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Bowing is an important outward sign of contrition by Japanese company executives caught up in a scandal. But how sincere do you think the act of bowing is, as an apology?

39 Comments

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Not sincere (since most only do it AFTER being caught), but merely a cultural requirement.

12 ( +14 / -2 )

Asking sincerity from a society of "image is everything" is like asking cats not to be jerks.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Depends if the bow comes after a contracted promise to pay restitution.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

I don't think I have ever seen an American, European or Australian CEO bow at a news conference after a scandal. It wouldn't look sincere. With Japanese, on the other hand, whether or not the bowing as an act of apology is sincere is secondary. It's the appearance of contrition that is paramount.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

No more or less sincere than saying 'I'm sorry'. But of course there are many different types of bows.

https://youtu.be/vdlNZJ_TFXU

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It's difficult enough to know if a Japanese executive is sincere when he speaks his apology. Can anyone really look at a bow and evaluate sincerity?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Means literally nothing.

C.R.E.A.M = Cash rules everything around me! Want to say your sorry? Open thy big fat pocketbook and pay out.

That's how Japanese apologize. The loss of money is the only pain they know.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Sincerety in seconds perhaps then forgotten..that's how I'd Iike to put it this time.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It is just another performance, like most everything.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

It's not an apology because it almost always lacks sincerity. It's just a "Yes, such and such has happened. It's unfortunate. We hope it doesn't happen again."

2 ( +4 / -2 )

The bow is fine as long as it isn't used to mitigate hard jail time in light of a scandal...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It is exactly as sincere as any other gesture of apology when divorced from meaningful action to ensure the offense is not repeated and those who have been wronged have had redress.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

It must be sincere because they are willing to bend down and show everyone their bald spot.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

It's the appearance of contrition that is paramount. so as long as it appears to be sincere then all is fine!? bit like opening a present and finding its just an empty box. Japan Inc is a bit like Kabuki, a lot of show but not much substance.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

not much.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I for one would think the bowing apology, if accompanied by a belly slit from left to right, down and across, would come across as being more sincere than what goes for an apology on TV today.

What difference does an apology mean when the companies or whomever goes back to business as usual?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

After my wife's sister's funeral, as part of the family, we had to bow to 438 visitors paying respects, twice!

Um, let's just say that there is a seriousness threshold.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Not sincere (since most only do it AFTER being caught), but merely a cultural requirement.

Spot on. It has simply become a form of corporate kabuki -- pure theatre for the benefit of the press. Of course hoping they bowed deeply enough, and mumbled "we apologize for the inconvenience", well enough to save their jobs.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Bowing in this kind of scandal..........I don't see much if any sincerity 99% of the time.

Its simply a ritual, theatre if you will, smoke & mirrors, tatemae, etc etc quickly forgotten

And as correctly pointed out by a few above, if there is no penalty( a REAL penalty) then the bows are typically worthless & its RIGHT back to J-inc as usual

2 ( +3 / -1 )

as long as the person fix the mistake and didn't do it again, then it's sincerely. However, I really hate to see men bowing for apologize.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

all it means is "I GOT CAUGHT AND I AM SORRY FOR THAT"

2 ( +3 / -1 )

It is virtually impossible to judge the act of bowing itself as sincere in isolation from what other things the person does. If someone rips people of and they apologize and bow and then repays them then we can say okay he was sincere. If he bows and then does nothing, then he is being insincere.

In the west it is said actions speak louder than words. I would suggest the same may go for bows.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

William Shakespeare said "all the world's a stage and the men and women merely players". Playing at apology, that is what I see.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think it is deeply humiliating to them, and will negatively affect their social status and life in general. If Joe Blow does something wrong a few people may know of him and what he did, but if a famous businessman or politician does something wrong and is found out, he will be humiliated everywhere he goes.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

In Japan the deep bowing of executives after a corporate fiasco in effect ticks a box that indicates the company is sorry about what happened. It may seem a little strange to Westerners, but it gets across a message. The failure of Sarah Casanova, CEO of McDonalds Japan to bow after that company's food scandal was widely noticed among the Japanese population, with two interpretations: either she's not really sorry, or it's basically a Western company and Ms. Casanova cannot fully meet Japanese needs. Although it is diffcult to prove, the ensuing drop in sales was, I believe, made worse by her failure to atone in this way.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

In any official 'apology' it's at least partially insincere. I believe a lot of personal, non-public apologies made without request or demand, however, are sincere. No one can seriously say these execs or Toshiba is sorry about ANYthing aside from being caught, given the systematic lying and cover-ups, the apologies coming only after getting caught, and there still being no proper system put into place to protect whistle-blowers. And needless to say ZERO punishment for the execs or anyone else.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

In Japan the deep bowing of executives after a corporate fiasco in effect ticks a box that indicates the company is sorry about what happened. It may seem a little strange to Westerners, but it gets across a message.

Bowing is more about self-humiliation than apology. They are sorry that they got caught and the wrongful behaviour would have carried on had the scandal not been revealed. .

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Generally when you do something illegal you go to jail or are heavily fined. But like most corporations all over the world they get off because of favours from government. The Japanese version of contrition a la bowing without consequence only ends up publically legitimizing criminal behaviour. Start tossing these oyajis in jail and they can bow as much as they want

0 ( +1 / -1 )

For most Westerners, bowing does not have that emotional impact that it does for Japanese people. An equivalent many/most of us could understand is the middle finger. It can cause rage amongst westerners to have 'the bird' flipped at them. But it's just a gesture, and if you do it to a Japanese person, while they may understand it, it will not hit that emotional trigger for them, as they have not grown up with it. On that same note, it's much easier for them to flip someone off, as again they don't have a lifetime of growing up with its meaning. For Japanese people, a deep bow usually does indicate some contrition, unless they are faking it, but even then they will have the emotional weight of faking it. And for most Japanese people, seeing it will also have weight to it, because it has meaning to them as something that's done when giving a proper apology, both having done it, and seeing it done. To those of us who didn't grow up with it, it may seem like it's just an easy way out, but it has a lot more emotional weight for Japanese people than it does for us.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

In feudal times, the Samurai ( I don't believe in these fables anyways) would normally slit his stomach. They believed that the heart was in the stomach, and by slitting it open one would see if it was dark - guilty or clean - not guilty. May be they should revert to that?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Even the word sorry can be sarcastically said.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Bowing is inherently sincere because you are showing the top of your head in deference to someone.

But of course it can be done without any sincerity too.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

They're sorry they got caught.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The act itself is absolutely sincere - the real question is: is the person doing it sincere about his/her performance of the act, contrition, reason for doing it? For the most part, given Japanese culture and mindset, when a Japanese person makes the observance, it is likely quite sincere.

Noting that sincerity itself is an all too commonly hyped-up and misunderstood thing: sincerity does not equal truth or honesty or integrity, it is simply emotional commitment to, and personal investment in a position - which can be completely momentary, and passing. People can be thoroughly sincere about one thing one moment, and just as sincere about another thing the next.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Bowing after a scandal carries as much weight as saying "what happened was most regrettable."

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I never really understood this bowing thing. But after reading into Strangerland's 2 cents, i have a bettr understanding of the emotional impact.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I think that bowing is fine, if the apology is sincere, it comes with restitution, and the perp is sorry the deed was done and not that s/he was caught.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

After my wife's sister's funeral, as part of the family, we had to bow to 438 visitors paying respects, twice!

Dude , I did it with both my father-in-law and mother-in-law in the space of 15 months, and double those numbers plus another few hundred, and the "meaning" gets lost in translation.

All the folks here making comments about this or that have never been through what you or I have experienced, and the bow becomes nothing more than a physical action that really loses meaning after the first 50 or 100 times.

I think it is deeply humiliating to them, and will negatively affect their social status and life in general

No, you are reading WAY too much into the act, for these folks it's a show, if they really were sorry they would have resigned prior to having to go through the process.

They're sorry they got caught.

Plain and simple...YES! As with so many other facets of society, don't get caught, and folks will let things slide, get caught, bye-bye....

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Yukichi Fukuzawa, the founder of Keio Univ., actually banned bowing on the Keio campus while he was there because he got so tired of always bobbing his head up and down when strolling the campus and returning bows to just about everybody who happened to pass by him and would respectfully bow to him. He thought all of this bowing was ridiculous, so he declared no more bowing to anybody on the entire Keio campus.

As for bowing to express an apology, it depends on who's doing it and the sincerity behind the bow. Most of these corrupt company executives are probably more sorry about being caught, so the bow is little more than a empty gesture laced with shame.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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