Ever since post-war Japan burst onto the globalized economy, foreign businessmen and travelers have been struggling to understand the island nation's complex and rigid social codes. One of the most fraught can be that most Japanese of social acts, apologizing, also known as shazai. In a society where saving face is second only to making sure that others save face, properly apologizing is key. But there are several different kinds of apology in Japan, each dedicated to a certain kind of situation and requiring a specific bow. Fortunately, the fascinating and ever helpful Japan Culture Lab has produced a YouTube video showcasing and explaining the various apologies.
The apologies range from the polite and everyday shallow bow, in which hand placement is key, to the dramatic, once-in-a-lifetime "dogeza," used when "caught red-handed in an orgy of evil." The video also notes the interesting history behind some of the bows, such as the "bow on one knee," which is "predominantly used by the ninja" in such situations as "you violate the ninja code by falling in love." Hopefully you will never have to employ the self-humiliating "doge-fuse."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.