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Ukrainian-born Miss Japan gives up her title after an article reveals her affair with a married man

CORRECTS NAME SPELLING: Contestants including Carolina Shiino, who won the Miss Nippon (Japan) Grand Prix, center, pose for a photo after the contest in Tokyo, Monday, Jan. 22, 2024. Crowned Miss Japan this week, Ukrainian-born Carolina Shiino cried with joy, thankful for the recognition of her identity as Japanese. (Miss Nippon Association via AP)

TOKYO (AP) — The Ukrainian-born winner of this year's Miss Japan beauty pageant and the contest's organizers say she has renounced her title after a magazine published an article about her affair with a married man.

Karolina Shiino was crowned Miss Japan on Jan. 22, setting off renewed public debate over what it means to be Japanese in a country where homogeneity and conformity are still valued.

In a message posted on Instagram on Monday, Shiino said that after the article came out, she offered to give up her crown and resign from her modeling agency. She said her offers were accepted.

The Associated Press could not immediately reach Shiino for comment.

The Weekly Bunshun magazine reported last week that Shiino had been in a relationship with a doctor who is married. Initially, she appeared to confirm the relationship but said she did not know he was married.

Later, she said her earlier explanation “was not true" and that she was aware of his married status and that he had a family. She apologized and said she was in a state of shock and fear over the report and panicked, which is why she was not able to tell the truth.

“I’m very sorry for causing the tremendous trouble and for acting as if betraying everyone who has supported me,” she said on Instagram.

Shiino also apologized to the man's partner and his family, as well as other parties involved.

The office of the Miss Japan organizers on Tuesday said Shiino's renunciation of the title was accepted and the slot for the 2024 winner would remain empty.

The organization said it “takes seriously our responsibility for causing the ruckus" and apologized to sponsors, judges and others involved. It said it defended Shiino at first, based on her initial explanation that the man she was involved with had told her he was divorced and that she broke up with him when she learned otherwise.

The scandal reignited a wave of criticism of Shiino on social media but also raised questions about why she was mostly blamed for the affair.

The man who was involved, Takuma Maeda, an influencer known as “muscle doctor,” acknowledged on Instagram that he had no intention of divorcing his wife and apologized for causing trouble to Shiino and others. He pledged to sincerely devote himself to his work and private life.

In Japan's male-dominated culture, women are expected to be good mothers and wives, and are publicly chastised more than men in case of extramarital affairs.

Last year, famous Japanese actress Ryoko Hirosue's acting agency suspended her indefinitely from work contracts over her alleged affair with a married celebrity chef.

Shiino has lived in Japan since moving to the country at the age of 5. Fluent in Japanese, she became a naturalized citizen in 2022. She has worked as a model and said she has as strong a sense of Japanese identity as anyone else, despite her Caucasian look.

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This story corrects the spelling of Miss Japan’s name to Karolina instead of Carolina.