Interview with Miss Universe Japan 2008 Finalist
By Timothy Coghlan
Nice to meet you Hiroko, can you tell me a little about yourself?
I’m a beautiful woman with a Japanese heart (laughs). Everyday I want to be beautiful inside and out and have a wide point of view and consider the world. I’m a finalist and so we are training for the competition everyday. I want to be Miss Universe!
Which part of training for Miss Universe is difficult?
I’m trying to learn how to be feminine and more elegant – that is difficult.
In that case, what is feminine?
For me, someone like Audrey Hepburn is a good example of femininity. She is cute but also very elegant. The way she carries herself with her chin up and also her delicate gestures. That’s why she is so famous.
But in Japan most girls want to be cute rather than elegant.
Yes, but I don’t want to be cute just because other Japanese like to appear cute. Girls can be cute, but women should be elegant.
Before you started the Miss Universe competition what were you like?
I was very boyish! Everyday the other finalists and staff say I’m boyish (laughs). I’m studying Physical Education at university so everyday I do sports and so most of the time I don’t wear make up or dresses.
So you didn’t care about fashion or beauty before?
I only wore make up and went shopping on days off from school and holidays.
Therefore, does it feel unnatural for you to try and be feminine and elegant?
Maybe a little bit, but that’s not too different from any actress. Many of them are boyish inside but display great elegance on the outside.
So when you are modeling or doing a speech etc., do you feel like your acting?
For Miss Universe, the way we walk is about inner beauty, appeal and happiness – not like a fashion model who just tries to make the clothes look good. When I’m modeling I’m displaying my strength.
What inspired you to apply for the Miss Universe competition?
I knew about Kurara Chibana who was runner up in the world Miss Universe competition in 2006 and then last year Riyo Mori won the world competition. Riyo is the same age as me and I thought that was amazing! Three years ago my brother passed way and this made me realize that we all only get one life, so I want to take on many challenges and so I applied for Miss Universe.
What were you doing before Miss Universe?
I was a university student and I still am. Currently I’m studying and doing Miss Universe together, but at the moment my focus is Miss Universe.
What do your university studies entail?
I’m part of the track and field team and I specialize in high jump, which I have to practice a lot. When there’s no training I learn about muscles, bones and anatomy etc.
Is the Miss Universe training and your university studies similar in any way?
Yes in a way, but High Jumpers have to be skinny and light, which may not be the beautiful and healthy type of look that is necessary for the Miss Universe competition.
How high can you jump?
165cm. In junior high I went to the Japan national competition seven times. I was ranked No. 1 in Shikoku and in the top 8 in Kanto.
How tall are you?
173cm, so I can almost jump myself (laughs).
Are you from Tokyo?
No I’m from Tokushima in Western Japan. It’s basically the countryside.
In your hometown, what is fashion and beauty?
Everyone just dresses simply because it’s the countryside. Maybe fashion trends in Tokyo take two years to reach Tokushima.
When you were a teenager did you look at Fashion magazines?
Yes. From junior high school I started to read fashion magazines, but there were no shops to buy anything I saw in the magazines. We didn’t even have regular trains like in Tokyo, only bicycles and cars and one train every hour!
When you were younger what was your dream?
To become a Physical Education teacher or Track and Field Coach
What about now?
I want to win the world competition and become Miss Universe! Then travel to many countries, meet and talk to many people and do volunteer work. After that I want to become a model like Kurara and eventually become the director for Miss Universe Japan like Ines. Ines doesn’t just teach us about make up and clothes, she teaches us about life.
The first time you met Ines what did you think?
I though she was on a totally different stage from me, but such a nice person – almost like a mother figure. She is like a magician in the way she does her work and transforms people.
So now have you caught up to her level?
No! Before we were on totally different stages. Now we are on the same stage but I am still far below Ines (laughs).
What do you think about Japanese women?
In general we are very shy and always have to be one step behind (in the shadow of) men. Individually Japanese women are nice people, but as a collective we are not open.
Do you think this is good or bad?
Both! Because fundamentally we are OK on the inside, but we just never show it.
If you become Miss Universe, you will have the chance to influence many people. Therefore, do you have a message for Japanese women?
I would like to be a positive influence so people want to be like me. My message is: “You have a great heart, please open your personality and show the world”.
What do you think about Japanese men?
Japanese men are shy too. Also, they are so busy with work because in Japanese society work comes before the family. I would like this to change and see people shift the focus of life back to the family.
If you become Miss Universe what can you do to help people around the world?
I intend to do charity work and give my personality to people in need so they can receive my happy heart. I was sick very sick once and so I can understand how they are feeling. In junior high school I had a sickness in my spine and I had no strength in my hands and couldn’t feel my legs. Then, two years ago my father passed away. Through these difficulties I have become a strong person and now I’m very happy. I want to share this with others.
Thanks Hiroko, it was nice speaking with you.
Japanese translation by Maiko Kitagawa 2007MUJ top-5 finalist
Shout out to Steve for being the male video vixen!