Ukrainian-born Miss Japan relinquishes crown after tabloid exposes affair

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Ukrainian-born model crowned Miss Japan, sparking debate about identity
Ukrainian-born model crowned Miss Japan, sparking debate about identity – Jan 25, 2024

Karolina Shiino, the Ukranian-born model who won the Miss Japan title last month, surrendered her crown on Monday after it was revealed she had an affair with a married man.

Shiino’s Miss Japan 2024 win was already controversial prior to her relinquishment, as the 26-year-old is not Japanese and was born in Ukraine to Ukrainian parents. Shiino, who became a naturalized Japanese citizen in 2022, moved to Japan with her family when she was five years old.

After her crowning on Jan. 22, the pageant earned praise and criticism from Japanese natives and beyond. Many complained that Shiino was “not Japanese enough,” and argued that her Caucasian features should not be heralded as the beauty standard in the country. Others felt Shiino’s win was an acknowledgement of racial diversity in Japan.

Though she accepted the Miss Japan crown humbly, Shiino was forced into the centre of another controversy when the tabloid Shukan Bunshun published a story claiming the model earlier had an affair with a married doctor and social media influencer. Shiino herself is unmarried.

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Karolina Shiino, pictured centre, won the Miss Japan Grand Prix pageant on Jan. 22, 2024. Her win triggered domestic and international conversation about racial inclusion in beauty pageants. Twitter @Japan Maritime Public Relations Association

In a statement, written in Japanese and posted to Shiino’s Instagram on Monday, she confirmed the tabloid’s allegations.

Days earlier, Shiino said she did have a relationship with the doctor but claimed she did not know at the time that he was married. She said she ended the affair when she’d learned of the doctor’s family.

But in her newest statement, Shiino said she’d in fact been aware of the doctor’s marriage all along and said she’d made the public denial out of fear.

She apologized for any trouble she may have caused and expressed regret to her supporters and the doctor’s spouse and family.

The Miss Japan Association additionally apologized to the pageant’s judges and sponsors.

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Shiino said she’d offered to return her Miss Japan crown and title, and the pageant organizers agreed. Shiino also said she’s resigned from the modelling agency that represented her.

For his part, the married doctor — identified as Takuma Maeda (or “muscle doctor” as he’s often known online) — on Instagram apologized in Japanese and said he had no intention of divorcing his wife, according to an Associated Press report. He said he would now honestly devote himself to his work and his private life.

Shiino’s experience is not entirely unique in Japan, as several other famous or influential women have also been criticized more severely than their male counterparts after having an affair.

Last year, famous Japanese actor Ryoko Hirosue’s acting agency suspended her indefinitely from work contracts over her alleged affair with a married celebrity chef.

In Japan’s male-dominated, often conservative culture, women are regularly expected to be good mothers and wives.

Though there were several runners-ups at the contest, The Miss Japan Association said the title will remain vacant until 2025.

Karolina Shiino at the Miss Japan Grand Prix pageant on Jan. 22, 2024. Twitter @ibf_japan

As she accepted her crown and trophy last month, Shiino called the Miss Japan win “a dream.”

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“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,” she said in Japanese.

Amid backlash, Miss Japan pageant organizers defended the choice to crown Shiino and said her fluent Japanese reading and writing as well as her polite demeanour made her “more Japanese than we are.”

Despite the controversy surrounding her win, Shiino met all criteria to enter the Miss Japan pageant, as she is a citizen, single and under the age of 27.

Shiino was the 56th Miss Japan Grand Prix winner. The beauty pageant began in 1950.

She was the first non-Japanese person to win the title, though the pageant was earlier won by Ariana Miyamoto, whose parents are Japanese and African American, in 2015. Like Shiino, Miyamoto’s pageant triumph triggered discussion in the country and beyond about who should be eligible to compete for the Miss Japan title, with specific emphasis on racial inclusion.

— With files from The Associated Press

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