In a layered society like Japan, there are levels of apologies. The ultimate level of contrition is the dogeza, where the offending party kneels directly on the ground in a prostrate manner with their head on the floor.
Far more common is the deep bow, the go-to ritualistic begging of forgiveness for disgraced politicians and executives who are usually paraded in front of the media making a pronounced bow from the waist down and holding it for a good 10 seconds or more.
But just where the latest public act of contrition fits into the level of egregious offences is open for debate after four players on Japan’s national basketball team were sent home from the Asian Games in Jakarta for “badly betraying Japanese people’s expectations of them”.
Their most notable “betrayal” was reportedly having sex with prostitutes in the Indonesian capital. “I feel a sense of shame,” said Yasuhiro Yamashita, head of Japan’s delegation for the Games. “We deeply apologise and intend to give the athletes thorough guidance from now on.”
According to Yamashita, the four players – Takuya Hashimoto, Keita Imamura, Takuma Sato and Yuya Nagayoshi – met a Japanese-speaking local on Thursday night after they had beaten Qatar. The local recommended a bar where they could meet women.
Wearing their Japanese national team garb, the four proceeded to spend a few hours at the bar before reportedly leaving with the women and checking into a hotel and staying there until the next morning.
All four were banished on Sunday and forced to pay for their own flight home. They were seen leaving Jakarta airport on Monday morning, their faces covered by dust masks.
Upon arriving back in Tokyo on Monday afternoon the four were quickly paraded in front of the media along with basketball association head Yuko Mitsuya and technical chairman Tomoya Higashino.
Nagayoshi, an accomplished power forward who plays his club ball with Kyoto Hannaryz, was the designated spokesman.
“We are very sorry for the thoughtless behaviour,” he said. “For the Japanese Olympic Committee, Japan Basketball Association, all the people who love basketball and sports including Kyoto Hannaryz. Also athletes who are taking part in the Asian Games and our teammates and staff.”
And with that all six proceeded to do the deep bow for a good 20 seconds before being whisked away.
Luckily for Japanese sporting authorities, most of the country is consumed with the largest scale amateur sporting event in Japan, the National High School Baseball Championship commonly known as “Summer Koshien”.
There was virtually no mention of the basketball sex scandal in the still relevant print medium as news stands were dominated by Koshien stories.
With the 2020 Olympic Games only two years away, Japanese officials are extremely vigilant over any kind of bad publicity.
Combined with the hosting of next year’s Rugby World Cup, there will be an unprecedented amount of global attention on Japan and in a country that obsesses over projecting the proper image, the “embarrassing” sexual antics of the national basketball team was dealt with swiftly and harshly.
“We have a specific disciplinary code,” Yamashita reiterated. “Their actions are a clear breach of the code of conduct for the Japanese delegation.
“The athletes should be role models of society, not only in the sporting venues but also on other occasions.”
However, as sporting authorities in the country cope with other embarrassing issues, like the Olympic Games budget spiralling out of control and the abrupt scrapping of a grandiose stadium design, there is little doubt a few more public deep bows are on the horizon.
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