Japan culture is
crux of apology
A letter from Bush is presented
in Tokyo today, but people still
want an apology from
By Janine Tully
Even as a special U.S. envoy hand delivered a letter today from President Bush to apologize for the sinking of a high school fisheries training ship, many Japanese still want the commander of the USS Greeneville to personally apologize.
Similar to '81 crash
Culture demands apology
Raising ship studied
Differing U.S. and Japanese views on apologies and on the raising of the Ehime Maru reflect differing cultural and religious beliefs.
"The Japanese would like the captain to admit responsibility, not that they feel that he's guilty, but it's a matter of him making an acknowledgment," East-West Center President Charles Morrison said. Japanese also have a hard time understanding the legal constraints affecting Waddle, said Morrison.
"I keep telling my Japanese friends to accept the higher-ups' apology, because it will be difficult for Waddle to apologize for legal reasons."
Adm. William J. Fallon, vice chief of naval operations, met with Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori today in Tokyo to present Bush's letter.
"It is my intention to use every opportunity while in Japan to convey the sincere apologies of the president of the United States and the Navy and all American citizens," Fallon said after the meeting.
Fallon said Mori asked that the United States do the utmost to salvage the sunken Japanese fishing vessel and give a full accounting of the Feb. 9 collision.
The U.S. envoy said Bush's letter expressed "our nation's apologies and regret."
Japanese Foreign Ministry official Toyohisa Kozuki told reporters that Bush's letter said American authorities would do what they could to raise the ship, and pledged that the investigation into the accident would be transparent.
Fallon was scheduled to meet with families of the nine Japanese missing and presumed dead in the accident, and with other government officials before leaving Japan Thursday.
But even Bush's personal letter might not be enough for the Japanese public, which perceives the submarine commander's reluctance to personally apologize as politically incorrect and offensive, experts say.
Greeneville's Cmdr. Scott Waddle broke his silence Sunday by sending a written statement to the Japanese, in which he expressed his "sincere regret" for the accident, which had caused "unimaginable grief" to the Japanese people.
Waddle's statement may help, but it still may be considered too impersonal, said George Tanabe, Department of Religion chairman at the University of Hawaii-Manoa. To the Japanese, Waddle is responsible for the accident, so he's the one who should apologize.
This is not to say that he is guilty, said Tanabe, but it would show that he is painfully aware of the grief the accident caused. Government officials and company executives often apologize in public for misdeeds that subordinates have done, he said.
Sheila Smith, a specialist in U.S-Japan relations at the East-West Center, said the Japanese families would like to put a "human face" on the apology. That was evident, she said, from the emotional plea given by the father of one of the missing men during a recent press conference here. At that meeting, Kyosuke Terada demanded that Waddle kneel and bow his head in front of the families. Such a gesture is the highest form of apology a Japanese can offer, Smith said.
Long-time foreign correspondent and author Richard Halloran agrees that there are fundamental differences between Japan and the U.S. in regards to apologizing. "From our American side it's an admission of guilt, and he (Waddle) is not willing to do that at this point until the formal inquiry is carried out," Halloran said. But it doesn't mean he's not sorry. "I'm sure he is; I have no doubt he is," he added.
People have lost sight of the fact that the accident occurred in U.S. waters, consequently U.S. law and American customs prevail, Halloran noted.
Also in Japan an apology is almost a ritual, he said, and has very little legal implication like it does here.
Halloran criticized Japanese political leaders and the press for not explaining to the captain of the Ehime Maru and survivors that Japanese traditions do not prevail in the U.S. "Somebody should explain that to the Japanese," he said. "This (accident) unfortunately happened in America, so Waddle is obligated to follow U.S. law."
The apology controversy is not the only misunderstanding that has caused a furor in Japan. The families have also demanded that the ship, which rests 2,003 feet below the surface, be raised.
The request is based on religious ground, said Tanabe.
The Japanese believe the souls of their loved ones are not at peace until they are cremated and entombed. Having their remains, or an article that belonged to them, would give the families a sense of closure, Tanabe said.
While in America people often scatter the ashes of loved ones, in Japan they are preserved in an urn and honored.
"Cremation for the Japanese is not disposal, but preservation," he said.
Star-Bulletin news services contributed to this story.
TOKYO -- A Japanese television station decided today to cancel the airing of the hit movie "Titanic" to avoid upsetting families of nine people presumed dead after a U.S. submarine sank a Japanese training trawler.
Japanese TV cancels 'Titanic' broadcast
Fuji Television Network Inc said it is dropping the planned April 6 and 7 telecast of the film. It said it hasn't decided when to reschedule a showing.
"Out of consideration for the crew of the boat and the families of those still missing, we have decided to cancel the broadcasting of the movie," a Fuji Television spokeswoman said.
A ceremony offering expressions of aloha in response to the Ehime Maru tragedy is scheduled for Sunday morning.
Hawaii residents to hold healing ceremony
The Hawaiian healing ceremony will take place in Waikiki, either at the beach near the Waikiki Aquarium or in Kapiolani Park, organizers said. The public is welcome.
An organizer said the event is sponsored by a group of Hawaii citizens. Those attending are invited to bring lei, which will be taken to the accident site and placed on the water.
Star-Bulletin news services