News Cycle

A look at the news, politics and journalism in today’s 24-hour media.

LA Times: How Low Will Obama Go in Bowing Before Emperor Akihito?

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The Los Angeles Times asks the question this morning after President Barack Obama greeted Japanese Emperor Akihito today with a very low bow, which is often seen as a sign of great respect and deference to a superior in Japan.

The photo is sure to garner the ire of the conservative pundits for the next few days.

This 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 downtown 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. Remember Michelle Obama casually patting Britain’s Queen Elizabeth on the back during their Buckingham Palace visit? America’s royalty tends to make movies and get bad reviews and lots of money as a sign of respect.

Obama could receive some frowns back home as he did for his not-quite-this-low-or-maybe-about-the-same-bow to the Saudi king not so long ago.

The story also compared Obama’s posture to how Gen. Douglas MacArthur presented himself to the emperor.

As the conquering Allied general and then presiding officer of the U.S. occupation, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, decided to allow Japan to keep its emperor as a ceremonial unifying institution within a nascent democracy.

Tojo, on the other hand, was hanged.

MacArthur treated Emperor Hirohito respectfully but, as his body language in this black and white postwar photo demonstrates, was not particularly deferential.

(But then MacArthur was not known as a particularly deferential person, as Truman discovered just before firing him later. But that’s another war.)

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Written by newscycle

November 14, 2009 at 2:32 pm

Posted in Japan, Obama

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