The winner of a prestigious beauty contest, whose victory had already proven contentious, has given back her crown after it was revealed she had an affair with a married man.
Karolina Shiino, 26, who was born in Ukraine to Ukrainian parents, triumphed in the Miss Japan contest just two weeks ago.
She was the first person with a European background to win the Miss Japan title.
Shiino is a Japanese citizen who speaks fluent Japanese and has lived in the country since she was a child. However, her win proved immediately controversial.
Some welcomed the crowning of an immigrant but others questioned Shiino’s victory.
Historian Hiroe Yamashita said that “racial discrimination should never be tolerated,” but added that the Miss Japan contest should be judged by the “standard of Japanese beauty”.
“With Karolina Shiina’s appearance, a pure-blooded Japanese person has no chance under modern beauty values”.
Compared to many industrialised countries, Japan has a relatively modest rate of immigration – only about 15 per cent that of Australia per 100,000 people according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Japan also has a low birth rate and high average age and it’s been suggested encouraging immigration could be a way to bring in new, younger, workers and boost the economy.
But it remains a touchy subject in the country.
Shiino managed to navigate the controversy over her heritage following her win and said the definition of what was Japanese should be widened.
“All my life I’ve been told I’m not Japanese enough, both directly and indirectly, but I know I am Japanese. I can’t help it. Nobody has the right to tell me I’m not,” she told newspaper The Japan Times after her win.
“I don’t think it’s one thing that makes you Japanese. What I do know is that it’s a matter of the heart.”
‘I am truly sorry’
However, it was her relationship with a married man that has led her to relinquish her title.
In recent days, an article in Japanese tabloid newspaper Shukan Bunshun said Shiino has been dating a doctor who is married.
The organisers of Miss Japan originally defended Shiino saying the doctor had claimed he was single at the time of the relationship and that she did not know he was married.
But Shiino later said that while she was under the impression the man was single when their relationship started, she continued to see him after she knew that he had a wife.
She subsequently gave up the Miss Japan title, the first winner to do so.
In an Instagram post, Shiino apologised to the man’s family and said she would leave her talent company.
“I am truly sorry for the huge trouble I have caused and for betraying those who supported me,” she said.
The organisers of the pageant have said the Miss Japan title will remain vacant until the next onset in 2025.