Japanese Manners Book: Obama's "Saikeirei" Bow Was Sign of Apology & It Was Mean
He’s so very sorry.
Obama bows to the Japanese emperor. He was one out of 47 to do so.
We can say that to only lower your head is not so good for a Japanese bow. You will give the impression that your bow falls short. There are also the cases of somebody bowing their head repeatedly. In doing this, one might think you are paying the deepest respect and consideration, are being polite, etc., but the sentiment which should be expressed in the Japanese bow fails to be expressed doing this. When bowing while standing, their is the “highest respectful bow” (saikeirei), which is executed from a position of standing straight upward, and then bending 45-degrees or more. “Respectful bow” is at 30-to-40 degrees, and everyday “eshaku” around 15-degrees.
“Saikeirei” is not seen on a regular basis, but is used in order to offer an apology, or when one is extremely grateful for something received, as well as performed before the altar of Shinto shrines and Bhuddist temples. In case of a handshake, straighten the back, and by all means one must look directly into the face (eyes) of the recipient of one’s handshake. It is not to be too strong and not too light. Too strong will reflect an insult and too weak will not reflect good will. In America, such a weak handshake is called a “dead fish handshake”, with the feeling being that the person wielding a dead fish. And, shaking a hand while performing a bow will be seen as subservient (“servile”, “supple”, “mean”), and is not to be done.
More… Obama’s bow made him look like an idiot.