Culture

Japan’s Sweetheart: Kiko Mizuhara (水原希子)

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Kiko Mizuhara (水原希子), whose legal name is Audrie Kiko Daniel,  is Japan’s #1 followed celebrity on Instagram according to WWD Japan, a Japanese magazine on fashion, news, business, and beauty.

Kiko, who jump-started her career at a Seventeen audition in 2003, is a Japanese model, actress, and fashion designer of Korean and European (American) descent. She has been the face of Shiseido, Japan’s largest cosmetic company, the face of Japan’s Seventeen Magazine, the leading actress in the recently released movie Attack On Titans, a CHANEL ambassador, a cover model for Nylon, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, and the Cosmopolitan, as well as having appeared in Vogue China, Vogue Japan, Vogue Taiwan among many other fashion magazines .

In her circle of other celebrity figures, Kiko has acted beside Matsumoto Jun of Arashi, Japan’s #1 boyband for 15 consecutive years, in Shitsuren Chocolatier, and has also been rumored to be romantically involved with G-Dragon of Big Bang, one of Korea’s annually ranked top boybands. Oh, did I forget to mention that she also speaks Japanese, English, some Korean, and a little bit of Chinese and that she was photographed by the Karl Lagerfeld himself for Chanel’s The Little Black Jacket campaign.

It is not surprising that someone so alluringly hot elegant is Japan’s most followed celebrity on Instagram, but what else could this mean? In the racially homogenous country of Japan, where 98% of the population is ethnically Japanese, Kiko’s breakthrough as a Hafu (Japanese term for person who is half-Japanese and half of another ethnicity) as well as a person of Zainichi Korean descent (ethnic Korean person in Japan) is awe-inspiring although not too astonishing.

A popular notion I often hear is that people of mixed-race in Japan are bullied and constantly made aware of how different they physically appear. Of course this holds true for many Hafus in Japan; however, Hafus are also known for something else: easily entering the modeling industry for their locally-appealing mix of Caucasian features (high nose bridge, large eyes, etc.) Admittedly, Kiko has Caucasian features that are readily idolized, but more importantly, what about her Korean, or more specifically her Zainichi Korean half? Zainichis in Japan have historically had a hard, if not the hardest time being accepted into the ethnically and culturally homogenous country of Japan, as Japan has jus sanguinis laws (strict immigration laws that attempt to restrict citizenship to those who have Japanese blood), which are exclusive laws that demonstrate the importance of being ethnically Japanese in Japan. As such, many Zainichi Japanese people are still not Japanese citizens after being the 3rd or even 4th generation to have been born and raised in Japan. I am not sure if Kiko’s half-Korean ethnic background is widely known or widely broadcasted in Japan these days, as I have not lived in Japan for quite some time now, but I hope that her ethnic background becomes well-known so that the stigma of being a Zainichi will fade as her millions of fans realize the ethnic heritage of the person they idolize and change their mindset on Zainichi Japanese people.

Here’s a not-so-new news flash to conclude the talk on Hafus in Japan. 

2015′s Miss Japan was Ariana Miyamoto, a Hafu of half-African and half-Japanese descent! I truly hope that the rise in stars such as Kiko Mizuhara and Ariana Miyamoto are signs that Japan, and the rest of the world, is progressing with the help of globalization into a more accepting place for people of all ethnic backgrounds!

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