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Ukrainian-Japanese Miss Japan pageant winner Karolina Shiino returns crown after affair comes to light

Tokyo — The Ukraine-born winner of the Miss Japan pageant has relinquished her crown after a report emerged of an affair she had with a married doctor. Karolina Shiino's nomination in January first sparked debate after some right-wingers questioned the title being awarded to a naturalized Japanese citizen. A scandal then erupted over her private life when weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun reported on her extra-marital relationship - taboo for beauty pageant contestants, who are held to squeaky-clean moral standards in Japan.

Japanese entertainment personalities who have affairs, dabble in drugs or suffer other scandals also often find themselves shunned by their fans and employers.

The Miss Japan Association said Monday that it had accepted a request from Shiino to return the crown for "personal reasons," adding there would be no Miss Japan for 2024.

This photo taken on January 22, 2024 shows Karolina Shiino, a model who became a naturalized Japanese citizen from Ukraine, posing with the trophy of the Miss Japan crown in Tokyo. STR/JIJI Press/AFP/Getty

Shiino, who emigrated to Japan at the age of five, said she wanted to "deeply apologize" to those involved, including the man's wife, on the same day her management agency said she had confirmed the affair.

At first "I couldn't speak the truth due to chaos and fear... I apologize to those who believed in me and supported me," the 26-year-old said on Instagram. "I take the situation seriously and have relinquished the Miss Japan Grand Prix title."

In a statement Monday, Shiino's agency said she told them she had begun seeing the man believing him to be divorced, but continued the relationship after learning he was still married.

The man involved, Takuma Maeda, is a social media influencer known online as the "muscle doctor," who, according to The Associated Press, said on Instagram that he had no plans to leave his wife and offered an apology the trouble he'd brought Shiino and others. He promised to devote himself to his work, and his private life.

Women are often more heavily criticized over extramarital affairs in Japan's deeply conservative, male-dominated culture.

Miss Japan, first held in 1950, is awarded for "Japanese-style beauty" consisting of "inner beauty, beauty in appearance and beauty of actions," its website says.

After Shiino's nomination attracted attention online, people quickly weighed in on social media.

"It doesn't matter if she is Jewish-Ukrainian or not, but I can't accept her character... Why is she Miss Japan?" one user wrote.

Others wrote in support of Shiino on her Instagram post, however.

"You have Japanese spirit. I don't think such (a) personal private thing should be a reason for you to step down but this is Japan," said a reply with nearly 350 likes.

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