More On The Obama Bow In Japan

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on November 16, 2009

I think that this correspondence between Jake Tapper and an academic friend of his with expertise concerning Japan is the best take on the protocol concerning the President’s deep bow to Emperor Akihito:


“This picture shows two things,” my friend writes.

“1) The ‘right’ is wrong about Obama’s bow.

“2) The ‘left’ is wrong about Obama’s bow.

“His bow is neither (1) unprecedented nor (2) a sign of cultural understanding.

“At their 1971 meeting in Alaska, the first visit of a Japanese Emperor to America, President Nixon bowed and referred to Emperor Hirohito and his wife repeatedly as ‘Your Imperial Majesties.’”

And here is the picture:


Tapper’s friend continues:

“Yet, (and?) Nixon gets the bow right. Slight arch from the waist hands at his side.

“Obama’s handshake/forward lurch was so jarring and inappropriate it recalls Bush’s back-rub of Merkel.

In addition to all of this, we learn from Tapper’s friend that the Obama bow was exectuted with “the form of a first year English teacher trying to impress with Karate Kid-level knowledge of Japanese customs,” and that the bow “did not just display weakness in Red State terms, but evoked weakness in Japanese terms…”

We see from the video, in fact, that the President got the form all wrong:

So, to the extent that any of this new information contradicts the information found in my initial post, I think that the information provided by Tapper’s friend ought to govern our reaction. The President might have been able to pull off an appropriate bow. But he didn’t.

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