This time he really means “WHY JAPANESE PEOPLE?!”

Whether you’ve been to Japan or still have the country on your travel bucket list, there’s no budging the universal impression of Japan as an island nation of long-protected traditions, customs, and manners. And when it comes down to manners, it doesn’t come off as a surprise that there are more than 15 ways alone to apologize in Japanese. Even the act of apologizing itself, whether it’s a lesser known politician over a scandal or a representative on behalf of a company over a faulty product, is often taken to the television screen.

From commercials apologizing over a nine-cent price increase for a popsicle to an assaulted idol’s tearful apology for “causing commotion,” public apologies, whether via televised press conferences or not, aren’t uncommon in Japan; in fact, they’re the standard. Known as shazai kaiken (“apology press conferences”) in Japanese, public apologies are a reflection of what Japanese society thinks it takes for high-profile figures to show remorse.

However, in a recent sit-down interview with Japanese financial news source Nikkei, American IT-professional-turned-Japanese comedian Atsugiri Jason has much to say about the subject.

For those unfamiliar with Atsugiri Jason, the comedian got his big break in 2015 with a skit about his frustrations of studying kanji, ending with his famous line “WHY JAPANESE PEOPLE?!”, much to the amusement of Japanese viewers and a therapeutic effect on those studying the Japanese language.

▼ Since making it big, Atsugiri Jason’s professional activities have included participating in a press conference revealing McDonald’s Japan’s “New American Burger” series.

In his interview with Nikkei about public apologies, Atsugiri Jason’s opinion on the matter is that public apologies are meaningless. When asked about public apologies via press conferences in America, Atsugiri Jason comments that “Public apologies towards society as a whole are unheard of in America” and he raises an important question: in the end, is an apology truly sincere if nobody takes responsibility for the situation/events that makes an apology necessary? One personal observation Atsugiri Jason held that seems to have especially stood out to Japanese netizens, in either a positive or negative way,  is his assertions that due to the “formalization” of apology in Japanese culture, public apologies appear insincere. Simply put, he doesn’t get why widely broadcasted public apologies should be anything of interest.

Some Japanese netizens agree with Atsugiri Jason’s statements from his interview:

“That’s true. We (i.e. Japanese society) often apologize and then simply move on.”
“It really be like that.”
“This time he’s actually asking ‘Why?!'”

However, some Japanese netizens weren’t too fond of his comments, expressing incisive derision:

“You’re in Japan, not America!”
“If you really have no interest in the topic, then why did you even bother participating in this interview?”

▼ When we checked out Atsugiri Jason’s Twitter (@atsugirijason), it seems like it was wiped clean. Perhaps he’s lying low for now?

Whether one agrees or disagrees with Atsugiri Jason’s statements depends on the individual, but one important fact to note is that it’s been almost ten years since Atsugiri Jason has lived in Japan—any expat who has long settled anywhere not their home country is bound to grow their own opinions and observations about the local culture and customs, popular or not.

Source: Nihon Keizai Shimbun via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert image: Twitter/@atsugirijason

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