TOKYO (majirox news) – Combining tactlessness and naiveté, acting as though the horrors of the Nazi era had nothing to do with them, members of the Japanese rock group Kishidan wore Nazi-like uniforms during an interview on the primetime MTV Japan broadcast of Megavector on Feb. 21.
Simon Wiesenthal Center lodged a protest to MTV-J, Sony Music Artists and the Avex Group, saying, “There is no excuse for such an outrage.”
The Center, a leading global Jewish human rights NGO headquartered in Los Angeles with offices around the world, fights anti-Semitism, hate and terrorism and teaches the lessons of the Holocaust to young people.
Sony Music Artists Inc. immediately apologized for the band’s costumes.
“Although it was not meant to carry any ideological meaning whatsoever, we deeply regret and apologize for the distress it has caused Simon Wiesenthal Center and all concerned,” read the statement, which was signed by two executives of the subsidiary. The band’s footage and related images have since been erased from MTV’s Web site.
Kishidan released a public statement saying that its members deeply regret their actions and sincerely apologize to Simon Wiesenthal Center. They promised to never wear the uniforms again and claimed the uniforms would be destroyed immediately.
According to Cheryl Silverman, who is writing a history of the Jewish community in Tokyo, the Simon Wiesenthal Center has been following such things closely since around 1996 and making efforts to address any knowledge and understanding gaps.
“Still, there continue to be cases like this of appropriating the symbols/signs as ‘design,’ seemingly without cognizance of what is signified,” she said. “I do not know Kishidan’s music but suspect that they are not using Nazi garb in reference to a Nazi message. I also think that the general public in Japan is better informed about the history than this MTV incident shows.”
However, Kyoko Tsurumi, 32, a music fan and former employee of Westlaw Japan, which is a subsidiary of Reuters, said the Japanese were not attentive to the Nazi references during the interview of Kishidan, a J-Pop group.
She said the Japanese don’t get educated about the deep background of historic events. “Especially the upsetting events. We don’t get enough details in normal education.” She pointed out that because Japan has one main religion, not everyone in the country has an awareness of the sensitivity of those with different religious beliefs and the tragedy that conflicts over different beliefs may cause.
Tsurumi noted that the Simon Wiesenthal Center also sent a protest letter to Don Quijote in Japan, precipitating a decision by store managers to remove the Nazi costumes from its inventory in December 2010. There were pictures of Hitler on the packaging, as well as the phrase “Heil Hitler” in Japanese characters.
The Japanese have also felt the sting of another culture’s unwitting prejudice. The Japanese Embassy sent a protest letter to the BBC on Jan. 7 concerning a BBC popular quiz show, Q1, aired on Dec. 17. Officials called the show “inappropriate” and “insensitive.”
The show presented information about the “unluckiest man in the world,” an individual who survived the U.S. atomic bombings of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. Pictures of Tsutomu Yamaguchi, who died at the age of 93 last January, were superimposed on atomic clouds. The host got big laughs when he joked, ”Even though the atom bomb fell, the trains were working. So he got on a train to Nagasaki and a bomb fell again.”
Yamaguchi’s daughter, Toshiko Yamazaki, did not think it was funny. “I cannot forgive the atomic bomb experience being laughed at in Britain, which has nuclear weapons of its own,” she said. “I think this shows that the horror of the atomic bomb is not well enough understood in the world. I feel sad rather than angry.”
The BBC apologized and said, “it underestimated the potential sensitivity of this issue to Japanese viewers.”
This sort of thing is hardly unique to any one country. The theme continues to this day in America and Europe, too. The point is that something that is humorous to one party might not be funny to others, and although Kishidan was very insensitive, one can find many examples of this elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, noted that he has visited Japan over 30 times and is 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,” he said. “It would be appropriate for MTV-J to invite historians from the Simon Wiesenthal Center to present a seminar for all those involved in the regrettable decision-making process that led to the airing of this segment in the first place, especially since Kishidan has been reported to have previously worn their SS- style uniforms during live concerts.”