem. But she’s ethnically 0% Japanese and wasn’t even born in Japan,” another person commented.

Ai Wada, the organizer of the Miss Japan Grand Prix pageant, told the BBC that judges had voted for Ms. Shiino with “full confidence”, and that her participation “gave us an opportunity to rethink what Japanese beauty is”.


“Following today’s result, there is one thing I am convinced of… Japanese beauty exists not in the appearance, not in the blood, but it exists firmly in our heart,” Wada said.

However, the organiser’s message did little to calm spirits on social media where critical posts continued to go viral. People complained that crowning a European woman Miss Japan gave Japanese society a confusing message, while others simply said that they considered the decision ridiculous.

As for Carolina Shiino, she said she considered herself Japanese in both “speech and mind,” and hopes to one day help create a society where “people are not judged by their appearance”.


“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,” Ms Shiino said.

Carolina’s story is very similar to that of Brooke Bruk-Jackson, the white woman who sparked controversy by winning the title of Miss Zimbabwe, despite being born and raised in the African country.