“The Japanese have a saying: “The nail that sticks out gets hammered in.” It means that it’s better to blend in than to stick out. For most Japanese, blending in is no trouble; the island nation of about 127 million is one of the most racially homogenous societies on the planet. According to the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, ethnic Japanese comprise 98.5 percent of the population. Ethnic Koreans and Chinese make up most of the other one-and-a-half percent. In rural areas especially, most Japanese will never meet someone who isn’t Japanese.
So when you stick out in Japan, you really stick out. Beauty queen Ariana Miyamoto sticks out. Not because the 20-year old is tall, slender and blessed with immaculate cheekbones and a smile that seems genuine even when you know it can’t be—these things, while nice, are not out of the ordinary for a model, which Miyamoto is.
Miyamoto sticks out because she is half black. The Japanese census does not collect information on race or ethnicity, so it is difficult to say exactly how many mixed-race people the country has, but they are relatively rare.
For a beauty queen, standing out is generally considered a good thing. Even the Japanese will admit to this. Even so, some were less than pleased when Miyamoto walked away with the crown in the Miss Japan pageant in March. Their complaint wasn’t that she’s not pretty enough—she certainly is—but rather that she’s not Japanese enough…”