November 14, 2009
Obama’s botched bow
Bad enough that Obama bowed down to another head of state yesterday. Even worse, he did not bother to learn how one bows in Japan, and just winged it.
I agree with Scott Johnson, Steve Gilbert, Andrew Malcom, and many others that the President of the United States should not be bowing before any head of state. But unlike these astute observers, I actually know a little something about the art of the bow in Japan, having lived in Japan four different times on a resident visa, taught East Asian Studies at Harvard, and counseled many hundreds of American, European, Middle Eastern, and Australian executives on how to work and negotiate with the Japanese — including teaching them the right way to bow.
Obama’s bow (below) violates a fundamental precept: NO TOUCHING while bowing.