(Screen grab/Twitter)
Nazi-themed night club

Osaka night spot was closed after three days as parent company apologized.

By Pesach Benson, United With Israel

Facing a storm of criticism, a Japanese Nazi-themed night club was shuttered on Tuesday as its parent company issued an apology.

Jewish activists and antisemitism watchdogs raised the alarm with Sunday’s opening of “Unfair,” a nightclub located in Osaka’s Minami shopping and entertainment district.

The Nazi theme was evident everywhere: Waiters and staff dressed in SS uniforms. Swastikas prominently appeared in Unfair’s logo, decor, red armbands and even on the labels of bottles of champagne and wine.

A promotional video featured swastikas and young Japanese women in SS. uniforms as viewers were told, “Get intoxicated with this new style host club!.” A tagline said, “Life is a bet.”

“Japanese women are supposed to be attracted to men dressed up as SS Nazi murderers?” tweeted the Simon Wiesenthal Center. “Vile desecration of the memory of six million Jews … Where is Japanese outrage?”

On Tuesday, Unfair was shuttered, its website down and its Twitter made private. The parent company, Host X Host, issued a statement “sincerely apologized for our lack of knowledge and awareness.”

“We caused discomfort for a lot of people. We will take your comments seriously and will work to make sure this sort of thing never happens again,” the statement said.

The nightclub’s ill-advised opening, coincidentally, fell on the same day Jerusalem named a city square after Chiune Sugihara. Sugihara, who served as Japanese vice-consul in Kovno, Lithuania, during World War II, saved more than 2,000 Jews from the Nazis by issuing travel documents counter to his government’s policies.

Brian Ashcroft of Kotaku, a gaming and entertainment news site, noted the similarity between the swastika and a similar-looking ancient Buddhist symbol, not that Unfair was off the hook.

“Besides ignorance, ambivalence to Nazi iconography could also be due to the counterclockwise swastika, or manji as it’s called in Japanese. It is traditionally used in Japan on maps to denote Buddhist temples, and has a deep, long history that has absolutely nothing to do with Nazis. Of course, that’s absolutely not the case when swastikas are on Nazi uniforms, in a Nazi-themed club,” Ashcroft said.

Japan was allied with Nazi Germany during World War II. After the war, the U.S. rooted out militarism with war crimes trials of Japanese military and political leaders and by democratizing the country.

But in recent years, Japan has had a number of embarrassing Nazi gaffes.

Shortly before the opening ceremony of the 2021 Olympics, Kentaro Kobayashi, who directed the show, was fired after a years-old video surfaced of him mocking the Holocaust. And in 2020, an Olympic promotional video included Nazi propaganda footage from the 1936 Berlin games.

In 2017, the Morishita Group, which owns a number of Japanese restaurants and nightclubs, used a Nazi theme for its annual staff party.

And in 2016, an female pop band called Keyakizaka46 made headlines when the women dressed in Nazi uniforms for a Halloween concert.