Sony Music apologises over Japanese band's 'Nazi uniforms'

Sony Music Japan has apologised after a girl band came under fire for performing in outfits resembling Nazi-era German military uniforms.

Members of Japanese group Keyakizaka46 appeared on stage during a Halloween concert in black knee-length dresses resembling military overcoats, black capes and hats with a Nazi-like eagle emblem.

The uniforms sparked controversy and were described as "deeply offensive" by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, a Jewish human rights organisation. 

Sony Music Japan, the band's record label, said: "We express our heartfelt apology for causing offence … because of our lack of understanding.

"We take the incident seriously and will make efforts to prevent a reoccurrence of a similar incident in the future."

Sony Music Japan spokesman Yasuyuki Oshio said there had been no intention to link the performance to Nazism.

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre's associate dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper had called on Yasushi Akimoto, Keyakizaka46's producer, to apologise for the "inappropriate and deeply offensive presentation".

Rabbi Cooper said: "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."

He added: "Even if there was no harm intended by the group, that performance cheapens the memory of victims of the Nazis and sends the wrong message to young people in Germany and other countries where neo-Nazi sentiment is on the rise. 

"We expect better from an international brand like Sony which has caused embarrassment to Japan."

In 2011, the Wiesenthal Centre expressed "shock and dismay" over a TV appearance in which Japanese rock band Kishidan wore Nazi-style uniforms.

Sony Music Artists, which managed the band, said the clothing "was not meant to carry any ideological meaning whatsoever".