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Japanese Business Culture Blog

A blog about communications between Japan and other cultures, particularly in business.

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President Obama's bow to the emperor
Misako Onoda
Nov 20, 2009 01:05 PM
In Japan, we say "when America sneezes, Japan catches a cold".

The bow of president Obama was not discussed much in japan at first, but the newspapers reported that "It seems like President Obama is apologizing for something" in America.

The picture shows President Obama bowing while shaking hands. As a Japanese who did not experience WW2, I warmly welcomed the picture.
Surely it looks a bit odd since President Obama made the profound bow mandated by Japanese etiquette while meeting an emperor, while shaking hand which is western style.
It may not make him look like a ”Great Man", but it makes him look like a nice person.

Why do you have to make yourself "look better" or "look great"?
The previous President who flaunted his power seemed rather comical in Japanese eyes.

When I was living in Europe or in NY people sometimes greeted me with words such as "Oh Ninja!" or "Samurai!" while gesturing a Karate move.
I have also experienced some people greeting me Thai style with hands clasped in prayer, even though I am not Thai.

These may not be a well-mannered or adequate etiquette, but I like these communication styles, as they are sincere attempts at connection.

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