To bow or not to bow: Trump passes tricky protocol test with Emperor

AFP-JIJI, Reuters

To bow or not to bow: That was the question when U.S. President Donald Trump engaged in a closely watched meet-and-greet with the Emperor that was laden with potential protocol pitfalls.

Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama sparked a firestorm of criticism during one trip to Japan when he was photographed in an almost 90-degree bow to diminutive Emperor Akihito.

U.S. conservatives chided Obama for the act of deference to the monarch, who is the son of Emperor Hirohito, the wartime emperor in whose name Japanese troops fought in World War II. He is posthumously known as Emperor Showa.

So all eyes were on the meeting in famously polite Japan, where bowing is a way of life. But the gaffe-prone Trump appeared to plot a respectable middle ground, slightly inclining his head upon meeting the 83-year-old despite towering over him.

The two couples were then led to a room where they engaged in deep conversation with the aid of interpreters.

Afterward, Trump shook hands with the Emperor again, and tapped his arm repeatedly with his left hand. “Thank you for the great meeting,” he said. “I’m sure we will meet again.”

Japanese guests are not supposed to touch the Imperial Couple or shake hands, but foreign guests often do.

Hillary Clinton shook hands and air-kissed the Empress on both cheeks, then took her hand as they entered the palace when she met the pair as secretary of state in 2011, a month or so after the Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster hit northeastern Japan in March.