It seems very appropriate that this year’s Miss Universe Japan, Hiroko Mima, excels at high jump, since she is aiming for the highest bar of all on July 14 in Vietnam when she represents her country in the final – following in the footsteps of Riyo Mori who won last year, and Kurara Chibana, who was 1st runner-up in 2006.
Born in Tokushima, the 173-cm-tall Mima, 22, who has taken part in many national high jump contests, says she always wanted to be a physical education instructor. “I never saw many beauty contests on TV when I was growing up. I knew of Miss Japan, but didn’t know Miss Universe at all. Then I saw the news about Kurara, and last year, when Riyo won, I discovered we were the same age. I thought if she could do it, so could I.”
Mima’s determined spirit has not only propelled her onto the world stage; it has helped her through some difficult times. In junior high school, she had a serious spinal illness. Then her father died three years ago. “I didn’t confine myself to my room crying. My family and I all supported each other by talking about how enjoyable life was with him. Everybody remembers him in a positive way. I think he is looking over us from heaven. These tragedies made me realize we only get one life and I am determined to take on many challenges.”
Since being picked to represent Japan, Mima’s life has been a whirlwind of activity as she and Miss South Korea undergo training under the eye of Miss Universe Japan national director Ines Ligron. “Until I became the finalist, I didn’t have many opportunities to meet foreign people, so I didn’t know what kind of image of Japanese they have,” she explains. “Now that I am training with Miss South Korea, I wish I could talk with her about the difference in understanding of history between Japan and South Korea or what young people think about it. I am teaching myself English through DVDs.”
Mima thinks the image of Japanese women has been that they are shy and modestly respect men. “Recently, though, young women are more independent and don’t hesitate to express their own ideas. That’s the image of Japanese women I wish to project to the world.” She believes that true beauty comes from within, not from makeup and clothes. “I know a lot of people criticize beauty contests, but they are not just about appearance. It’s about who we are inside and what we can do. I would like to visit children who suffer from the same illness I had and give them a smile.”
Mima said she has become interested in African issues after seeing the film "Hotel Rwanda." “It made me think about refugee issues and racial conflicts. Although I couldn’t understand all the dialogue (because it was in English), I was moved and cried.”
As Miss Universe Japan, a whole new world is opening up for Mima. “I was raised in a small town in Tokushima. There, time passes slowly and people live slowly. In Tokyo, people are always walking quickly. I feel restless here.” Now that she is in the limelight of the big city, Mima’s fashion style has changed, too. “I never was very fashion conscious. I’m an athlete, so I liked sportswear. I don’t have any specific style yet. Rather, I would like to be a woman who looks good in different styles.”
Mima has put her PE studies at college on hold for this year, but still likes to exercise at the gym. So does her kind of guy have to be sports-minded? “I do like sportsmen; however, what is most important for me is that they should be ‘smart.’ I don’t mean smart in terms of academic ability. I mean men who enjoy their lives in a smart manner are attractive.”© Japan Today