TokyoFreePress
      An interactive and taboo-free journalism based in Japan




     
 
Welcome to TokyoFreePress Sunday, March 26 2017 @ 04:16 PM JST
   

Japan Trivia 13: The Culture of Apologies

I don't think I was clear enough when I first took up this topic seven years ago. So let me try to clarify my point once again.


In November 1997, President
Shohei Nozawa of the now
defunct Yamaichi Securities
Company burst into tears.


In April 2011, TEPCO
executives went down on their
knees before the evacuees
and press corps.


In May 2011, sumo wrestlers
were lined up on the Dohyo
ring to offer their sincere
apologies to the spectators.
For the last 13 years since Yamaichi Securities Co., Ltd. went under, practically not a single day has passed without seeing a weepy person offer sincere apologies before TV cameras. If you are one of those intellectually lazy Westerners, you will say: "Japan still remains an unfathomable nation. Yet, I can't resist the mystic charms of its people." Oh, is that so? To me these Westerners are equally mysterious, but much less charming.

Actually the Japanese have a good reason to keep apologizing.

In the post-bubble Japan, more often than not things go wrong. One of the most important reasons is the fact that the real culprit for a failure always goes unpunished. How can this society be so lenient to wrongdoers and incompetents?

There is a prescribed proceeding called Shazai Kaiken (a press conference for apologies) where someone who was not really at fault is supposed to appear in place of the real culprit to bow from the waste. When the misstep or wrongdoing has resulted in an extraordinarily serious consequence, the proxy should burst into tears and/or get down on his knees.

You never know what exactly the proxy is offering his apologies for and to whom, but that doesn't matter because it's part of the ritual. Every Japanese knows how to proceed with the ceremony and how to avoid unnecessarily humiliating the crying proxy. For one thing, it's not the right thing to do to ask him: "Are you really at fault for what you are apologizing for?" Simply, that would be impermissibly rude.

Only a small number of us know who should actually take the blame. You just have to track back the 13-year history of these televised rituals. Then you will realize that not once have the Emperor, executives of media organizations or yakuza syndicates and high-ranking government officials offered their apologies in the way these scapegoats have. This way you can pin down the bandits.

Leaving the real culprits at large forever is what the culture of apologies is all about. No self-purification mechanism is at work there. Small wonder gallons of tears they have shed haven't done any good to this country. Criminal prosecution may be a different story, but you can never expect justice from corrupt prosecutors, judges and "Justice" Minister overseeing them.

As recently as late last months, the Japanese saw executives of the troubled Tokyo Electric Power Company apologize in the traditional Dogeza (prostration) position before the evacuees and press corps. But now, sumo wrestlers have started apologizing for a spate of scandals involving many in the game. I am not very sure, but most probably these guys, including the Yokozuna Champion from Mongolia, two Ozeki (the second-highest rank) from Bulgaria and Estonia, who were lined up on the Dohyo ring, are not directly involved in the widespread irregularities. But they were told to do the bowing anyhow.

Actually there are two culprits in this case. Needless to say, they are NHK and yakuza.

At the outbreak of the series of scandals, NHK made every effort to localize the problem because the government-owned broadcaster is the biggest sponsor of Kokugi (the national sport.) It was solely focusing on illegal betting on the games of Puro Yakyu (professional baseball) by sumo wrestlers. The broadcaster even suspended its generous sponsorship until some small fish were barred from the sport along with some underground bookmakers in yakuza syndicates. Anyone in his right mind could already tell, it was a gimmick to cover up more deep-rooted problems.

Soon after the suspension was lifted, it was somehow revealed that many sumo wrestlers had also been up to match-fixing among themselves. Once again NHK suspended its sponsorship with a completely innocent face. It is against this backdrop that on Sunday these big guys offered sincere apologies to sumo fans.

I know this is not the end of the story because it's a matter of commonsense that it takes two, if you exclude yakuza mobsters who act as intermediaries between the two, to make the gambling business profitable. Sooner or later, it will be baseball players' turn to apologize.


But I am also sure that executives of NHK and Yakuza syndicates, let alone the Emperor whose name is borne on the sumo trophy, will never feel obliged to apologize, until the time comes when a bloody Harakiri ritual must be staged for these unscrupulous criminals.

By performing Harakiri on themselves, these bastards would be disemboweling the entire country at the same time. That would mark the last day of the rotten nation-state currently called Japan.

At this moment we know nothing about the new country which will possibly emerge from the ruins of the culture of apologies.
·

Story Options

Trackback

Trackback URL for this entry: http://www.TokyoFreePress.com/trackback.php?id=20110509121708455

No trackback comments for this entry.
Japan Trivia 13: The Culture of Apologies | 2 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Japan Trivia 13: The Culture of Apologies
Authored by: Diogenes on Monday, May 09 2011 @ 03:51 PM JST
This "Shazai Kaiken" is quite a unique phenomena. I've never heard of any other country with such a self-destructive ritual. What could be the motivation for an underling to submit to this humiliation for himself and his family? Do you think it's blackmail, or payoff money, or some promises of something? Or could it be a cultural trap, wherein an underling must, if he's at a certain management level recognize that by taking this management position, he accepts that he's vulnerable to being ordered to perform this public display? I hope that's not the case, but I suspect that I might be on the trail of the reason for these theater shows.
Japan Trivia 13: The Culture of Apologies
Authored by: Y.Yamamoto on Monday, May 09 2011 @ 05:11 PM JST


Diogenes,

Like you, any other Westerner will have difficulty understanding Shohei Nozawa's behavior.

Perhaps I must apologize, too, if without shedding tears, for my poor English writing skills. Maybe I should have explained what underlies these Shazai Kaiken more precisely. There was no blackmailing or payoff money involved. Nozawa did it spontaneously.

I think this link will help you understand what exactly happened on November 26, 1997, although Paul Vallely' observation, too, is a little on the shallow side.

Actually Nozawa served as the trend setter for Japanese behavior in the face of a crisis.

Yu Yamamoto