Japanese girl band sparks outrage after donning Nazi-style costumes for Halloween concert
A popular Japanese girl band set up by an executive board member of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics organising committee has been criticised for giving a Halloween concert in costumes modelled on Nazi Waffen-SS uniforms.
Keyakizaka46, which is part of the AKB48 J-pop phenomenon formed by Yasushi Akimoto, donned black military-style costumes similar to those worn by the paramilitary wing of Hitler’s Nazi party. Publicity photos showed some members wearing large peaked hats featuring a bird insignia that resembles the Parteiadler eagle emblem of the Nazis.
The group, which formed in 2015, reached No 1 in the Oricon daily single CD and Billboard Japan top singles charts with their debut single, Silent Majority, earlier this year.
Akimoto, the band’s producer and lyricist, will help produce the opening ceremony for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Social media users criticised the band’s choice of costume for their Perfect Halloween concert in Yokohama late last month.
Twitter user @batayanF3 wrote: “Just because you didn’t know or because you don’t praise Nazis doesn’t mean you can do this kind of thing. It’s unforgivable considering how influential they are as talents.” Another user, @buppii21, suggested the members of the group, aged from 15 to 21, should read the Diary of Anne Frank.
Another commenter, @pfd1212, said the group’s management should have known better than to dress children in Nazi uniforms.
Ichika Rokuso, a Japanese writer based in Berlin, implored young people to understand the hurt felt by the families and friends of those who died in the second world war.
Keyakizaka46’s office has so far refused to comment, claiming that the person in charge was absent, according to the Asahi Shimbun. But Sony Music Japan, the group’s label, apologised on Tuesday for the Nazi-era military outfits worn by the girl band.
“We express our heartfelt apology for causing offence ... because of our lack of understanding,” Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) said in a statement posted on its website. “We take the incident seriously and will make efforts to prevent a recurrence of a similar incident in the future.”
Sony Music spokesman Yasuyuki Oshio said there had been no intention to link the performance to Nazism.
The US-based Simon Wiesenthal Centre, a human rights group focused on anti-Semitism and hate speech, issued a statement on Monday that said it was disgusted by the uniforms and calling on Sony Music and the group’s producer to apologise. “Watching young teens on the stage and in the audience dancing in Nazi-style uniforms causes great distress to the victims of the Nazi genocide,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Centre, said in the statement.
This isn’t the first time a Japanese pop band has provoked anger over the use of Nazi symbolism. In 2011, Sony Music Artists and MTV apologised after Kishidan appeared on prime time television wearing Nazi-style uniforms. The apology came after the Simon Wiesenthal Centre expressed “shock and dismay” at the boy band’s appearance.
Much of Asia is less sensitive about the use of Nazi themes than the West. The Wiesenthal Centre has also protested incidents in South Korea and Thailand.
Additional reporting by Associated Press