Dogeza – Asking Forgiveness the Japanese Way

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Do you know the traditional and formal way the Japanese use to apologize and forgive? In this article we are going to talk about the most polite, humble and formal way to apologize in Japanese, called dogeza.

Dogeza [土下座] is an element of traditional Japanese etiquette that involves kneeling directly on the ground and bowing to prostrate yourself while touching your head to the ground. The word literally means to sit on the floor.

The dogeza it is used to show deference to a person of higher status, as a profound apology, or to express a wish for favor from said person.

Dogeza - asking for forgiveness in the Japanese way

When do the Japanese use Dogeza?

In Japanese social consciousness, the act of sitting on the floor and prostrating oneself is an unusual deference used only when one deviates greatly from everyday behavior. Forgiveness is usually only curving.

The dogeza it is used in extreme cases, when, for example, a politician commits some theft and apologizes in public. It's a full bow, a full bow so traditional that few use it these days.

Say, a person has committed a crime and wants to seek forgiveness. perform a dogeza it doesn't just mean asking for forgiveness, it's a way of begging for it, putting yourself down, showing yourself totally ashamed. 

Dogeza - asking for forgiveness in the Japanese way

The Story of Dogeza

One of the first records of dogeza can be found in a famous ancient Chinese record of meeting the Japanese called the gishiwajinden [魏志倭人伝] believed to be an ancient Japanese custom.

It has been mentioned that commoners of ancient Yamataikoku, meeting nobles along the road, would fall prostrate on the spot, clapping their hands as if in prayer. The Kofun period haniwa can also be seen prostrating themselves in dogeza.

In the early modern period, popularly as the procession of the daimyo, it is believed that it was obligatory for commoners present to perform dogeza, but this is incorrect. It was normal for ordinary people to perform dogeza in modern times when being interviewed by superiors.

Even now, as a method of self-protection and apology in which image damage is overlooked, his idea of feeling shame remains firmly rooted.

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