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Obama's wow bow II: Turns out Japan's emperor is just fine with simple handshakes (video)

Among the thousands of comments left on the Ticket in recent days, most dealt with our item: "How low will he go?" about the awkward bow that President Obama gave Japan's Emperor Akihito over the weekend.

Apparently improperly briefed about accepted procedure in Japan or perhaps having a time zone mind melt, Obama stuck out his hand for a shake. Which was fine. And friendly.

Democrat US president Barack Obama awkwardly greets Japan's Emperor Akihito Tokyo 11-09

He then proceeded to simultaneously bow. Which was not.

And take his eyes off the person he's greeting. Which was not.

And, worst in the eyes of many, the over-enthusiastic president of the United States bowed way down at a 45-degree angle, indicating in that culture, and apparently in the eyes of many others, subservience to the emperor, son of the man who authorized the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack.

This came only a few months after White House aides denied that Obama bowed to the Saudi king, when it sure looked like a bow to non-aides.

And it all seemed to fit in with what critics mockingly call Obama's world apology tours.

It also adds to previous Obama diplomatic gaffes. There was that promise to talk with the president of Canada. A reference to not speaking Austrian. Giving Britain's prime minister a chintzy collection of American movie DVDs, which weren't formatted for video players in the U.K. And Michelle Obama's friendly or patronizing pat to the back of Queen Elizabeth II, who received as her presidential gift an iPod with Broadway show tunes.

The emperor of Japan, who does not bow to anyone, and his wife handled the awkward wow bow moment with regal aplomb. Japanese do not typically expect foreigners to bow anyway and often feign pleasant surprise when one is attempted.

Fact is, as the photo of Vice President Dick Cheney shows on that same post, the Japanese emperor is good with handshakes. He really is.

To make the point humorously -- sure, and with a little political dig -- the College Republicans at the University of Connecticut spent some time this last weekend assembling a hilarious video of just exactly how good the Japanese emperor is with handshakes.

And just how unusual Obama's attempted bow was.

It's even got music:

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Mandel Ngan  AFP / Getty
Comments () | Archives (23)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Really? This is worth a story? Really?

What bothers me is the big mouth William Kristol making comments about the bow by Barack Obama, when this man is nothing but a coward and a Zionist Jew on top of it. William Kristol is nothing but a big mouth and a coward who got deferments so he wouldn't have to serve in Vietnam though it was okay for 58,000 young Americans to die as the scumbag thinks he is better than everybody else.

William Kristol also holds dual citizenship with Israel and as well is amember of the PNAC and is also considered a NEoCon Chickenhawk as he was one of those who pressed to go to war with Iraq on known lies created by Dick Cheney and company. Best thing that could happen to William Kristol is strip him of his American citizenship and send him on a one way flight to Israel and never to allow him to come back.

the emperor of japan is a reverent figure to the japanese people, just like the pope is to catholics. there are plenty of pictures of presidents bowing to the pope, why can't he do the same for the japanese emperor? it's courtesy for one, but obsequious for the other?

After the disasterous Bush regime and previous GOP (Greed On Parade)administrations that have been more damaging to America, its people, and the global economy than terrorists, a few minor "gaffs" my President Obama is a relief. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed by 15 years of two needless wars; 4,500 Americans have been killed along with another 100,000 plus and counting with life-long injuries. Domestically 15 million are out of work, and millions have lost their homes, retirement investments and pensions. Therefore, after a wave of greed, corruption, and spitting on the average American worker and the Constitution by the Bush/Cheney nightmare, simply appearing to be not like those rich, white-trash yahoos is to America's credit.

One minute righties whine that President Obama is too arrogant, now they whine about a bow. As for that draft dodging Cheney, he wishes he could be elected President.

It could be that Obama did this bow to cover for his bowing to the Saudi King. The Saudi bow showed his true feelings of being a loyal Muslim. He can now say he bows to all monarchs and people won't connect his association with the Islamic terrorist. He wouldn't want people making that connection so no one will suspect why he is arranging a massive amount of publicity for his comrades in their upcoming trial in NY.

"On Sunday, Mr Chavez in a live TV broadcast ordered his military to prepare for war, just days after sending thousands more soldiers to the border. "Let's not lose a day in fulfilling our main mission: to prepare for war," he said." Hugo Chavez forced out most competitive elected leaders by Gun point and even has laws against citizens that say something negative about Chavez government. He stated recently he will make it 'Rain' in Soon and Hugo Chavez is by many South America's 1st Fascist. Hugo Chavez has recently stated that USA president ,Barack Obama, should give back his Nobel award and threaten him (by Name) on increasing present in Latin America.

This is practically a rewrite of the initial piece on this incident, what kind of lazy editorial is this?

Please stop apologizing for Obama's bow. It just doubles the embarrassment.

At least the Japanese Emporer is the Monarch of an ally that doesn't have woman flogged for driving a car, or someone hanged for changing religions. And the White House didn't lie about the bow like they did when he nearly fell to his knees in front of the Saudi King. What is it with Obama and these bows to foreign Monarchs. Hasn't somebody told him that as President of the United States of America he is our head of state, and at least the equal to every other head of state in the world. Somebody needs to give him a book about the revolutionary war and our founding fathers. They founded our nation so no American would ever be required to bow to a Monarch again, let alone our President. Can you see George Washington or Abraham Lincoln getting on their knees to some foreign King?

Interesting how Obama did not bow to the Queen of England and Prince one has to wonder if BHO reserves bowing to only eastern cultures and not European/western cultures?

Does Obama only bow to non-Christians?

Send him back to Kenya.

It's a simple courtesy in Japan, and shows a lot of consideration and wise diplomacy. I applaud Obama for his understanding of foreign cultures.

Refusing to offer a polite bow would be like a Prime Minister coming to the White House and refusing to shake the offered hand of a US President. (Oh how the right-wing would go ballistic if that happened!

When you visit a country, it's appropriate to show a little understanding of their culture.

I can't find the words to describe what I feel while looking at obama,the President of the United States, bowing once again to another leader. What message does this give to other leaders? Why would he do this? The only answer I could think of is the way he has been groomed by people like william ayers, rev. wright, etc. Obama is destroying our country and everything good it stands for' and every action he takes brings us closer to Socialism. His incredible dithering is destroying us. So, all of you people in la la land that just cant seem to see it the way it is, just wait,there's more to come.

This is now the SECOND TIME our President has bowed to a foreign leader and the foreign leader did NOT bow back.

That's sad.

With every passing day President Obama shows us what an amateur he really is.

I laughed when his aides tried to cover for him by saying that he was observing protocol. No President of the US has bowed before the Japanese Emperor since the end of WWII at least. I sincerely doubt that any US President had ever bowed before the Japanese Emperor.

Japanese people, including me, are surprised to see that this "bowing" issue is STILL in the news in America! One of my friends said "Maybe they (Americans) don't understand about ojigi (bow) or the system of Emperor, like we (Japanese) don't understand why American people like guns."

I saw the picture of Mr. Cheney standing VERY upright shaking hands with the Emperor. Unfortunately, that particular image conveys an impression of arrogance. However, in his defense, with that belly, perhaps Mr. Cheney risks a tumble if he bows.

I was taught how to bow in my elementary school:

15 degrees for a casual greeting;
30 degrees for business environments;
45 degrees for greeting an important person, an apology, or mourning;
90 degrees to greet the Emperor.

Even though we learned it, many Japanese people still cannot bow very well. Considering that, Mr. Obama, an American, bowed very nicely. Since I have seen the Emperor and Empress on the TV, and in photos, etc. many times, I can tell from their facial expression in the video that they're welcoming Mr. Obama with joy and warmth. Bowing and handshaking at the same time looks somewhat comical, but this scene shows "East Meets West" and it is very heart-warming.

Some Americans complain the President is showing subordination. To us, it is quite the opposite. He seems to have a great power to disarm people around him with his inter-personal grace and diplomacy. He is the most popular American president ever in Japan, and during his short visit to Japan, he captured the hearts of many more Japanese people.

Even my 80-year-old mother said to me the other day, "I'm gonna get some matcha (green tea-flavored) ice cream, too!" after she saw Mr. Obama on TV, who spoke about his first trip to Japan as a boy―“As a child, I was more focused on the matcha ice cream.”

IMHO, every US citizen should be very proud of having this great man as the President!

sycophantic neophytic lemming apologist of a president we have.
If you thinnk that's bending you should see what Nancy Pelosi does to him on weekends

Good Lord people, get over this! I can't believe that this is making national news. My husband is in the AF and we have been stationed in Japan for over 2 1/2 years. Obama bowing to the emperor was not a sign of weakness, it's a freaking greeting! It is no different over here than shaking hands. When I meet a Japanese person, they bow, not because I'm better than them but b/c that's how they greet one another. He's not apologizing, he's being polite. Maybe Cheney needs to go back to kindergarten and learn about manners! Or I guess he could have just puked all over the Japanese PM like H.W., I guess that would have been better, or was thaT showing a weak stomach?

President O-bow-ma.

Silly apologists for this lame social ineptness....

HOW you bow in Japan means everything. If you are defending his ignorance, then you are only hurting your heroes credibility even more. Just quietly admit it was lame lame lame and hope he learns as he goes along.

That is the best we can hope for at this point.

This man is weird

You can take the boy out of the neighborhood but you cannot take the neighborhood out of the boy.


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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.
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