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Japanese Singer Sports Hitler Moustache in New Year's Political Statement

Kuwata Keisuke as Hitler

Image courtesy NHK

A Japanese pop megastar caused consternation during a popular annual New Year's Eve broadcast on December 31 by wearing a fake Hitler moustache during his performance. 

Keisuke Kuwata is the founder and lead-singer of the Southern All Stars, one of the most beloved and iconic pop bands in 1980s Japan. After selling millions of records and going on hiatus between 2008 and 2013, the Southern All Stars, fronted by Kuwata, appeared via live satellite feed as part of the NHK Red and White Song Competition, known as the Kohaku. Watching the Kohaku has been a New Year's Eve tradition millions of Japanese people since its start on December 31,1949.

The appearance this year of the Southern All Stars was supposed to be a special treat. However, Kuwata's decision to surprise viewers by sporting a fake Hitler moustache at the start of the band's set quickly became one of the hottest trending topics in Japan's social media landscape.

Why was Keisuke Kuwata sporting a Hitler moustache? He hasn't said why, which has resulted in a lot of Internet speculation.

Many feel the key to the mystery of Hitler moustache (called a ちょび髭 or chobi hige in Japanese) is the fact Kuwata was sporting it as the Southern All Stars kicked off their hit single “Peace and Hi-Lite.”

According to remarks Kuwata made about the song as reported by the Japan Times in August 2013:

“I saw on the news that our neighbors were irritated. No matter how much dialogue we hold, it seems that the argument doesn’t change,” go the lyrics penned by the venerable band’s leader, Keisuke Kuwata.

The song also expresses what could be interpreted as criticism of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his revisionist views of history, warning that “people tend to forget the tragic past and their foolish act

The December 31, 2014 Kohaku broadcast came in the aftermath of a snap December election that saw the ruling bloc, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), re-elected with a 325-seat super-majority.

While the LDP itself actually lost several seats, there are fears that the ruling bloc's super-majority will allow Abe to change Japan's “peace constitution” — which denounces war and endorses pacifism — and even start a war.

And so Keisuke Kuwata sported a Hitler moustache as he sang an anti-war song during one of Japan's biggest and most treasured cultural events.

It seems that the Southern All Stars were criticizing [Japanese Prime Minister] Abe. So, was that funny little moustache supposed to symbolize Hitler?

LDP lawmaker Masaru Onodera remarked:

Just because you are a great artist does not mean you are more of a patriot than anyone else. And just because you happen to like what an artist does, does not mean you have to blindly accept whatever they say. RE: Kohaku Criticism of Abe Ignites Firestorm of Controversy.

One Twitter user posted a tongue-in-cheek interpretation of Kuwata's moustache:

I though Keisuke Kuwata's Hitler moustache was more of an homage to [popular comedian] Cha Kato's shtick. It has nothing to do with criticizing Abe. Although I simply cannot relate to any of the Southern All Stars’ political songs at all. And NHK: how could you broadcast someone impersonating Hitler???

  • philnolan3d

    That’s not a Hitler mustache it’s a toothbrush mustache, fairly common at the time. Charley Chaplin was known for his as well.

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  • Guest

    The author seems to be obsessed with (fixed on) Hitler. I’m asking myself whether brown shirts and white jackets could provoke another article, kind of: my neighbour Mr Smith sported a Hitler-style brown shirt. Where are you, Dr Freud?

    • Nevin Thompson

      Thanks for your comment. If it is *not* a Hitler mustache, then what was Kuwata’s intention? Kuwata has also been pretty critical of Abe (with Hitler references) over the past couple of years. So this seems like the best explanation.

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  • NA

    Maybe some day humans will stop being scared of dead people in history books. I’m not holding my breath. Learn the lessons and move on.