Arfiya Eri
Kentaro Takahashi—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Rare is an understatement for what Arfiya Eri represents in Japan. The member of parliament, who took office in April, marks a sharp break from her peers. In Japan, some 90% of parliamentary or ministerial posts are held by men, the average age of lawmakers is 56, and officials routinely claim the nation is mono­racial. But Eri, 34, is of Uighur-Uzbek heritage and can speak, to varying degrees of fluency, English, Chinese, Uzbek, Turkish, Uighur, and Arabic, in addition to Japanese. Eri has become a champion of diversity in Japan, but she doesn’t want the “old boys’ club” running the country to see her as a threat. She ran within the ruling conservative Liberal Democratic Party, embracing many of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s positions, and enjoying the support of Japan’s popular digital minister Taro Kono. Eri has pitched herself as a bridge to better representation of the country’s true diversity.

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