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Dogeza – Asking Forgiveness of 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 will speak in the most polite, humble and formal way of apologizing in Japanese, called dogeza.

Dogeza [土下座] is an element of the traditional Japanese label that involves kneeling directly on the ground and bending over to prostrate itself while touching the head on the ground. The word literally means sitting on the floor.

Dogeza is used to show deference to a person of superior status, such as a deep apology or to express the desire for favor of that person.

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When do the Japanese use Dogeza?

In the Japanese social consciousness, the act of sitting on the ground and prostrating itself is an unusual deference used only when someone deviates greatly from daily behavior. You usually ask forgiveness just by bowing.

Dogeza is used in extreme cases, when for example, a politician commits some theft and apologizes in public. It is a complete arc, a total bend so traditional that few use nowadays.

Let’s say, a person has committed a crime and wants to seek forgiveness. Performing a dogeza does not simply mean asking forgiveness, it is a way to beg for it, to demote, to be totally ashamed. 

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The story of Dogeza

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

It was mentioned that the commoners of ancient Yamataikoku, when finding nobles along the road, fell prostrate at the site, clapping as in prayer. The haniwa of the Kofun period can also be seen prostrating itself in dogeza.

At the beginning of the modern period, popularly like the procession of the daimyō, it is believed that it was mandatory for the present commoners to perform dogeza, but this is incorrect. It was normal for ordinary people to perform dogeza in modern times when interviewed by superiors.

Even now, as a method of self-protection and apology in which image damage is neglected, your idea of feeling ashamed remains firmly rooted.

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