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Blaze Reaper said on February 3rd, 2010 at 10:08 am :

The bow in all cultures is a mager sign of respect.In japan it’s one of the most important ways to so respect.Im a white american and if I was president i would bow to all foreign diplomats that i meet.Out of respect.So give him a break. At least he respects other cultures.All because most of us forgot the importance of a bow here in america.Doesn’t mean we all did.I give you probs obama. And keep doing the bow to the government leaders oyu meet.Good job.

Nov 16, 2009 | Supporting Obama’s Bow

Sure sure, no one has asked for my opinion, but my blog is a good forum for it, and I hope you’ll read. The media is afire as of late about Obama’s deep bow to the emperor Akihito and emperess Michiko when he arrived at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo last Saturday.

Some reactions:

“… a shocking display of fealty to a foreign potentate … an extraordinary protocol violation.” — Washington Post
“… it’s not appropriate for an American president to bow to a foreign one.” — conservative pundit William Kristol
“We don’t defer to emperors. We don’t defer to kings or emperors.” — Bill Bennett, on CNN’s State of the Union program
“The last thing the Japanese want or need is a weak looking American president and, again, in all ways, he unintentionally played that part.” — ABC Senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper

Obama takes a deep bow
If I can interpret the photo, there’s amusement on the faces of the Emperor and Empress, because Obama may be the first person to greet the royal couple by combining a hand shake with a deep bow, which is no small feat. Good thing Obama is tall.

As a Japanese national living in the United States, I’m disappointed in the inflammatory reaction to a show of respect. Given the fact that the Emperor and Empress have met countless diplomats and state officials in the past, they are surely used to being greeted with a handshake. The deep bow is a show of respect to a timeless tradition that is ingrained in Japanese history, and the fact that so few diplomats have done it indicates Obama is one of the few to recognize its importance. It’s the right thing to do, and saying that it belittles the United States demonstrates how wrong the American approach to diplomacy has been. The United States is not the country to which everyone else must show deference, and it’s a good thing Obama knows that.


Michelle Obama gave Queen Elizabeth a hug earlier this year, which sparked some mild controversy about protocol.


Dick Cheney meets the Emperor in February 2007. Most diplomats have met the Emperor this way.

The Japanese press is making it pretty much a non-issue, though Yomiuri reported on how Fox News and the LA Times were criticizing the bow. The consensus in Japan seems to be along the lines of “礼儀正しい” (reigi tadashii, polite and appropriate).


Local peformers bow to greet Emperor Akihito, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, Prince Consort Henrik of Denmark and Empress Michiko after peforming local dance at Gunma prefectural office, November 2004.


Empress Michiko (L) bows to Tokue Murakami, head nurse of the Imperial Household Agency Hospital, as Emperor Akihito walks into the hospital to see their grandchild for the first time December, 2001

In what can almost be mistaken as the same photograph, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (middle), his successor Yasuo Fukuda (bottom) and Fukuda’s successor Taro Aso (top) bow towards the Emperor and Empress during a memorial service for the war dead of World War II at Nippon Budokan. The top photograph was taken in August 2009, the bottom in 2008, the middle one in 2007.

It is only be being respectful can you expect to be respected by others. Obama’s off to a good start, in my opinion, and Prime Minister Hatoyama’s comments that Obama, “compared to the previous administration, has changed 180 degrees” is well deserved.

This entry was posted on Monday, November 16th, 2009 at 8:56 pm, EST under the category of Life, Oh Life. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.