Wednesday, November 18, 2009

President Obama bows in Japan

Earlier in 2009 President Barack Obama while attending the G20 Economic Summit in London, UK (United Kingdom), president of these here United States of America, bowed before the King of Saudi Arabia, King Abdulla. This created a bit of stir in the United States (USA).
To bow to a foreign head of state is to in essence admit to subservience. Americans do not wish to see their presidents bow in subservience.

Recently President Obama was in Tokyo, Japan (Tokyo Imperial Palace) visiting Emperor Akihito of Japan. In the Presidents greeting, he once again bowed to a foreign monarch. However in this situation, the circumstances were a bit different. It is not the custom in London or Saudi Arabia for one to bow to another as a form or respectful greeting. In Japan a bow is a form of a respectful greeting. It is not a gesture of subservience.

President Obamas mistake was he bowed at a 90 degree angle instead of the Japanese customary bow of 45 degrees. To bow at 90 degrees is a form of an apology for a perceived transgression. Another mistake was, the traditional bow is done with both hands at ones side, not bowing while shaking hands as President Obama did.

President Obama was not the first U.S. president to bow to a Japanese Emperor. In 1971 in Washington, DC, President Richard Nixon in a gesture of greeting bowed to Japanese Emperor Hirohito.

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