The Japanese are known to have a polite and respectful culture. When two people bow in greeting, the younger or lower ranking individual traditionally bows lower. This week, even the world of American baseball glimpsed an example of this formality. I was amused to see this Boston Globe article, which describes the first on-field meeting between Yankees outfielder Hideki Matsui and Red Sox pitchers Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima.
Nothing casual about the greeting exchanged last night between Yankees slugger Hideki Matsui and his Japanese countrymen on the Red Sox, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima.
With photographers and TV cameras forming a semicircle behind the plate 15 minutes before the game, the three met in a ceremony that set new standards of etiquette for a Yankees-Sox game. For those keeping score at home, Matsuzaka and Okajima outbowed Matsui by a wide margin, the show of respect startling for anyone more accustomed to seeing Thurman Munson and Carlton Fisk whaling on each other…
Matsuzaka’s remarks were equally polite.
“I said to Matsui-san, ‘I’m sorry to bother you right before your game.’ He said, ‘Don’t worry about it. Thanks for coming over to say hello.’ He wished me good luck so I wished him the same and said thanks.”
I assure you, no Red Sox and Yankees players have ever bowed to each other before.
If you’re interested in knowing more about the unique cultural traditions of Japanese baseball, a great source is Robert Whiting’s classic book, You Gotta Have Wa.