Haruna Ai, 37, beat off stiff competition from 20 other glamorous contestants at the Miss International Queen 2009 who came to the Thai beach resort of Pattaya from as far as Brazil and the United States.
'I am very, very, very happy,' a tearful Miss Ai told AFP minutes after the previous title holder carefully placed a faux-diamond tiara on her head. 'I want contests like this to show everyone that they should love each other and live freely. The way of life in Japan is more traditional and transsexuals cannot live freely, but in Thailand they can do what they want.'
The contest, which was called off last year because of political turmoil in Thailand, is taken just as seriously as more traditional pageants in a nation famed for its sexual tolerance.
The first round saw them in kitschy national dress, with a US contestant resplendent in a feathered native American costume and a British entrant donning a Beefeater outfit with black satin leggings and Busby hat. The lights then sank low as the contestants paraded elegant evening gowns and later modelled pink swimsuits, while giant fluorescent kites soared over the stage.
Japan's Miss Ai won US$10,000 (S$14,005), a year's stay at a Pattaya hotel and a US$500 surgical voucher after judges picked her over runners-up Karngsadal Wongdusadeekul from Thailand and Daniela Marques of Brazil.