The Power of Bowing

The eagle eyed may have noticed that in anime, a character can get away with anything if they bow.

The ecchi series <DOGEZA> I Tried Asking While Kowtowing seems to be the absolute pinnacle of this, with the unseen protagonist asking various women if he can see either their breasts or panties, a request they would all usually deny, but as he asks on his knees they just can’t seem to oppose his wishes for too long.

Let’s take a brief look at bowing in Japan and why it can form such a strong reaction in people.

Greeting - Eshaku and Keirei

Kaho and Akizuki meeting | Greeting - Eshaku and Keirei | The Power of Bowing
Blend-S, episode 12, 2017

In Japanese culture, it is very important to know the right way to bow on different occasions. In Japan there are different variants of the bow, and the degree of the bow is an important aspect of this. In Japan there are different degrees of bow with three types of bow for normal situations.

These are Eshaku, Keirei and Seikeirei. There is also the special and extreme version of the bow, known as dogeza.

The eshaku bow is a simple greeting, usually between friends or in normal everyday situations, such as in the service industry. It is a bow from the waist while standing straight with only a small incline, no more than around 15°.

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The keirei bow shows more respect, but is still used in common situations, such as in business meetings with clients or those in a higher position than yourself. It is similar to the eshaku bow, simply with a deeper incline of 30°. People with a more formal upbringing may always use the keirei bow, forgoing eshaku altogether.

For both of these the back needs to be straight, the eyes should be down, and the hands need to be in the right position, generally at the side for men and at the front with palms inside for women. Neither bow should last a long time, less than three beats.

Extreme Formality, Gratitude or Apology - Seikeirei

Tohru bowing to Aikito | Extreme Formality, Gratitude or Apology - Seikeirei | The Power of Bowing
Fruits Basket, season 1 episode 12, 2019

Seikeirei is a bow reserved for extreme reverence or humility, and should definitely not be performed in jest. It is a bow of at least 45° and held for three beats with the gaze kept on the ground. The incline can be increased for the severity of the situation, up to 70°, but this should be reserved for the most formal of occasions.

Pictured above is Tohru performing a deep seikeirei at her first meeting with Akito, the head of the Souma family in the anime Fruits Basket.

Dogeza

Nao’s mother bowing to Nao and Kazuki | Dogeza | The Power of Bowing
Charlotte, episode 2, 2015

The most unusual and reverent act in all Japanese etiquette, dogeza is the act of getting on one's knees and then touching the head to the floor. It is often translated into English as kowtowing or prostration. It symbolises total repentance or submission, or acknowledges a request that is somewhat unreasonable.

The dogeza usually produces an extreme reaction in the recipient, usually meaning they forgive any heinous act or accept any request. If a person of higher rank kowtows, it is usually quite a shock for the receiver, as in the picture above, where Nao’s mother prostrates herself when requesting Nao and Kazuki transfer to a new high school in Charlotte.

Although neither of them want to transfer, they both fulfil the request without question.

The power the dogeza goes some way to explain how the protagonist of <DOGEZA> I Tried Asking While Kowtowing manages to get even adult and professional women to do the lewd things he asks, as they simply cannot deny a request when the asker is on his knees.

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