Miss Japan is a national beauty pageant that selects the representative of Japan for the Miss Universe and Miss World contests. The pageant has been held since 1952, and has produced three Miss Universe winners and two Miss World winners. The pageant is also a platform for promoting the culture and values of Japan, as well as the empowerment and leadership of women.
However, the pageant has also been marred by a controversy involving the 2024 winner, Karolina Shiino, who was forced to relinquish her crown after facing a barrage of online harassment and criticism. Shiino, a 23-year-old model and student, was born and raised in Japan, but has a mixed heritage of Japanese and Ukrainian. She is also a vocal advocate for environmental and animal rights, as she is a vegan and an activist.
Shiino’s bullying started soon after she was crowned Miss Japan in November 2024, when she received a flood of hateful and abusive messages on social media, mainly from anonymous users. The messages attacked her for her appearance, her ethnicity, her activism, and her opinions, calling her names such as “ugly”, “fake”, “traitor”, and “radical”. Some of the messages also threatened her with violence and death, and urged her to kill herself or leave the country.
Shiino tried to ignore and report the bullying, and to focus on her duties and preparations for the Miss Universe pageant, which was scheduled to be held in January 2025 in Los Angeles, California. However, the bullying intensified and escalated, and started to affect her mental and physical health. She suffered from anxiety, depression, insomnia, and weight loss, and had to seek professional help and medication.
Shiino also faced pressure and opposition from the pageant organizers and sponsors, who were concerned about the negative publicity and backlash that her participation would cause. They asked her to tone down her advocacy and expression, and to conform to the traditional and conservative image and expectations of Miss Japan. They also suggested that she should change her diet or lifestyle, and that she should undergo cosmetic surgery or treatments to enhance her appearance.
Shiino’s resignation came as a shock and a disappointment to many of her fans and supporters, who had admired and applauded her for her courage and authenticity. Shiino announced her decision in a tearful video message on her Instagram account, where she explained the reasons and the circumstances behind her resignation. She said that she could no longer endure the bullying and the pressure, and that she felt that she had failed to live up to the standards and the responsibilities of Miss Japan. She said that she was sorry and grateful to everyone who had supported and encouraged her, and that she hoped that her story would inspire and empower other women and activists to be themselves and to pursue their dreams.
Shiino’s resignation also sparked outrage and concern among the local and international human rights community, who condemned the bullying and the discrimination that she had faced, and who called for justice and accountability for the perpetrators and the enablers. They said that Shiino’s resignation was a reflection and a result of the widespread and deep-rooted anti-activist sentiment and the lack of diversity and inclusion in Japan, and that it was a setback and a loss for the progress and the potential of women and activists in Japan. They also urged the authorities and the society to respect and protect the rights and dignity of women and activists in Japan, and to create a safe and supportive environment for them.
The question of how Japan feels after “bullying” Karolina Shiino, the Ukraine-born Miss Japan, out of her crown is not easy to answer, as the country has diverse and divided opinions and reactions to the controversy.
- Shame and regret: Some Japanese people feel ashamed and regretful for the bullying and the discrimination that Shiino faced, and for the loss of a talented and inspiring representative of Japan. They feel that Shiino deserved to keep her crown, and that she was unfairly targeted and treated because of her heritage and her activism. They also feel that Japan missed an opportunity to showcase its diversity and inclusivity, and to challenge its stereotypes and prejudices.
- Anger and resentment: Some Japanese people feel angry and resentful for the scandal and the resignation that Shiino caused, and for the damage and the embarrassment that she brought to Japan. They feel that Shiino was unfit and unworthy to be Miss Japan, and that she violated the rules and the expectations of the pageant. They also feel that Shiino disrespected and betrayed Japan, and that she should have been more honest and humble.
- Indifference and apathy: Some Japanese people feel indifferent and apathetic about the whole issue, and do not care much about Shiino or the pageant. They feel that Shiino and the pageant are irrelevant and unimportant to their lives and interests, and that they have more pressing and significant matters to deal with. They also feel that Shiino and the pageant are trivial and superficial, and that they do not reflect the reality and the complexity of Japan.