It is now becoming a trend for some Japanese pop stars to wear Nazi costumes. The most recent J-pop idols to don Nazi wardrobe were Keyakizaka46, who uploaded photos of themselves on social media wearing Nazi costumes for Halloween.
— いちごoじゃむo (@xoxo_me_chuchu) October 23, 2016
Wearing Nazi-inspired outfits is nothing new for Japanese pop stars. Back in 2003, Nazi-inspired imagery was also featured in various early releases from Japanese band The 18.104.22.168’s. Kishidan, another Japanese pop group, once wore Nazi outfits on MTV, while Koki Tanaka, a member of KAT-TUN, wore full Nazi gear in the video for his solo single, “Black And White.”
In Japan, the rising popularity of Nazi cosplay may also have been inspired by a growing number of manga and anime based on Nazi themes. “URDA: The Third Reich,” is one such anime, which is about a group of time-traveling Nazis who try to change the result of World War II. Another anime, titled “Kekko Kamen“, features a naked superhero who fights a bondage-themed Nazi dominatrix villain.
In “Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade“, Japan is put under control of German forces at the end of WWII, while in the manga “Hellsing,” a group of Nazis relocates to Brazil and become vampires after the war.
It is also important to note that the phenomenon of “Nazi chic,” which is the use of Nazi imagery, paraphernalia or fashion merely “for taboo-breaking or shock value,” is not unique in Japan. Many who wear Nazi costumes believe that wearing Nazi-clothes does not necessarily equate as an expression of sympathy with the ideology of Nazism.
In Asia, where many parts were generally isolated from Nazi cultural influences during the Nazi era, the fascination of such imagery is simply aesthetic. Nazi cosplayers usually do not know the historical implications of the uniforms they are wearing. While Japan did fight with the Nazis during World War II, the younger Japanese don’t seem to be as educated about the real-life horrors inflicted by the party at that time.
Casual wearing of SS uniforms has become popular in Hong Kong and Japan and people who wear Nazi costumes are a common sight in cosplay events. Referring to South Korea, Time magazine observed in 2000 “an unthinking fascination with the icons and imagery of the Third Reich.”
World War II is also often not taught in schools in the same context as it is in Western education. Under a different historical lens, Hitler and the Nazi Party may be viewed as charismatic and capable leaders of countries during the war era.
For those who are still curious why it isn’t a good idea to wear Nazi costumes, bear in mind the following facts:
The Nazis were responsible for creating 15,000 brutal, inhumane concentration camps where they subjected hundreds of thousands of prisoners to work for 12-14 hours with very little food. They also subjected people to sadistic human experiments.
The party also caused the death of over 11 million people in total, including 6 million Jews and an additional 5 million non-Jewish victims after Hitler ordered the death of the Romani (aka gypsies), mentally and physically handicapped citizens, POWs, and the Polish.