In Japan, accessories are a big part of fashion for both women and men. Some stores even try to take the guesswork out of choosing what to pair with what by offering a shirt and necklace as a set.
But while that’s handy for guys who don’t have an eye for putting together an entire outfit from scratch, this pre-set bundle that’s got people in Japan talking seems to have gotten so wrapped up in trying to look cool that it forgot about simple things like world history or cultural sensitivity, as one Japaese clothing chain is selling a combo of a tank top and a necklace with a Nazi swastika on it.
The 980-yen (US$8) set started getting attention when a Japanese Twitter user spotted it at discount clothing store Shimamura and tweeted a photo of the necklace. We decided to see the item for ourselves, and so we headed out to the closest Shimamura branch. Sure enough, this is what we found.
Normally, we’d be rolling our eyes at the sparkly text announcing “Fought with the Courage of Despair” on this extremely flashy and charai Master Out Sider-brand tank top. But even all that silver glitter can’t distract us from this.
Well, that’s not something you see every day, unless you accidentally set your time machine for 1943 when you picked it up at the factory in Berlin. What makes this especially surprising is that Shimamura isn’t an “edgy” clothing shop that caters to wannabe rebels and outlaws. Most of its stores are located in the suburbs, and its clientele consists primarily of thrifty students and families. Even by Japanese standards, the chain has a low-key, clean-cut image, so it’s especially shocking to find Nazi insignias for sale there.
Our Japanese coworkers asked the English-speaking RocketNews24 staff for our take on this, and as you might expect from our hiring policy that favors people who list their hobbies as “language” or “travel” in their cover letters over those who write “Nazism,” we were more than a little taken aback.
Now granted, swastikas also show up in Buddhist imagery quite often. In Japan, they’re called manji, and ithey’re even used as symbols on maps to mark the location of temples.
There are a couple of things that set this necklace apart, though. For starters, the segments of Japanese manji bend to the left, while the ones on this necklace turn right, just like the Nazi swastika. The necklace’s swastika is also rotated 45 degrees so that the tips form a diamond, just like the Nazi version, instead of a square, as the Japanese manji does.
Oh, and there’s also the fact that the swastika is attached to an iron cross, another symbol Nazi Germany thought was pretty spiffy.
Again, we have to emphasize how weird it is that this necklace is being sold at Shimamura, which is by no means a hotbed of offensive philosophies or gathering place for those who spout them. This seems to be a case of the designer and/or Shimamura’s corporate buyers not seeing the forest for the trees and focusing only on the accessory’s aesthetics, possibly while willfully ignoring the historical context (for a similar phenomenon, try to count how many anime costumes and cosplay outfits take obvious styling cues from the snappy uniforms Hugo Boss created for the Nazis).
Oddly enough, turning the necklace over revealed that on the reverse side, the segments of the swastika turn left, like a Japanese manji.
The way the necklace is threaded through the tank top’s tag, though, clearly tells us the necklace is meant to be displayed, and worn, with the segments twisting right.
Granted, once someone’s bought the set and separated the necklace from the tag, wearing it with the left-twisting manji facing outwards is easy enough to do, but that doesn’t solve the problem of the 45-degree tilt or iron cross. In this case, we’d recommend passing on the set altogether. Not only is it just about impossible to pick a less attractive necklace than “Nazi swastika,” that tank top is really kind of garish.
[ Read in Japanese ]