Public broadcaster NHK apologized Wednesday over a cartoon drawing of Adolf Hitler’s face that was printed on a T-shirt worn by a talk show guest.
The black T-shirt worn by entrepreneur Takafumi Horie also carried a “NO WAR” message on one side and a peace symbol on the cartoon Hitler’s chest. Horie was a guest on NHK’s “Afternoon Live” daily talk show the same day.
The T-shirt prompted complaints from viewers.
During the program, the NHK announcer, who is also the show’s co-host, apologized. Responding to a tweet asking about the Hitler cartoon, Horie said it was meant to be an anti-war message.
Horie also said on Twitter that he was stunned by the impact of NHK.
“I have worn a shirt showing Hitler making a peace sign with the words ‘NO WAR’ a number of times, but this is the first time (my wearing this kind of shirt) went viral,” he said.
He added, “Whichever way you look at it, wishing for peace is the only message you can see from this T-shirt.”
It’s not the first time Hitler and Nazi themes have raised controversy in Japan. Much of Asia is less sensitive about Hitler and the use of Nazi themes than the West.
Last month, the Bank of Japan issued a rare apology following criticism over a board member’s remark that was interpreted as praise for Hitler’s economic policy.
Finance Minister Taro Aso in 2013 was forced to retract comments suggesting Japan should follow the Nazi example in how to change the country’s Constitution.
Last year, Keyakizaka46, an all-girl idol group, was criticized for wearing outfits resembling Nazi uniforms.
Horie himself — who has penned an autobiography with a Japanese title similar to that of a book written by Hitler — is not new to controversy.
He grabbed attention for his bold remarks about the country’s business old guard and bold moves such as an attempted hostile takeover battle in 2005 with Fuji Television Network Inc.
Horie, founder and former president of internet service provider Livedoor Co., was sentenced in 2007 to 2½ years in prison without suspension for involvement in accounting fraud and other securities law breaches. He was released in 2013 on parole after having served 21 months.
Livedoor was delisted from stock exchanges after the scandal and absorbed by the Japanese unit of South Korean internet portal company NHN Corp.
Horie’s investment portfolio includes Interstellar Technologies Inc., a space venture based in Hokkaido.
The startup which he founded said earlier this month it will launch a small rocket developed independently without government funding.