Foreign Policy Blogs

J-Pop group apologizes for wearing Nazi uniforms

Sony and Japanese pop group, Kishidan, apologized this week for the band wearing costumes resembling Nazi SS uniforms in a Feb. 23 interview.

A statement issued Monday from the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center called for an apology from MTV Japan for airing the interview. In the statement, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the SWC, said, “There is no excuse for such an outrage. … As someone who has visited Japan over 30 times, I am fully aware that many young Japanese are woefully uneducated about the crimes against humanity committed during World War II by Imperial Japan in occupied-Asia, let alone about Nazi Germany’s genocidal ‘Final Solution’ against the Jews in Europe. But global entities like MTV and Sony Music should know better. … Such garb like the uniform worn by Kishidan is never tolerated in the mainstream of any civilized country outside of Japan. In spite of all the efforts made by democracies to combat bigotry, racism and hate crimes, there are young people who are attracted to a racist ideology and the symbols of Nazism like those that inspired the uniforms worn by ‘Kishidan.’  It is wrong for anyone, including people in Japan to dismiss such marketing as mere ‘faux-rebellion.'”

Kishidan is a “visual-kei” band–their image is as important (if not more so) than their music. Their typical style of dress is traditional school uniforms donned with a gangster flair or the bōsōzoku uniforms of kamikaze pilots. From the apology below, which was sent to Rabbi Cooper by the band’s representatives and posted on the Kishidan Web site, it seems that Kishidan simply made a misguided fashion statement.

Date: Wed, 2 Mar 2011 17:26:05
Dear Rabbi Abraham Cooper,
We received your email dated February 28, 2011.
In regards to the costume worn by Kishidan on MTV Network Japan’s program, Megavector, although it was not meant to carry any ideological meaning whatsoever, we deeply regret and apologize for the distress it has caused you and all concerned. Members of Kishidan also deeply regret and apologize to you in this matter.
We have duly received your words of advice and take them very seriously. Kishidan will never again use this costume and it will be disposed of immediately. We will not broadcast, transmit, or distribute the video recording of Kishidan’s performance with the said costume, and the recording will be disposed of immediately.
The companies and artist Kishidan deeply appreciate your kind advice, and we hope you will accept our deepest apologies and sincere regret in this matter.
Kindest regards,
Kimikazu Harada
Representative Director, Chairman
Sony Music Artists Inc.
Akira Takahashi
Representative Director, President
Sony Music Artists Inc.
Shintaro Higuchi
Corporate Executive
Avex Entertainment Inc.

Cooper was correct in his assertion that Japanese youth are “woefully uneducated” about World War II atrocities. Japanese textbooks, which are written by private publishers, must be approved by the Japanese government and follow a predetermined, government-approved curriculum. Right-wing nationalist groups with ties to the Japanese mafia lobby (read “threaten”) government officials to censor any information that casts a less-than-favorable light on Japan. It was only after heavy international pressure that Japanese textbooks finally admitted to coercing women (most of whom were Korean or Chinese) to serve as prostitutes to Japanese soldiers during the war. The textbooks refer to these women as “comfort women,” a term which the textbooks don’t define.

I have been teaching English at a junior high school in Japan for nearly three years. In the textbook my school uses, there are simplified excerpts from the diary of Anne Frank following a section about how Stevie Wonder single-handedly ended racism with the song “We Are the World.” The textbook downplays the horrors of the Holocaust by providing little context for the excerpts and not mentioning how Anne Frank died. This might seem permissible if another book in the series didn’t contain this picture:

I pointed out to a coworker that this picture looks suspiciously like Adolf Hitler holding a copy of Mein Kampf, but she thought it was just a coincidence. After all, there are probably plenty of angry-looking men with perfect hair and toothbrush mustaches who wrote black-covered tomes about their struggles.

Given the revisionist history Japanese students are taught in school and the fact that the average Japanese has few opportunities to interact with non-Japanese in their day-to-day lives, it is not surprising that Kishidan would fail to anticipate that donning SS uniforms would be offensive.

 

Author

Dustin Dye
Dustin Dye

Dustin Dye is the author of the YAKUZA DYNASTY series, available through the Amazon Kindle.

He lived in Okayama, Japan, where he taught English at a junior high school through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program for three years. He is a graduate from the University of Kansas, where he received a bachelor's degree in anthropology.

His interest in Japan began in elementary school after seeing Godzilla fight Ghidorah, the three-headed monster. But it wasn't until he discovered Akira Kurosawa's films through their spaghetti Western remakes that he truly became fascinated in the people and culture of Japan.

He lives in Kansas with his wife, daughter and guinea pig.

Visit him online at www.dustindye.net.
E-mail him: [email protected]

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