In 1998, Miss Universe Japan was born and took over from the other pageant called Miss Japan, the task of selecting the country’s rep at Miss Universe. Ines Ligron, a French citizen, took over the helm. Nana Okumura was chosen by the new pageant as the winner. Despite showering her with Dior on everything she wore, Ines failed to turnaround Japan’s dismal Miss Universe performance claiming in her blog that she was totally unprepared at that time.
Mayu Endo, with a spectacular resumé ,donned the Japan sash at Miss Universe 2000. The competition was too tight and despite her great personality, Mayu was a clapper.
Finally, a big break in 2003 when Miyako Miyazaki finished as fourth runner-up. It marks the first time that Japan made it to the cut of the pageant since the Asian “tsunami” in 1988. It also marks the first time that a revealing wardrobe managed to get away the Miss Universe censorship albeit it was never worn in the finals night.
Eri Machimoto, in 2004, disappoints as she failed to follow-up the spectacular performance of Miyako.
Despite wearing the a gown that is anathema to the traditionalists in the hope of gaining attention, Yukari Kuzuya failed to make it to the semis despite having the Miss Universe staged in her continental turf.
2006. Los Angeles, California. Kurara Chibana almost snagged the coveted title. She yielded to a Boricua beauty and while it was a sign that Ines’ hard work is beginning to pay off, Ines may as well had been fuming mad about the results.
In 2007, Riyo Mori redeemed Kurara’s first runner-up finish and Ines’ reputation. Japan won its second crown after decades of agonizing wait. Ines’ rose into stardom and was largely credited for revolutionizing the Japanese pageantry scene. Japan self-reflects its attitude towards beauty and the timeless conservatism that is embedded into it.
In 2008, Hiroko Mima became the last Miss Universe Japan to make it to the semis under the tutelage of Ines. She happens also to be last Japanese to make it to the cut of the Miss Universe as of the press time.
Emiri Miyasaka is the last to be trained under Ines but Emiri failed to shine in Miss Universe 2009. Ines then calls it quits. What started as a whimper ended with a whimper but the Ines Era forever changed the landscape and texture of Japanese pageantry. It gave Japan an assurance that it can compete with the world’s best. But with the departure of Ines comes a drought that is so difficult to end. A Japanese Mpule is badly needed.