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Dane: What did you think of Obama’s visit to Japan last week. Yuji?
Yuji: He was very nice. I like the way he speaks. Easy to understand.
Dane: Did you notice anything special about his behavior?
Yuji: Special? No.
Dane: Didn’t you see him with the emperor?
Yuji: Oh yeah, you mean the way he bowed?
Dane: Yeah, wasn’t it strange?
Yuji: He did overdo it a little.
Dane: Anything else?
Yuji: Yeah, he shook hands while giving a deep 60-degree bow.
Dane: That looked pretty awkward, didn’t it?
Yuji: He looked like he was reaching for a lost sock in the clothes dryer.
Dane: How should he have done it?
Yuji: He should have bowed at about a 30-degree angle.
Dane: And not shake hands at the same time.
Yuji: Oh, we bow and shake hands all the time.
Dane: So, that was OK?
Yuji: No. At 15 or 30 degrees it’s OK, but not more than that.
Dane: So the only problem was he bowed too deeply.
Yuji: Yeah. The deep bow is for ceremonies or serious apologies.
Dane: But he was meeting the emperor!
Yuji: Even our prime minister doesn’t bow that deeply when he greets the emperor.
Dane: How would he greet the emperor with respect.
Yuji: To show special respect he would bow 45-degrees and then shake hands.
Dane: So Obama had it all wrong.
Yuji: No. His form was good.
Dane: Except he should have kept both hands at his side, right?
Yuji: I read somewhere that American businessmen are taught how to bow before coming here.
Dane: That’s right. Even when they come for a short visit they usually get a one-hour orientation on the proper way to bow and exchange name cards.
Yuji: Isn’t there  anybody at the White House who could have taught the president the basics?
Dane: There sure is.  The Chief of Protocol, a woman named Capricia Marshall who was appointed by Hillary.
Yuji: Aha! Maybe Hillary sabotaged him.
Dane: I never thought of that!
Yuji: Actually, he wasn’t all that bad. Some Japanese are even worse at bowing.
Dane: Maybe so, but not high ranking government officials.
Yuji: Even them. I saw a picture of Foreign Minister Okada bowing to the Chinese foreign minister. He looked like a drunken man falling over.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi (R) shakes hands with Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada in Shanghai September 28, 2009. REUTERS/Aly Song (CHINA)


Dane: The foreign minister? You’re kidding! But in Obama’s case, the faux pas was with your emperor!  Weren’t you offended?
Yuji: Not offended, just amused. It was kind of cute, actually.
Dane: Well a lot of Americans are madder than hell about it.
Yuji: Why?
Dane: They say he made America look weak. – our president bowing to the power of the emperor.
Yuji: You’ve got to be ‘re kidding me! The emperor doesn’t have any power.
Dane: Not now maybe, but in George Washington’s day no president would bow to a monarch.
Yuji: George Washington? Forget about it! This is the 21st century.
Dane: In today’s America only an Obama loving liberal would say that!

Advice from Argent

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