Voices
in
Japan

poll

Should President Barack Obama have bowed to the emperor while he was in Japan?

66 Comments
© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

66 Comments
Login to comment

I have no problem with Obama bowing to Asian leaders or Arab kings. And I think its funny that the Queen of England gets nuthin but an ipod preloaded with Obama speeches.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Lol Obama isnt at the smae level as the emperor. The Emperor is a King and Obama is a president. They are not the same..

0 ( +0 / -0 )

So if the Emperor doesn't shake your hand when he visits you in the states, will you complain?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I see Japan Today is milking the for all it's worth. One picture, one article, one poll.

Unfortunately you are asking the wrong question. The question is whether Obama bowed improperly. A slight bow would have been OK, I think, but the Obama's bow was too deep.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

yes he should have....and then do a pirouette a la Trudeau

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The criticism for President Barack Obama bowed to the emperor while he was in Japan is nothing but a sign of intolerance and arrogant. President Obama respected the culture of Japan and he respected the longest serving monarch. I think there is no wrong in it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The Emperor of Japan is a ceremonial position anyway, he has no power, and when the President meets with the Prime Minister of Japan (where the real power is at) he shakes his hand.

Obama was just showing respect to culture of Japan and tradition. Again it's not like it's the end of the world as some in the minority make it to be, nor is it like the US is bending end over on demands by Japan either. I guess the Right just forgets about substance of talks and nitpicks on every small item they can get their hands at.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

PS - I also would not support foreign leaders bowing to other monarchs ie QE2 - a hand-shake is fine (works well for QE2 so why not for old Akihito?)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I have no problem if the Japanese king also bowed to President Obama, at the same depth, but from the pic it seems he did not. (I havent watched video of it). Pres. Obama is the equal of the Japanese head of state, so should not appear to be deferring to him (and no I'm not Republican or even American!) At the very least, if the Japanese head of state refuses to bow deeply, he should be made to shake hands to indicate the equal status to the foreign head of state.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hasnt this issue been battered from pillar to post enough already without another meaningless poll ?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

President Obama sneezes, republican response,"This can not be, a President sneezing! How evil and low!"

President Obama brushes his hair, republican response,"This can not be, a President combing his hair, how evil and low!"

President Obama says,"Hi" to a reporter, republican response,"This can not be, a President talking, how evil and low!"

Republicans are so silly with their attempts. Only fools can not see through these childish ploys......

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

lol even equals in japan bow to eachother, the americas just dont understand the customs

0 ( +0 / -0 )

its just courtesy and i think americans dont know about that culture

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I look at this as Republicans trying to cause a stir. If he didn't bow, they would have complained about that too.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The actual bow was less then a second if you watch the video.

I REALLY DONT SEE THE BIG DEAL.

Bowing is tradition in Japan as handshakes are not. If the Emperor of Japan were visiting America then maybe I won't expect a bow, but it is traditional way of greeting in Japan.

If the President was visiting Mars and the Martians way of greeting was a high five, then I would expect the president to follow the customs and courteous of the host country.

Christ some back in the US especially the right make it sound like it's the end of the freaking world.

How about actual content that came out of the meetings? It's not like Japan is America's enemy. Get over it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

who cares? are we so lacking in personal esteem that we need to establish hierarchy thru a pecking order of who bows to whom? give me a break. if the bamessiah felt he needed to impress the little man then who am I to slam him for it? news please

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I agree that the bow was tooo deep considering. Aside from that he was right to bow.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I agree with him bowing ... but in the photo the combination bow/handshake looks quite awkward.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I am disgusted by this arrogant attitude we keep seeing that the US is more powerful than Japan. When it comes to financial power they are not. Military power yes, but then the reasoning would be that if I have a big stick you should bow so low, if I have a knife you should bow lower, if I have a gun you should bow even lower still. That kind of power is all that the US has today.

As for them being equals, no they are not, the emperor is there for life and has been there a long time, Obama is there for at most 8 years and then he is back to being a nobody, how does that rate as being equal?

The above is in answer to above posts, as for the question JT asked, yes of course Obama should have bowed, it is no more than a handshake would be in any western country. And how low? Well Obama is a tall man by comparison to the emperor so any bow he made would look low. I think what Obama did was show respect to an old man that has been the head of his country for a long time, that was a nice gesture and as much as I think Obama a waste of space I have to respect what he did here.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I for one am mightily offended by Obama bowing. If he were truly representing ALL of the U.S., he'd bow (for those who respect >the culture of other countries), then stand up and punch the >emperor in the face (for those who watch FOX News and think the >U.S. is beyond the need to respect those dirty foreigners). . . . .

Now now ... opinion is split even amongst the most ardent FOXnews viewers. A suprising number are reputed to require three whole digits to write their IQs :-)

Americans rapidly got used to the "King of the World" status they enjoyed right after WW-2. Alas, the national ego is bruised any time they are reminded that they no longer hold that status. Obama reminded them. China is going to remind them again in the future ... often ... so America had better get used to it.

All Obama attempted was a simple courtesy, perfectly appropriate for Japan. He didn't get it quite right - the fault of his protocol staff - but, as they say, his heart was in the right place. A slight bow does not signify inferiority, merely respect.

I suspect the difference in height was also involved, he had to bend down quite far before he was even at eye-level with the emperor. In any event, it seems the emperor took the gesture as it was intended ... hopefully concluding that Obama was not a totally arrogant western imperialist pig :-)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

George Bush bowed, kissed, and held hands with the Saudi King, you know where most of the 911 Al Qaeda terrorists came from. One thing has nothing to do with the other.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

He didn´t bow. He just saw a 500 yen coin on the floor and the Emperor helped him when he was straighting up. It´s all the photographer fault that it seems he is bowing.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

He shouldn't have. Only subjects bow to the monarchy. For those arguing that it's part of Japanese traditions, did Obama bow to Hatoyama and his men?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

oreoplastic, yes. i know it is a big story. among conservatives anyway. i was just quoting hansen as he was asking if it was big news. anything to attack the bama.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

An American president is an elected official chosen by the people, of the people, for the people. To represent them and the nation. If you would bow while meeting the Emperor of Japan while visiting Japan it should be no different for an American president. I don't believe all Americans would bow and of those who wouldn't not all would be disrespectful at heart. Is bowing eternally respectful? Probably not for some.

Either way, it doesn't hurt me that he bowed. I may have also. Would you have?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

We really should have more choices to the poll imo.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"As equals he should not have bowed"

Why not? There's absolutely nothing in Japanese etiquette which says he shouldn't...

I often bow to people of lower work status or seniority than myself and get bowed to by people more senior and much further up the ladder. So what? Obama showed appropriate respect, not subservience. Storm in a right-wing blogger's teacup, I reckon.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Err...a bow is normal courtesy in Japan, not always a matter of status. I'm sure Barack wasn't down on his knees or anything, just showing proper manners and cultural sensitivity.

What's to criticise - unless you are of the mindset that America still owns Japan, which is "kinda" ironic since it's actually the other way around!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Washington critics should shut up. Yes, I thought it was great that the President bowed but maybe a bit too low, considering he is of important status...nearly quivalent to the Emperor.

jinjapan , actually it is quite a story: http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20091116/pl_afp/japanusdiplomacyasiaobama

0 ( +0 / -0 )

At present 33 percent voted "no". I too raised an eyebrow when I saw the picture, but then I thought about it. The king (emperor? no!) is shaking Obama's hand. He is totally giving in to Obama's custom. Its only right that Obama give in to his in return. It seems to me that many of those who voted "no" arrogantly gave into the same initial reaction I had and did not think about it from there. That is the difference between them and me. And 33 percent is a large minority. Too large.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This is so stupid. Of COURSE he should have! Just like you bow to every other average Japanese person on the street!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I voted yes to the poll question of whether or not Obama should have bowed to the Emperor because a bow was indeed acceptable. However I do think that he bowed far too low. It should have been a token bow about as low as the Emperor is bowing in all of the photos. Had it been just that I doubt that anyone back in the US would have taken issuw with it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hansen at 12:29 AM JST - 17th November Is this really an issue? This is not even a story in the US press. actually, it is a big issue in the states. not really sure why though except the fact that americans are soooo arrogant they feel they shouldn't follow another countries protocol. we're the best in the world, so we don't have to bow. what a load of s _ ! it's the emperor. so, you bow. he didn't bow to the prime minister.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Is this really an issue? This is not even a story in the US press. My bet is some far right goon's blog may be making a ruckus about Obama bowing but no one else is. Seriously this is not a big deal at all.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This is the only website where anybody cares about this. No biggie.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

in japan, people bow to each other. plain & simple. although he bowed, he also threw in a handshake. very international. a greeting from both countries. i'm in your country so i'll bow, but i'll also throw in my countries greeting.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The Emperor seemed a little surprised by the bow, but His Majesty has become used to people botching protocol.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Oh my g-d I voted "No" by accident. Can my vote be disallowed?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Only the right wing and closeted types have an issue with it.As usual.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Not bowing would be a waste of all the years Barack spent rehearsing how he would apologize for our stupid exceptionalism.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

People of equal status do most definitely bow to each other here in Japan. But it should be pretty equal. I haven't seen this bow, so I don't know the whole story, but yes Obama should have bowed. Why not? It's like asking should the Emperor shake hands with Obama if he visits the US. Of course he should. It's called politeness, but it's not for me to suggest that the reason so many Americans are objecting is because they don't possess that quality. I'll leave that for people to judge for themselves.

(Note that I said 'so many', not all or most.)

Just as well there's no emperor of dogland for Obama to visit, isn't it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Mutual bows would have been fine. The question is misleading. One sided bow is a problem for a head of state. I stated my views before, and will just write it off as an awkward American. If there is any meaning of being subservient to the emperor in it, it may have been an impeachable offense. But give the man a break and let the Japanese have some fun. The bases stay though:-)peace.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Should President Barack Obama have bowed to the emperor while he was in Japan?

Yes, end of story!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

People of equal status don't bow to each other? Uh, yes they do. It may not be as formal as between people of differing social standing but here in Japan equals definitely bow when they greet each other.

And wake up people, the poll question is whether or not Obama should have bowed to the Emperor, not did he bow too low.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Honestly I think Obama did this on purpose, not a mistake, not accidently,but cool, well calculated move. This picture will give Japanese people something to remember forever in their minds whenever they imagine the picture of General McArthur and Emperor Hirohito in 1945. He shakes hands because he is American president and he bows because Akihito is Emperor! Both in one. Perfect.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

wtf is the problem? its a bow, bowing is a greeting! stop looking so deep into how low he bows and stuff, he's not japanese so he doesn't know exactly how low to bow just cut him some slack ... jesus

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Bowing in Japan is like shaking hands in America. So what's the problem?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Sure, why not?`First, it didn't make a bad impression. Second, the notion that it will undermine America's strength or image in the world is nonsense. Do you really think there are world leaders out there who are saying, "Gee, I was going to defer to America in our next diplomatic talks, but now that I see their president bowing, I guess we don't have to defer to them anymore." Yeah, good luck with that.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Something reminds me of the old proverb, that is, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do".

0 ( +0 / -0 )

the correct answer is no.

As head of US Republic Obama and the titular head of the japanese state, the emperor, are of equal status and hence bowing is not required.

If Obama did choose to use the local custom - then the emperor and he would bow to an equal level.

In protocol they are at the same level - in reality Obama is significantly more powerful.

Still bowing low is a nice gesture and one that surely was used to please the (ludicrously) far-right here. Unfortunately it will just enrage (the now unhinged) far-right in the US (can't wait for the next Hanity comedy..will he cry?)

My OWN OPINION is that he should not have bowed so low... it is kind of weird. He is the head of state for the world's only superpower and unofficial 'leader of the free world'. He shouldn't be scrapping to the disfucntional monarchy of nippon.

Perhaps he just doesn't bow very well... we foreigners don't generally do a good job of it...much like when the locals try their best to do a proper handshake... they just don't get it right? Much like our bowing...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Time and again Obama has done the wrong thing, where protocol is concerned, in England, in Italy, in France. These are relatively simple observances with rules that are well defined and not hard to remember, which an experienced team would know, or a deeply thinking team would find out. I'm not talking about making good will gestures; that's an entirely different matter. I'm talking about correct protocol.

There are rules to bowing, they're fairly simple and well known; why doesn't his protocol team know them? There are only a few possible reasons: arrogance, ignorance, stupidity, or agenda. Period.

You can still make exceptional good will gesture AND follow protocol at the same time. In fact, following correct protocol will likely generate MORE good will, because you're making the effort to acknowledge your host's cultural heritage.

By the way, he didn't visit Hiroshima or Nagasaki, did he? To answer a previous poll question...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

im not american but as far as i know the president doesnt bow to anyone, if he starts here where does it stop, does he bow to other heads of states to who he is equal. Its a sign of submissivness which certainly is not appropriate in this situation. But remember the emperor is nobody, he has no power he is just a guy born into a posistion. hes there to wheel out at ceromonies and to greet heads of states. Hes a government puppet. I certainly wouldnt want to see him bowing to the queen, so i hope hes never done that.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I believe both Obama and the Emperor are heads of state and therefore equals. Obama is also head of government while the emperor is not (that's Hatoyama). As equals he should not have bowed. His bow wasn't way too low; his back wasn't straight enough.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

No! This was not ok. Foreign leaders should be bowing to the President of the United States, the country that has blessed them with peace and stability.

Obama might get impeached for this in 2010 when real Americans take back the Congress.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

One thing is becoming clear, Obama's handlers (protocol team and media managers) are not very good - they might actually be classifiable as rather bad. So it would seem in a lot of areas, not just protocol, one of the major pre-election fears about him is proving true: Obama and many in his administration are naive, inexperienced, and kind of clueless. Xeno23

I disagree. The photo will get Democrat President Obama a lot of approving nods in Japan this weekend, especially among the older generation of Japanese who still pay attention to the royal family living in its Tokyo castle. Very low bows like this are a sign of great respect and deference to a superior. To some in the United States, however, an upright handshake might have looked better. How times change under Democratic presidents.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

One thing is becoming clear, Obama's handlers (protocol team and media managers) are not very good - they might actually be classifiable as rather bad. So it would seem in a lot of areas, not just protocol, one of the major pre-election fears about him is proving true: Obama and many in his administration are naive, inexperienced, and kind of clueless.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

a bowyes but not so low as to be such an unequal

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Has any world leader bowed so low to the sitting emperor of Japan? I think not. A simple bow would have been polite. A handshake to follow. But that was way over the top. Was it because he was canceling his lunch date and moving on to Singapore the new center of Asian Business?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Something that those of us who have assimilated into Japanese society may tend to forget is that non-Japanese outside of Japan see Japan through a veil of stereotypes which largely cast from samurai movies. The average non-Japanese not living in Japan stills have "honor society" and "alien culture" images of Japan. They are careful not do something that is "dishonorable" so a meeting with the Emperor will sure elicit a deep bow.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

they are legislative equals

The Emperor has no legislative power.

Obama did right to bow, it's only good manners, but maybe not as deeply as the photo showed him, and not at the same time as the handshake.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

No - they are legislative equals, though in fact Obama is much more powerful.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I agree with benhur - what a dumb question! It would have been perfectly OK if he'd simply shaken hands with him, on the other hand, I also agree with USNinJapan, it was perfectly OK for him to bow.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If you voted NO please tell us why? I for one can't think of a single good reason why Obama shouldn't have paid his respects in the manner that is locally accepted.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

sorry, but what a dumb question.. lol its up to him! its his way of showing respect and i like that. :-)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Please correct me if I am wrong...I believe that not bowing to the Emporer of Japan is about as bad as not bowing to the Queen of England or in the Obama's case touching the Queen.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

NO! The emperor should bow because Obama is from mainland and he is visiting this US island called Japan.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites