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.

interesting article. i enjoyed it. but it's too bad it got full screen splash treatment at drudge. i'm a republican, but it's junk like that (turning Obama's 'nothing' act into 'something') that just perpetuates the inclusion of irrelevant topics in the political debate. It's only a matter of time before I get one of those right-wing idiotic emails, asking WHY IS OBAMA HUMILIATING AMERICA AND APOLOGIZING AGAIN?!?!! with this same photo. Of course, it happens on the left too. Sad on both fronts.

American citizens don't bow! What the hell's wrong with this guy? Of course, this was probably right before he apologized for Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Iwo Jima.

President Obama is such a fraud. He is truly following the script of the Manchurian Candidate. What a empty suit. Oh, and by the way, he's doing his utmost best to destroy this country. Do I think of him as being my president?

What an idiot. The president of the United States bows to no one. I just don't understand where BO gets his protocol advice from. Not even a European leader would do such a thing.

It would be wonderful if Obama gave as much respect to the American people as he does to royalty. Our country would be in much better shape if he did.

Perhaps BO should apologize for the evil US beating those nice Japanese during WWII and making them lose face by surrendering. Perhaps give them some money too.

Arrogance is what as American we do need to ditch first. World will ditch us before we ever get the chance to rectify our arrogant and selfish way. Obama is our great Leader and he is Young. Respect to elder is what he understand better. His heart and Mind is that of a compaassionate Leader. He understand the wrong done by his predecessors. Bush and his type brought shame to US by insulting other nation leaders and bringing nation to such economic state.

I can't help but feel that this president is bound and determined to make sure every leader knows that he thinks that the United States is beneath every other nation and a country that is unworthy and evil.

He's not bowing. I was there. Obama is asking, "Are those Buster Browns?"

And this a big deal because......? Who cares. Time go shopping now. Saks here I come- time to stimulate the economy:) Rock On President Obama

I'd like to see him bow to GWB and admit he can't even cope with his shadow.

How LOW will he go?

All the way to the ground, till he's flat on his belly.

Liberal white guilt elected this guy. Happy now?

Entirely inappropriate.


How much more of this idiot are we expected to accept?

If he hasn't already, he is certainly nearing treasonous behavior in his actions abroad ('apologizing' to foreign powers for the actions of the United States, bowing to the Japanese, kissing the hand of the arabs et cetera) and domestically (shredding of the US Constitution in ways that would even former President Bush would not dare).

It is time for change. Change of the person in the White House!

He is starting to make Carter look like a great pres.

This idiot is the gift that keeps on giving.! I feel like I need to go into a medical induced coma just to make it through the next three years. What a naive fool.

I wonder how US WWII veterans feel about our commander in apologizer? What a disgrace this Obama has become! Of course, some of us knew this BEFORE we voted.

The President of the United States is on an equal footing with other world leaders. He should never bow to any of them.

Unfortunately he is so busy giving his 'apology tour' to the world that he just can't help himself. How many people on this planet would have liked to live under Tojo or Hitler? They should be aplogizing to US.

What a lap dog, and a wimp I hope like hell this absolute miserable failure is relived from his duties sooner rather than later.

it's the custom you morons.

Our President has a lot to learn, what more can I say. He prostrates himself in front of the whole world wile spitting on America.

The current U.S. president continues to be a embarrassment to our country. Not only is he an economic illiterate, but it appears he and his minions are also cultural illiterates.

But, then, maybe not? Maybe they understood the meaning of the low bow, as in: given in deference to a "superior."

2010 and 2012 elections cannot come soon enough, when Americans first reclaim the Congress and, then, toss from office this empty suit from Chicago's political cesspool.

I wonder how US WWII veterans feel about our apologizer in chief? What a disgrace this Obama has become. Of course, many of us know this BEFORE we voted. America is in trouble.

G0ddamned obowma the apologizer again.

One will fellate that which one wishes to be.

Americans DO NOT bow to royalty. Obama is an offensive moron. He is a shameful President and a cowardly man. Impeach!

Get up you snot nosed little commie! You are disgracing your country. Where did you learn etiquette from? "The Weiners Way of Kissing Up"? Come on and grow a pair you nancy-boy.

That "little fellow" should be bowing to the representative of THE GREATEST NATION ON EARTH!!! What other nation has been so generous and kindly to a vicious enemy than the USA?

Thanks for vetting this guy MSM. Community organizer, and one term senator. But he speaks nice. Hillary was right - he'd have to learn on the job. Don't see much learnin' going on though.

Vote Repub next year to slow this incredibly unqualified, but self-important, narcissist down.

Emperor: Mr. President, will you please turn around and pull down your pants?

I can't believe this. Why bow to someone who did nothing to get his position - he was born to it. Doesn't Obama understand even the most rudimentary facts of the founding of the United States? Americans do not, under any circumstances, boew to nobility of any kind. Obama is an idiot of the first degree!

American Presidents do not bow to royalty. Period.

This is disgusting. A president represents the people of America. The emperor of Japan represents nothing. Obama represents fewer and fewer Americans because of stupid acts like this.

Obama is a boy in a man's suit. It doesn't fit him well.

For crying out loud, Obama.

A National embarrassment!

One more thing: I know people will say we are too arrogant and cocky and we should learn to act the the rest of the world. Truth be told, we need to return to that frame of mind as soon as possible. The US has become too soft and cute - just like our president. Be honest: does anyone feel the least bit safe when he says "he'll take care of it.."? Does anyone believe he has our economy at top of mind? Who honestly believes he knows what he is doing when it comes to finances, job creation, the military? I could go on. I wish the hard-working middle class of this country would look around and ask these questions. If you voted for Obama, you made a mistake. If you thought he would govern from the moderate left or make his cabinet appointments with moderate libs - you were really wrong. All of you. Anyone that voted for these people have to shoulder some responsibility for the mess we are in. You're foolish if you think this is all about the previous administration - completely foolish. This is about putting people in positions of power - real power - that have no idea what it takes to run this amazingly complex machine called the US government. The voters have failed us. If you are in doubt, gaze one more time at the image of our POTUS bowing like a common citizen.

Emperor is probably thinking, "oh, nice bow, now the next time N. Korea fires off a missile could you please shoot it out of the sky, or better yet destroy it while it is on the launch platform, that would be a more appreciated symbol".

he thinks he's displaying respect to other cultures when he's really only displaying weakness.

He just slipped. Remember??? :-)
The United States President bows to no Country.. That is if you know what it is to be President of the United States.

Mr. Miyagi would be so ashamed.

"Look eye, always look eye!"

Very kind show of respect. The same we would accord him at all times, particularly when visiting our important shrines of success like Beiyinhe. Thank you Mr. Obama.

Let me guess... He was bending down again to pick up lint from the floor.

Obama is a disgusting excuse for a president. What an embarasement he is to the courageous and proud people of America. Just another muslim tody.

Come on Obama, stop bowing to everyone and stop apologizing to everyone for our country. If you have such little pride, maybe Kenya would be a great retirement location for you.

Just another photo op for our president. Bow to the world and screw us over at home. The President of The United States is an equal not a subject and respect is good but bowing is uncalled for.

How demoralizing for the citizens of America, the president of the USA bowing to a ceremonial figure head, who's father ordered the attacks at Pearl Harbor! Whats next.. tea with the taliban, that would probably be appropriate considering his "real" religious beliefs.

No one should be surprised by this. Everything the man does is about image, and one image he likes very much to project is that if the conciliatory American, apologetically demonstrating his regret for the many transgressions committed by horrible U.S. imperialists over the years. He's a piece of work. A very phony and easily debunked piece of work, but a piece of work nonetheless.

If one is going to visit a foreign country, be polite and abide by its customs. Otherwise, stay home. So this is not one of the many mistakes Obama has made and will make.

I am happy to see out president talking with our freinds in japan,as of now JAPAN wants to close our miltery bases in japan that is no good .we must keep them at all costs,

Maybe he ought to turn around... he lets every other dictator do it...

« | 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 ... 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: