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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

February 2, 2006

Written by C.N.

Americans Apologizing in Japan

The Associated Press/Yahoo News describes an increasingly common phenomenon occurring in Japan: Americans adopting the traditional Japanese custom of publicly apologizing for its misdeeds and mistakes:

Taking a cue from Japanese culture, in the past few weeks a raft of U.S. officials — from the U.S. military, the U.S. Embassy, and the departments of State, Agriculture and Defense — have gone before Japanese officials to humbly ask for forgiveness. The reasons have been serious.

In one instance, a U.S. sailor was accused of beating a Japanese woman to death outside Tokyo. In the other, a shipment of American beef violated Japanese food safety rules, prompting a halt to further imports. In both cases, American officials have gone out of their way to pour on the regret — challenging stereotypes among a people who consider themselves the world’s premier apology artists. . . .

The contrite attitude apparently was well-received by the Japanese. “I’ve never seen Americans being so apologetic,” said a Japanese Foreign Ministry official. Niceties aside, the American effort to satisfy the Japanese makes hard-nosed diplomatic sense — the U.S. can hardly risk a blowup of anti-American sentiment as it realigns its military position in Japan.

As the article suggests, there are obvious ulterior motives for this recent spate of apologies by Americans to the Japanese — military support and cooperation, and economic interests. Nonetheless, it is encouraging to see that at least temporarily, American officials are casting off the arrogant, bullying, imperialistic attitude that gives the U.S. such a bad reputation around the world, in favor of a more reflective and (hopefully) sincere approach to dealing with the Japanese.

Now if American officials can transfer this new attitude to its treatment of other nations and its own minority groups inside the U.S. . . .

Author Citation

Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Americans Apologizing in Japan" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <> ().

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