Japan's First Cyborg? Miss Nippon, Eugenics and Wartime Technologies of Beauty, Body and Blood
In June 1931, on the eve of the invasion of Manchuria, the Japanese mass media announced the winner of the first Miss Nippon contest. Applicants were limited to rank amateurs whose photographs, and not bodies, were judged by a panel of mostly elderly men who regarded the contest as `culture work'. A second contest was held in 1934. One of the main objectives of the Miss Nippon contests was to locate and record photographically, young women whose allegedly `pure blood' and ideal bodily proportions demonstrated the success of eugenics and social hygiene programs launched decades earlier. Japan's imperialist aggression in Asia and the Pacific forms the backdrop to this study on the centrality of popular cultural events and media in the state's attempt to improve the `Japanese race' through technologies of eugenics and social hygiene. The article explores the politics of blood, body and beauty, three interrelated subjects, framed by the Miss Nippon contests, that were common to the colonial project and the discourse of eugenics alike.