Sony Music Japan apologized Tuesday after a popular Japanese all-girls band came under fire for performing in outfits resembling Nazi-era German military uniforms.
The mostly teenage members of Keyakizaka46 appeared at an Oct. 22 concert in black knee-length dresses that look like military overcoats, and black capes and officer caps with a Nazi-like eagle emblem. Sony Music is the group's label.
"We express our heartfelt apology for causing offense ... because of our lack of understanding," Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) said in a statement posted on its website. "We take the incident seriously and will make efforts to prevent a recurrence of a similar incident in the future."
Sony Music spokesman Yasuyuki Oshio said there had been no intention to link the performance to Nazism.
The U.S.-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, a human rights group focused on anti-Semitism and hate speech, issued a statement Monday saying it was disgusted by the uniforms and calling on Sony Music and the group's producer to apologize.
"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," Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center, said in the statement.
It's not the first time that Sony has said it's sorry after a complaint from the Wiesenthal Center. In 2011, Sony Music Artists Inc. apologized for a rock band under its management that dressed up like Nazis on a national TV broadcast. The Wiesenthal Center had expressed "shock and dismay" at the appearance by the band, Kishidan, on MTV Networks Japan.
Much of Asia is less sensitive about the use of Nazi themes than the West. The Wiesenthal Center has also protested incidents in South Korea and Thailand.
Keyakizaka46, formed in August 2015 by producer Yasushi Akimoto, is a group on the rise, according to The Japan Times. Its first single, "Silent Majority," was No. 1 on Japanese charts after selling about 260,000 copies within a week of its April 6 release, the English-language newspaper reported.