Multiraciality Reigns Supreme? Mixed-Race Japanese Americans and the Cherry Blossom Queen Pagent

Multiraciality Reigns Supreme? Mixed-Race Japanese Americans and the Cherry Blossom Queen Pagent

Amerasia Journal
1997
Volume 23, No. 1
pp. 113-128

Rebecca Chiyoko King-O’Riain, Lecturer in Sociology
National University of Ireland, Maynooth

The notes of the koto echo through the hall and I am mesmerized by the vision on stage.  Beautiful Japanese women dressed in kimono who seem to glide across the stage as if it were ice, their arms outstretched as if to begin a hug so that their ornate sleeves flap slightly in the breeze.  But then I squint to get a closer look, and I suddenly can hear the synthesized drum beat accompanying the plaintive sounds of the koto and can see that not all of the faces look completely Japanese.

Since 1968, a northern California pageant has chosen a queen to reign over the Cherry Blossom Festival held each April in San Francisco’s Japantown.¬† The queen has come to symbolize northern California’s Japanese American community in many ways.¬† However, in the past five years half of the candidates, and two of the queens, have not been racially 100 percent Japanese.¬† The increased participation of mixed-race Japanese Americans has an effect on both the mixed-race and the mono-racial participants in the Queen Pagent as well as the community at large.¬† This article examines how mixed-race Japanese American women define themselves in what has traditionally been a monoracial setting.¬† In the context of the pageant, what does it mean to be Japanese American?¬† How is that defined and how is that definition changing due to the increased participation of mixe-race Japanese Americans?…

Read the entire article here.

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