Top of the Ticket

Political commentary from Andrew Malcolm

« Previous Post | Top of the Ticket Home | Next Post »

How low will he go? Obama gives Japan's Emperor Akihito a wow bow (Updates with videos, pic)

Democrat president Barack Obama bows to Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko 11-09

(New UPDATE: Monday 5:02 p.m. OK, it's not funny if you work at the White House. But for everybody else a new video at the bottom of this post will provide some chuckles about how the rest of the world chooses to greet the Japanese Emperor. Hint: It's different than President Obama.)

(UPDATES: 12:22 p.m. Saturday. A brief news video has been added below, showing the greeting in this photograph. Contrary to some claims, the video shows no reciprocal bow by the emperor, who traditionally bows to no one. And we've added a file photo from 2007 of Vice President Dick Cheney greeting the Japanese Emperor at the same residence in a different fashion.)

How low will the new American president go for the world's royalty?

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 iRepublican vice president Dick Cheney is received by Emperor Akihito in 2007ts 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. (See Cheney-Akihito photo, right).

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. (See photo here)

How times change under Democratic presidents.

Back in 1994 when President Bill Clinton appeared to maybe perhaps almost start to bow to Akihito at a White House encounter, U.S. officials rushed to deny it was any such a thing. And the N.Y. Times chronicled the comedic drama here.

Akihito, who turns 76 next month, is the eldest son and fifth child of Emperor Showa, the name given to an emperor and his reign after his death.

Emperor Showa is better known abroad by the life name of Hirohito. He became emperor in 1925 and died in 1989, the longest historically-known rule of the nation's 125 emperors.

Hirohito presided over his nation's growth from an undeveloped agrarian economy into the expansionist military power and ally of Nazi Germany of the 1930's.

And, later, Japan became a global economic giant. Hirohito, along with Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, who authorized the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, were much reviled abroad during World War II.

Historically, debaDemocrat president Barack Obama bows to the Saudi kingte has simmered over how much of a political puppet Hirohito was to the country's military before and during the war.

Even after Democratic President Harry Truman ordered the two atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the summer of 1945, there were strong forces within Japan that wanted to continue to fight the Americans in the spirit of kamikaze suicide pilots.

But Akihito's father went on national radio, the first time his subjects had ever heard Hirohito's voice, and without using the inflammatory word "surrender," pronounced that the country must "accept the unacceptable." It did.

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 blacU.S. General Douglas MacArthur meets with Japan's Emperor Hirohitok 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.)

Akihito was born during Japan's conquering of China and was evacuated during the devastating American fire-bombing of Tokyo, which was built largely of wood in those days.

The future emperor learned English during the U.S. occupation, but, inexplicably, his father ordered that his oldest boy not receive an Army commission as previous imperial heirs always had.

Akihito assumed the throne on Jan. 7, 1989. Within weeks he began a series of formal expressions of remorse to Asian countries for Japan's actions during his....

...father's reign. In 2003, he underwent surgery for prostate cancer.

In 1959, Akihito married Michiko Shoda, the first commoner allowed to enter the Japanese royal family. That was two years before the birth of Akihito's future presidential guest, Barack Obama.

Joe Biden was already 17 by then. But he wasn't a senator.

(UPDATE: Here's a new video assembled by some clever College Republicans at the University of Connecticut. It's even got music and requires no explanation.

-- Andrew Malcolm

No bowing necessary here. Just click here to get Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or follow us @latimestot. And we're also over here on Facebook.

Photo: Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty; David Bohrer / White House (Vice President Dick Cheney greets Emperor Akihito somewhat differently in 2007); Reuters (Obama bows to the king of Saudi Arabia earlier this year); U.S. Army Archives (Gen. Douglas MacArthur not bowing to Emperor Hirohito after World War II).

Comments () | Archives (2784)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Bush is one of the worst presidents of all time.

Isn't this just special? What a disgrace! The "American Century" is now officially over. Is this really the "change" that you wanted?

Given the amount of debt he is going to ask Japan to buy in the coming years, I'm surprised he isn't on the ground groveling.

Maybe he just always check his watch like this when he's around royalty.

Wonder how Gibbs feels now that the president proved him to be an undeniable liar.

absolute disgrace.....

Wake up people!

Doesn't he realize in Asian cultures that low of a bow indicates a submissive,inferior position, and a sign of weakness.

And we are surprised by this, how? The emperor isn't going to vote for you, so stop campaigning and try being a leader. Oh, wait, never mind.

Apparently Obama did not learn for his recent histrionics over bowing to the Saudi king. No American, ESPECIALLY the president shall bow to any king or foreign potentate. We dip our naval flags as a sign of mourning or respect, but only momentarily. The United States of America is a Sovereign nation and subservient and suborned to no one. Bowing is a sign of weakness and deference, to which OUR elected representative on the world stage should be staunchly against. We are not Japanese (or Saudi) subjects, WE are Americans, and right now, WE are poorly represented.

Oba Mao just gave Jimmah Cartier a presidential pardon as The Worst US President of all time and has placed that title on his own head. Who is handling this guy? Who's behind the teleprompter typing everthing he says? Who's pulling his strings and making him KaoTao, Bow, and KissA** to every fool with a title? This ain't no American, folks! We got ourselves a real Commie Pinko, right here in the Home of the Brave and the Land of the Free. Washington, Lincoln, Kennedy, and all the rest must be spinning in their graves.

Thats not a bow...he's checking out the magnificent ivory tile work. Yes America we are losers, we bow before all other rulers...this is the hope and change we were all hoping for....what a pathetic weak president this Obama is

Maybe I am wrong, but I don't think most Americans will care very much about this bow. I myself was not impressed with the bow to the Saudi Royals, but I see nothing wrong in this case. I believe this is just showing a respect for the Japanese culture. Since bowing is so common in Japan, the President's actions are more reminiscent of a handshake here in the US.

OT, but I just want to add that the Empress Michiko Shoda looks great in the above photograph.

He's clearly not bowing, he's just really tall and has to stoop down to shake hands.............

Unbelievable. This idiot just doesn't get what it means to be "American".

Nothing he says, nothing he does, from this point on, are or can be considered American in any way, shape or form.

He's an embarrassment.

well, we're all finding out that Obie is a snake, doesn't that tell you something...????

OMG. You have to be kidding me. What is wrong with this guy? Doesn't he have any knowledgeable advisors. God save America.

Barrack Obama should bow to everyone, they are all superior to him.

Common sense and social graces are not something this clown will never learn. No doubt he will give the emperor a DVD of his past speeches and Michele will give his wife a high-five. How embarrassing this pathetic excuse for a president is to our country.

Barry Obama: What a putz.

Give the guy a break...he has no idea of tradition or of a strong wonderful America. He thinks he is finally giving the rest of the world the respect we have failed to give in the past. You know, like rebuilding a nation after a previous emperor attacked us on December 7th, 1941. Trust me, the world will feel more orderly and safer, and America will stand taller once the weight of this one term organizer is off our backs. When you vote, think of 2010 as turning on an anti-virus in congress, and the presidential election in 2012 as a reboot. Let's get back to America’s future.

I like your wit.

I don't see an issue with this; it's a sign of respect.. Although the bow may have been a bit low for someone with the [supposed] stature of the US president.

This is however Japanese culture to bow however, if the Japanese Emperor did not bow in return, this would be a subservient act.

So the question is, did the Emperor return the bow?

It is one thing to be a slug as a president, but if you are going to bow, my understanding of Japanese culture, you never break eye contact when bowing, to do so is considered extremely disrespectful.........what a looooooooooser we have as CIC

How low will he go?

The hubris and American exceptionalism movement are dead. Our place is not as leader of the free world, it's as a member state in a community of nations.

This false outrage and hypernationalism sickens me. The author should be flogged.

Lets be fair! This is not the Affirmative Action President's fault! Someone should have instructed him about the correct protocol. That individual should be fired!

Obama is making a mockery of the office of President of the United States. He's deferential to kings and emperors from other countries, but is disrespectful to the U.S. Constitution. I believe that deep down, he wishes he was a king or an emperor, instead of being restrained by the limited powers and term limits of a presidency. I wonder if he would bow to Fidel Castro....hmmm.

This guy never stops embarassing the USA! Americans bow to no one, and as a sorry example of a President as he is, he should know better.

No, he's not bowing. That little guy in so short, he needs to get down to eye level!

Obama will do anything to crate another headline and get people talking about him.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

And I'm going to express my Creator-given equality right here and say,

Mr. Obama, you're acting like a damn fool.

He has gone and done it again! What a subservient moron! He continues to push the envelope with his bowing on behalf of America and apologizing. How many generations will be called upon to spill their blood apologizing for this proselytizing socialist! The man is a complete embarrassment to this nation and will be remembered as such.

Far worse than Jimmy Carter, if that is even possible.

This man was not raised in America. His first impulse seems to be to kowtow to any and all royalty while disparaging his own country. That is NOT the American Way. We don't dip our flag at the Olympics because we Americans don't bow to any Earthly prince or potentate. The Kenyan is not one of us and shows it constantly. How's that Hope and Change working out for ya, hmmmm?

This makes me nauseated. While always showing respect to other nations, we should NEVER bow to another country. Thanks Obama, you didn't learn your lesson the first bow session..why don't you just sell Americas respect on ebay rather than give it away?

Obama is a respectful, polite and deferential person with everyone. The bow is a common gesture of respect in Japan. I'm not concerned.

How embarrassing. He is such a weiner.

Oh my goodness what in the world is this kid doing now! this punk Obama is a real joke. This is what we get with a drug addict and non-citizen in office

Obama is a polite, respectful and deferential person with everyone. The bow is a common gesture of respect in Japan. I am not concerned.


This was a pointless article.

When will Obama stop embarrassing us abroad?

Geez Obama, why don't you just turn around and take one up the wazoo for the good ol' there no shame in this guy?

Hope and Change...personally, I'm not willing to "change" that much.

Take a closer look at the picture-it is obvious that Obama dropped a quarter mid hand shake and is looking to pick it up. Also, if the Japanese emperor were Mr. Miagi-He'd slap Obama on the forehead and say "always look eye."

This is what the Averican people voted for. A grand show of weakness.

The Community Organizer in Chief did this for ONE reason - so his bow to the Saudi King would look like just another bow to show "respect." Bowing among human beings is (should be) a thing of the past. History has shown since the beginning, it's not who your parents were, it's what each individual makes of themselves and America is the perfect example. No human being deserves to be bowed to, only G*d in Heaven.

obama sickens me! (lower case use is intentional)
He bows to any other dignitary, debasing the statuture of his OWN office & the American people.
George W. was mocked loudly by liberals for holding hands as he walked with the Saudi king as is THEIR custom among friends. I believe THIS bow is an effort to minimize the impact of the previous bow.
Hey obama, (lower case use is intentional)
how about you give me a bow & while you're down there kiss my...

Obama is just showing world that America is no longer great--at least that's how he wants it to be. Why doesn't he just get down on his knees?

Iwo Jima!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dear President Obama,

I voted for you and I am disappointed today. You both should have bowed to each other no handshake. Pleased no more bowing unless it is used as a mutual salutation.

Thank You

Dear President Obama,

I voted for you and I am disappointed today. You both should have bowed to each other no handshake. Pleased no more bowing unless it is used as a mutual salutation.

Thank You

« | 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 ... 55 56 | »


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...

About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
President Obama
Republican Politics
Democratic Politics



Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: