Enough with the apologies already
Don’t get me wrong, the English like to apologise more often than necessary too. If you step on someone’s foot in a crowd, chances are that they‘ll apologise to you. If you get in someone’s way, and do the side-stepping dance, you’ll probably end up both apologising to each other. The English do say sorry rather a lot.
But endless Japanese apologies, like the one still going on at the Mainichi, get on my nerves.
Apologies are invariably very formal. Always with bowing. Perhaps even, in extreme cases, with face to the ground. For company executives to appear in a row in front of TV cameras and apologise for some heinous wrongdoing committed by someone even tenuously connected to their company, and bow deeply as the flashbulbs go off, they are debasing themselves and this is seen as enough.
Bit of a clash of cultures then, because I don’t and can’t judge a person on how he apologises, but on how he goes about trying to make amends. Essentially, I don’t care what you say or how you say it, I care what you do next. Not for me, then, the tatemae of the ritual apology, and then all forgiven. Nope.
Which is why the endless kerfuffle over the Mainichi’s WaiWai meltdown is starting to get a little tiresome.
For readers who aren’t aware, the Mainichi newspaper used to run a section called the WaiWai in which it ran, in English translation, saucy stories from the more sordid end of the weekly magazines. Most purported to be titillating in some way, and you can bet on the majority being entirely made up. But the point is that the Mainichi didn’t even write them. They just ran translations of them.
Well it all blew up on them, and mounting complaints (about how they were portraying Japan to the English-speaking world) forced the Mainichi into a humiliating apology, and they pulled the WaiWai. They then went into full grovelling apology mode.
And some weeks later, the front page of the Mainichi still diverts to a page-long apology, and a list of promises about how the Mainichi will do better, and then some bowing, a bit more scraping. Get over it already!
Seeing the whole scenario as formulaic, I wonder how anyone can see any genuine value in it whatsoever. And it’s not because I’m a foreigner. At least some of the natives are aware of the silliness of it all too.