Popstar Anne-Marie has apologised for the “hurt” caused by her appearance on ITV’s Saturday Night Takeaway after presenters Ant and Dec wore headbands emblazoned with the Japanese Rising Sun flag during a martial arts performance.
The British artist, 28, criticised the choice of costumes afterwards, telling her 679,000 Twitter followers: “Unfortunately, education on this part of the history wasn’t done.”
The 2002 singer, who is also a karate expert, performed a song on the show alongside the presenting duo, who wore white tunics and bandanas featuring the image.
Japan’s Rising Sun flag, a red disc from which 16 red rays emanate on a white background, is seen by some as a symbol of Japan’s imperialist past.
It was incorporated during the 19th century by the Japanese army and was the flag of its navy during the Second World War, when the country was allied with Nazi Germany.
But the flag has been widely used as a national symbol in Japan for centuries and commonly appears on products, in adverts, and in popular culture in the East Asian island nation.
Anne-Marie posted on Twitter: “I sincerely apologize to all those who were affected and hurt by my appearance last night on a UK TV.
“I want you to know I had nothing to do with the costumes on this sketch.
“Unfortunately, education on this part of the history wasn’t done and I am also hurt by the pain this signifies for so many people.
“Our team is talking to the TV station, working on taking down the footage, so that it does not cause any more pain.”
An ITV spokesman said: “We apologise for any offence caused during the End of the Show Show by the costumes worn. This was clearly unintended and we have taken steps to re-edit that part of the episode for the Hub and for repeat broadcasts.”
South Korea, which was occupied by the Japanese between 1910 and 1945, is particularly critical of the flag, which it has called a symbol of Japanese “imperialism and militarism”.
In 2013, Japan’s foreign ministry released a statement on the issue, saying the design was “widely used throughout Japan, such as good catch flags used by fishermen, celebratory flags for childbirth and seasonal festivities, and flags of Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force vessels.”
It added: “Claims that the flag is an expression of political assertions or a symbol of militarism are absolutely false.”