Photographers' Blog

The politics of bowing in Japan – How low do you go?

February 11, 2010

In Japan nothing says I’m sorry like a nice, deep bow, and lately there’s been a whole lot to be sorry for. Ideally the depth of the bow should match the level of regret, allowing observers to make judgements about how sincere the apology really is. Facing massive recalls Toyota President Akio Toyoda and Toyota Motor Corp’s managing director Yuji Yokoyama faced journalists at separate news conferences.

TOYOTA/

Toyota Motor Corp’s managing director Yuji Yokoyama (R) bows after submitting a document of a recall to an official of the Transport Ministry Ryuji Masuno (2nd R) at the Transport Ministry in Tokyo February 9, 2010. Toyota Motor Corp is recalling nearly half a million of its flagship Prius and other hybrid cars for braking problems, a third major recall since September and a further blow to the reputation of the world’s largest automaker. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

TOYOTA/

Toyota Motor Corp President Akio Toyoda bows at the start of a news conference in Nagoya, central Japan February 5, 2010. Toyota Motor Corp President Toyoda apologised on Friday for a massive global recall that has tarnished the reputation of the world’s largest car maker. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

TOYOTA/

Toyota Motor Corp President Akio Toyoda (L) and Executive Vice President Shinichi Sasaki (2nd L) attend a news conference in Nagoya, central Japan February 5, 2010. Toyota Motor Corp President Toyoda apologised on Friday for a massive global recall that has tarnished the reputation of the world’s largest car maker. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

Bowing is also a standard greeting in Japan, but it can be surprisingly difficult to get the right match for the occasion and your relative station to the other person to make the perfect bow that is neither rudely abbreviated nor outlandishly deep. For people not used to bowing it’s an especially difficult challenge.

OBAMA-JAPAN/

U.S. President Barack Obama is greeted by Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko upon arrival at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo November 14, 2009. REUTERS/Jim Young

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