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 PAST ISSUES
776: Streep talk
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768: Beyond the universe
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592: A career kicks off
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544: Laforet Museum
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542: Fuji Rock Festival’04
541: Bunkamura Museum of Art

the scene

TOKYO GAME SHOW

THOUSANDS OF VIDEO-GAME FANS CONVERGE AT MAKUHARI MESSE

 

 

 

 
Attendees dressed as their favorite characters, clockwise from top left: Chun Li of Street Fighter, two turks from Final Fantasy, unidentified, Antonia Bayle from Everquest and a Star Wars stormtrooper
Photos by Rob Gunther

 

 


star struck

Universal values
Reigning Miss Universe Japan Eri Machimoto basks in the beauty of life
By Chris Betros

Eri Machimoto was walking along Omotesando one day early in 2003 when she was suddenly accosted by a Frenchwoman who asked if she was a model. The woman was Ines Ligron, national director for Miss Universe Japan, who was scouting for candidates for the pageant. "I was really surprised," recalls the 172cm-tall Machimoto. However, the invitation to join the contest intrigued her enough to check it out on the Internet and she soon applied, joining more than 1,500 other young women. One year later, in March of this year, Machimoto, 20, beat 13 other finalists to be crowned Miss Universe Japan and went on to represent her country in Ecuador in June.

The Japan final, a gala event held at a hotel in Odaiba, featured contestants modeling casual punk, lingerie and evening gowns. It was a whole new world for Machimoto, who comes from the small town of Fukayama, outside Hiroshima.

Through her trips abroad and frequent appearances at promotional events, Machimoto says she has learned a lot about herself in the past 18 months. "I've developed more self-confidence and my English is getting better," she says. "Another positive effect is that I have learned more about own culture by representing Japan abroad. It was interesting to see the image people had of Japanese women, namely that we are shy and reserved."

When she is not carrying out her official duties, Machimoto continues her studies in economics at Nihon University in Tokyo. An active woman, she enjoys swimming, basketball and marathons, as well as cooking. Usually, beauty contest winners are a magnet for drooling men, but Machimoto says guys hardly ever try to hit on her. Currently, she doesn't have a boyfriend, but says her ideal man must be "unselfish, kind and know what he wants."

While there is still some criticism of beauty contests as being demeaning to women, Machimoto disagrees. "The contests are not just about physical appearance. True beauty is in your heart. It's who you are. These contests also provide women with a lot of opportunities," she says. "In my case, it has kindled my interest in children's issues, especially helping refugee children."

As her tenure starts to wind down, Machimoto is looking ahead to the next phase of her life. A karaoke fan, she aspires to be a singer. "I dream of singing to a full house in Tokyo Dome. I would also like to get into movies, but I have to succeed in Japan before I can even think of going to America." Her successor will be chosen next January.
Whoever it is, Machimoto offers some simple advice: "Don't worry about winning or losing. Look ahead and just do your best. Like in life, I suppose."

Photo credit: MUJ

 

 


q&a

Ines Ligron

In 1998, real estate mogul Donald Trump, who owns the Miss Universe pageant with NBC, asked French businesswoman Ines Ligron to take charge of Miss Universe in Japan. Ligron not only took charge; she revamped the whole concept, elevating it in status and turning it into a gala event with sponsorship from leading foreign and Japanese companies. An energetic character, Ligron can often be seen around Harajuku, where her office is located, approaching women on the street or in cafés, asking them if they’d like to be in the pageant.

What’s Donald Trump like?
He’s a very bright businessman and quite eccentric…as I am. I suppose that’s why we have gotten along for the past seven years.

How often do you approach girls on the street or in coffee shops?
Maybe too often. Sometimes my male friends say it feels weird to be around me. Most of the time the girls assume I’m lost and asking for directions.

What’s the most beautiful physical quality of Japanese girls?
They are long and slim with beautiful skin and can be very much like chameleons. Their look can change dramatically depending on the makeup and color of their hair.

What do they need to learn most after you take them on?
Definitely self-confidence. They also have to stop trying to be kawaii, and be more sensual instead.

Name a few women whom you think are classically beautiful.
Former Miss Universe winners. Hisako Manda, Satomi Ogawa, definitely this year’s Miss Japan, Eri Machimoto (see Star Struck), and Halle Berry. Others would be Michelle Pfeiffer, Catherine Deneuve, Monica Belluci and Charlize Theron.

When you were younger, did you want to enter a contest and be Miss France?
I would have loved to, but the image of Miss Universe back in the ’80s was different. I thought I had to be very tall and “more” to even think of applying. Now I do regret it, because it would have been a great experience.

What is the craziest thing you’ve done since you’ve been in Japan?
Breaking into a VIP party at the Celine shop on a 1,400cc Harley Davidson. CB

Courtesy of MUJ

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