Japanese people like to apologize; or maybe “like” isn’t the right word. As in English, many Japanese terms that have the meaning of an apology are used for the sake of perfunctory politeness, so a sincere apology requires effort, and there’s no more powerful apology than dogeza, the act of prostrating oneself in front of another person to ask forgiveness. But even this gesture has been diminished through overuse lately, its emotional value cheapened by the realization that such apologies don’t always solve anything.

Having evolved from medieval times, when common folk were compelled to bow low as their lord passed in front of them, dogeza implies fealty to a superior. It is also used to ask for something other than forgiveness, like money. As one Twitter user recently remarked in response to the spate of dogeza-related stories in the media, if banks actually lent you money after you got down on your knees and begged, everyone would be doing it.

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