U.S. President Barack Obama bows while greeting Emperor Akihito during his state visit to Japan on Nov 14, 2009. Photo: REUTERS
politics

Obama, in memoir, recalls Japan's revolving-door leadership era, bowing to emperor

30 Comments

Former U.S. President Barack Obama, in a memoir released Tuesday, recalled his frustration with Japan's era of revolving-door prime ministers that coincided with his presidency and described one of his former counterparts Yukio Hatoyama as "awkward."

"A pleasant if awkward fellow, Hatoyama was Japan's fourth prime minister in less than three years and the second since I'd taken office -- a symptom of the sclerotic, aimless politics that had plagued Japan for much of the decade," Obama, who was president for eight years from 2009, said in the book titled "A Promised Land."

The book is the first of the planned two volumes of Obama's presidential memoirs. It was released two weeks after the presidential election in which Republican President Donald Trump was defeated by Democrat Joe Biden, who had been Obama's vice president.

Hatoyama became prime minister from the now-defunct Democratic Party of Japan when it swept to power in 2009, ending more than half a century of nearly uninterrupted rule by the Liberal Democratic Party.

But he stepped down in less than nine months and the DPJ eventually lost its hold on power as the LDP's Shinzo Abe returned as premier in December 2012 and served through September 2020.

Sometimes dubbed "the alien" for his departures from convention, including rapid policy reversals, Hatoyama, 73, is said to have aroused mistrust in the United States over his botched handling of a bilaterally agreed plan to relocate a key U.S. Marine base within Okinawa prefecture.

After telling Obama to "trust me" over the plan, which has faced local opposition, Hatoyama at one point pursued a different approach that defied the Japan-U.S. agreement.

Obama, 59, also recounted in the book his meeting with then Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko during his first visit to Japan after assuming the presidency, in which he stirred controversy in the United States for having bowed too low.

"Later, I learned that my simple bow to my elderly Japanese hosts had sent conservative commentators into a fit back home," he said.

"Hearing all this, I pictured the emperor entombed in his ceremonial duties and the empress, with her finely worn, graying beauty and smile brushed with melancholy, and I wondered when exactly such a sizable portion of the American Right had become so frightened and insecure that they'd completely lost their minds," he added.

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I wondered when exactly such a sizable portion of the American Right

Why is "American Right" capitalized - is it a proper noun now?

-16 ( +5 / -21 )

Why is "American Right" capitalized - is it a proper noun now?

Yes, it's called Identity Politics. The same reason Black or White are now capitalized.

3 ( +12 / -9 )

That was a very classy move by Obama. Japnese generally don't shat shake hands, and Americans seldom bow. Doing both simultaneously represents mutual understanding of the two cultures. (The Emperor must have been surprised at having to touch another person's hand.)

12 ( +17 / -5 )

After rockstars reach their peak, they go to rehab. USA politicians after they reach their peak, they write books and do $100000 speaking diners.

-3 ( +12 / -15 )

I think him bowing is just adequate.

6 ( +10 / -4 )

After rockstars reach their peak, they go to rehab. USA politicians after they reach their peak, they write books and do $100000 speaking diners.

Jimmy Carter was one who did a lot of good after leaving his largely unsuccessful stint as president. He probably made money on his books but that’s okay in my eyes.

16 ( +18 / -2 )

a symptom of the sclerotic, aimless politics that had plagued Japan for much of the decade

Japan will not be happy to hear this. I think he should have bowed even lower.

-14 ( +0 / -14 )

"Hearing all this, I pictured the emperor entombed in his ceremonial duties and the empress, with her finely worn, graying beauty and smile brushed with melancholy, and I wondered when exactly such a sizable portion of the American Right had become so frightened and insecure that they'd completely lost their minds," he added.

In Trump supporters ‘ dialect: they got their panties all bunched up and were all worked up over nothin.

5 ( +10 / -5 )

I remember that. The Right got more upset at the bow than they did when Obama wore a tan suit or asked for Dijon mustard for his burger.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

Obama a real class act. Born in Hawaii where respect for the elderly is normal. Bowing has always been part of my behavior in Japan while visiting the "land of the rising sun" for almost 45 years. The Emperor seemed pleased to met another gentle person. A curtsy to HRM the Queen has always seemed correct why not a bow?

10 ( +15 / -5 )

RecklessToday  05:46 pm JST

a symptom of the sclerotic, aimless politics that had plagued Japan for much of the decade

Japan will not be happy to hear this. I think he should have bowed even lower.

well, it’s the truth. Japan was changing leadership faster than seasonal fashion and to be honest, why make a deal when there’s a regime change before you put away the Christmas tree? And other one by the time you break out the New Years kadomatsu?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Obama's greeting to Japan's emperor was an act of respect. Trump's greeting to Saudi Arabia's king was an act of kowtowing. If you doubt this interpretation, think about how much power these respective monarchs have in their countries. And how much these respective American presidents have to gain personally.

Obama. A great president, an honorable human being, and a continuing inspiration to billions of people.

Trump . . .

1 ( +10 / -9 )

Granted, it does look strange when a tall guy like President Obama bows that much, but at the end of the day, it's called respect and manners. I remember when Princess Diana curtsied to the emperor. She went right down until her knees nearly touched the ground. Of course, the Japanese egos were stroked. When you're that tall, you don't go that low.

And to all the repubs who criticized Obama. Where was the outrage when the man-child saluted a North Korean general????!!!!!!!!!!! And that's your president???!!!!!

8 ( +12 / -4 )

This will probably be the only thing anyone in Japan knows (or cares about) from Obama's memoir. Unless he includes more about Japan in there.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Obama, at any level better than that orange cry baby.

0 ( +10 / -10 )

Obama was not that great , or are you one eyed?

He is the reason why the U.S. is so divided, he is the reason why Trump came about. 

Foolish policies from a bad leader.

He created the hate.

I definitely couldn’t agree more.

-9 ( +6 / -15 )

Obama was the ripened fruit that fell from Amerika's tree of racism and anti-left paranoia, thus unable to rise intellectually above the rigid constraints of home-baked right-wing conservative thought that permeates all institutions and the media in the "Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave". As Potus, he was hobbled by fiercely entrenched interests and accomplished little apart from the watered-down sop of Obamacare and bagging a ludicrous Nobel, but the fruit of another particularly rancid growth dropped with a thud so it was hardly his fault when subsequently the Mango Monster emerged out of the fetid swamp of money politics to torment the country for four years. Some of this may be read between the lines of Obama's comments in a recent interview:

“… You mentioned earlier that I’m in some ways a never-Trump conservative. That’s not quite right, but what is true is that temperamentally I am sympathetic to a certain strain of conservatism in the sense that I’m not just a materialist. I’m not an economic determinist. I think it’s important, but I think there are things other than stuff and money and income – the religious critique of modern society, that we’ve lost that sense of community.” 

Translated, Obama wants us to know that he is no marxist materialist and, unlike Bernie and AOC, is just quite content to not rock the boat of capitalism and continue accumulating wealth and upholding the shaky status quo while lamenting that the country has polarized into two camps (of the disenfranchised and disaffected).

Like most politicians Obama has probably only similar platitudes to offer us in his latest ka-ching bestseller so I'll save my money. Ars longa, vita breve, innit?

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Unlike Trump, Obama and Bush have been bombing a lot of brown people in the Middle East. Bush waged an expensive human wars, while Obama waged an inexpensive drone war that proliferate in rate of bombings more than Bush era. Obama didn't do anything to stop the caging of illegal migrants in the Southern borders, and the media put all the blames on Trump. I don't like Trump but Obama and Bush aren't saints, either. At least, Trump didn't start any hot war or wage any expensive loss of American lives in his first term.

In case of Japan, Mr "Warm-Hand" (Russian nickname for Obama to point out his hypocrisy) also played a role of permanently bankrupting Yakuzas through his sanctions. Because of his action, Japan has lost the only source of economic independence from the US hegemony. Japan Inc absolutely needs the Yakuzas to make and launder any profits. Yakuza is what Japan can use to extend the shadowy influence worldwide, and now it is completely gone. Chinese, Russian, Indian, Vietnam, Turkey filled the void in Asia. Normal people will cheer for the death of Yakuzas, while Japanese elites cry quietly.

Obama, at any level better than that orange cry baby.

Kids in Afghanistan and Middle East do not agree with you.

Obama's greeting to Japan's emperor was an act of respect. Trump's greeting to Saudi Arabia's king was an act of kowtowing. If you doubt this interpretation, think about how much power these respective monarchs have in their countries. And how much these respective American presidents have to gain personally.

Well, Saudi Arabian royals are one of the world's wealthiest families to ever exist. If you believe in the Rothschilds conspiracy crap, then Saudi royals are way above the Rothschilds (real one). Arabs pretty much dominated the European banking and financial systems through their buying spree in the 1980s. China has been admiring the elite capture and buying spree strategies from Saudi Arabia. It was Saudi Arabia that inspired the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative. Additionally, Saudis are very important for the security of Middle East; primarily, keeping the USD Petrodollar regime alive. The Saudis used big money to buy almost all Western politicians since the 1970s. Nowadays, you have people in Washington DC bend their knees to either Zionists and Arabs.

After a very long anecdote, I simply want to say that Japanese Emperor or any Japanese elite isn't on the level of Saudis. Your comparison is inapplicable and far-fetched. Japan has no leverage over the US, while Saudi Arabia has tons of leverages over the US.

4 ( +12 / -8 )

Lol.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Obama was not that great , or are you one eyed?

He is the reason why the U.S. is so divided, he is the reason why Trump came about. 

Foolish policies from a bad leader.

He created the hate.

I definitely couldn’t agree more.

Ok guys, keep going..

https://tenor.com/view/berrinche-tantrum-kid-when-you-didnt-get-what-you-want-gif-5017964

1 ( +3 / -2 )

....he stirred controversy in the United States for having bowed too low.

"Later, I learned that my simple bow to my elderly Japanese hosts had sent conservative commentators into a fit back home," he said.

Mr. Obama still does not understand!?! When he bowed to Japan’s emperor, he bowed as a representative of the American people which means EVERY American bowed to a foreign leader.

Mr. Obama embarrassed the entire nation and he still cannot be man enough to apologize!?!

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Obama was the best American president in modern history.

No, if anyone should be deserving of the title it should be without a doubt be Lincoln.

Mr. Obama still does not understand!?! When he bowed to Japan’s emperor, he bowed as a representative of the American people which means EVERY American bowed to a foreign leader. 

Mr. Obama embarrassed the entire nation and he still cannot be man enough to apologize!?!

Bingo!

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Obama was the best American president in modern history.

No, if anyone should be deserving of the title it should be without a doubt be Lincoln.

Yeah, that Lincoln was definitely modern history, right Bass? His FaceBook presence was amazing, and the man could Tweet like a dream.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Mr. Obama still does not understand!?! When he bowed to Japan’s emperor, he bowed as a representative of the American people which means EVERY American bowed to a foreign leader.

Mr. Obama embarrassed the entire nation and he still cannot be man enough to apologize!?!

And this is one reason why the American empire is falling - Obama DARED pay respect using the local customs, and his people are ANGRY that he was respectful.

How DARE he not invade sovereign nations like Iraa that hadn't attacked America, or abandon his nation's long-term allies to be murdered like Trump did. How DARE he be respectful? That's goddamn un-American as any deplorable will quickly tell you.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Yeah, that Lincoln was definitely modern history, right Bass?

Yes, considering what he did, what he was faced with, no one to this day was more deserving of the title l.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Who cares? At least Obama has a brain. He bowed as a sign of respect. Period. Why does it have to be politicized? And Obama isn’t that tall, it’s just everyone in the Japanese royal family is abnormally short (but I won’t get into the reasons why).

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Interesting how Obama seems to characterize the American Right with the same disdain that he describes the Japanese Left. I guess nationalism and racism in other countries is palatable to establishment liberals as long as they don't result in "aimless" and "sclerotic" departure from US policy objectives.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Interesting how Obama seems to characterize the American Right with the same disdain that he describes the Japanese Left.

Where does he describe the Japanese left with disdain?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The Revolving Door Leadership is back and Mr.Suga wont sit in his place very long! He is just Abe's puppet!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Mr. Obama still does not understand!?! When he bowed to Japan’s emperor, he bowed as a representative of the American people which means EVERY American bowed to a foreign leader. 

Mr. Obama embarrassed the entire nation and he still cannot be man enough to apologize!?!

So when trump barged in front of Queen Elizabeth II he embarrassed every American.

When the UN all laughed openly at trumps speech they were laughing at every American?

How far do you want to pursue this ‘logic’?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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