Japan teen idol girl band dress as Nazis for Halloween, spark outrage

Keyakizaka46 sparked an online storm with their black one-piece dresses and capes, complete with peaked caps bearing a golden bird symbol resembling the Nazi eagle above a swastika.
Keyakizaka46 sparked an online storm with their black one-piece dresses and capes, complete with peaked caps bearing a golden bird symbol resembling the Nazi eagle above a swastika. PHOTO: KEYAKIZAKA46.COM

TOKYO/WASHINGTON (AFP, Washington Post) - A Japanese teeny-bop girl band has triggered outrage after wearing military-style costumes which have been compared to Nazi uniforms at a Halloween concert.

Keyakizaka46 sparked an online storm with their black one-piece dresses and capes, complete with peaked caps bearing a golden bird symbol resembling the Nazi eagle above a swastika.

Social media has lit up since the troupe took to the stage in Yokohama on Oct 22.

In a Twitter backlash, several users slammed their choice of costume as "unforgivable" and "unacceptable" while Berlin-based Japanese writer Ichika Rokuso posted: "Seventy-one years have passed since the war ended but there are many people who lost loved ones. Please remember that."

Other angry tweeters posted pictures of Nazis next to images of band members, who posed for photos in their controversial garb before the show.

"It is shock marketing," fumed one Twitter user, clearly feeling it was a publicity stunt by the band, who have yet to comment on the row.

Keyakizaka46 have shot to stardom since being formed last year by producer and lyricist Yasushi Akimoto, reaching No. 1 in Japan with their debut single Silent Majority.

The helium-voiced pop queens are not the first Japanese band to cause offence.

Retro rock band Kishidan angered the Simon Wiesenthal Center in 2011 when they wore a costume the Jewish organisation claimed resembled a Nazi uniform.

In neighbouring South Korea, girl band Pritz provoked protests two years ago after wearing bright red armbands strikingly similar to the ones Nazi officers wore.

Keyakizaka46 is not alone in sparking furore this Halloween season.

Former child actress Hilary Duff dressed as a pilgrim and her boyfriend Jason Walsh appeared as a Native American.

A photo of them made the rounds on Twitter, and the expected outrage followed. "His costume is not okay," tweeted one user. Another tweeted, "Wow. They are grossly out of touch." A third simply wrote, "And racist."

They apologised on social media. Duff tweeted, "I am SO sorry to people I offended with my costume. It was not properly thought through and I am truly, from the bottom of my sorry."

Outrage concerning costumes and cultural appropriation appears to have a long memory. Actor Chris Hemsworth apologised for donning a Native American-style headdress at a New Year's Eve Lone Ranger-themed party - last year.

Meanwhile, a University of Central Arkansas student was expelled from his fraternity after attending a party, in blackface, dressed as Bill Cosby, the comedian who has been accused of sexual misconduct of various forms by at least 58 women.