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Japanese Politeness

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"Greetings, deer-san!" "Greetings, human-san!"

How courteous is the Japanese:
He always says, "Excuse it, please."
He climbs into his neighbor's garden
And smiles and says, "I beg your pardon."
He bows, and grins a friendly grin,
And calls his hungry family in.
He grins, and bows a friendly bow:
"So sorry, this my garden now."
Ogden Nash

Japan has a very distinct culture compared to its neighbors, and one aspect noted by many visitors to Japan — especially Western ones — is the extreme emphasis on politeness, often to the point of obsequiousness or just being annoying. Although other Asian cultures often come across to Westerners as obsessed with confusing rules of etiquette, the Japanese are impossibly polite even by Asian standards.note  It's Truth in Television, but seems to come out in broad parody. This is all a relic from the Feudal Era, when Japanese society was built around a rigidly hierarchical system of aristocracy — just like Medieval England, which produced its own strange flavor of politeness.

The Japanese, in general, take the art and tradition of Sacred Hospitality very seriously. They will have many unwritten rules on etiquette and public social behaviour, not just amongst themselves but also to guests, visitors and anyone they may encounter in life in general. These include but are not limited to: avoiding explicit disagreement or refusal at all costs as to not offend the guest; refraining from criticism of one's own in-group (whether that's your family, your company, your school club, or whatever) in front of outsiders; never bragging, either about yourself or about your in-group (you do not use honorifics about people from your own group while speaking with someone outside your group); extraordinary deference toward others in general, especially on guests and authority figures; and indirectly praising others but always downplaying one's own accomplishments. In a Japanese household, whenever introducing oneself to new guests and friends, offering a Tea Ceremony is always a must. These are all taken to such extremes that it's necessary to learn a drastically different vocabulary and even set of grammar rules for expressing degrees of politeness in the Japanese language.

The rules can interact in ways that are hard for foreigners to predict. For example, it's polite to diss your superiors when talking to outsiders, but only behind your superiors' backs. If you're present and your superiors aren't, you're a representative of your group, and talking about your excellent leadership would be bragging. If one of your superiors is present, you have to present a united front; intra-group tensions aren't just disturbing to watch in action, they're impolite.

Contrary to what is sometimes believed, it's fine to say "no" in Japanese — to neutral questions. "Do you know Ben?" "Have you ever been to Tokyo before?" But turning down a polite request with "no" is rude; the right way to do it is to apologize, then trail off without giving full details, which is very common in general in Japanese. ("I'm sorry, that's a bit difficult..." — or even just "I'm sorry, but...") The Japanese will do this with all reasonably polite requests, but not necessarily with factual questions — which is about the same level of politeness as upper-class Europeans and Americans, but with an emphasis on different things.

However, this stereotype has only become truly popular relatively recently, and the older generation of westerners as well as Chinese and Koreans will likely be more familiar with the two other stereotypes associated with the Japanese: the angry, screaming, Katana-wielding, Tenno-Heika-worshipping, bushido-on-steroids Proud Warrior Race Guy (primarily because of memories of World War II); or (in Cyberpunk works) the corporate executive or investor of a MegaCorp, who acts superficially polite but is utterly ruthless in the pursuit of efficiency, profit and technological domination at all costs. Of course, both of these stereotypes are colored by anti-Japanese feeling, and have rather been discredited.

From the Japanese perspective, just about everyone in the world except for Western aristocrats is unimaginably rude. Modern Americans, in particular what with their freedom-of-speech culture, are often stereotyped as loud and obnoxious even when they're not unleashing actual Cluster F Bombs — though almost as often they're portrayed as overly polite thanks to most Japanese learners defaulting to polite vocabulary and grammar. They do, however, have a lot of respect for the British due to shared norms of politeness, which tends to be reciprocated. Likewise with the old American South; Gone with the Wind is huge in Japan for its depiction of Southern Belles and Gentlemen who are similar in many respects to idealized images of Japanese behavior, with the latter having a Bushido-like code of honor, and KFC owes a lot of its popularity in Japan to Colonel Sanders.

Western counterparts to Japanese politeness include British Stuffiness, Courteous Canadian, The Friendly Texan, Minnesota Nice, and Sweet Home Alabama.

If this is portrayed negatively, see also Inscrutable Oriental. See also Yamato Nadeshiko, who aspires to excel at this. See also Overly Polite Pals. Contrast Japanese Spirit and Anime Land, where Japan is portrayed as a World of Ham (and also The Idiot from Osaka for a specific region of Japan that's stereotyped to be crude and impolite). Contrast also Asian Rudeness.


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  • An advertisement for a truck showed off its size by having three sumo wrestlers cram into the cabin. After they get out the cabin tilts forward to show the engine underneath. The sumo wrestlers think it's bowing to them and respond in kind.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Heavily and repeatedly criticized in Domestic Girlfriend where this trope results in a lot of harm being done due to characters being unable to communicate their true feelings out of politeness.
    Al: It's a flaw of the Japanese. Apparently they consider communication without speaking a good thing here. But to me, it's like "what are you guys, espers?" You have to ask what they think, or you'll never know. You have to say what you think, or they'll never know.
  • Japan from Hetalia: Axis Powers acts like this, even at his rudest:
    China: I'm China, aru! (...) Say, what's your name, aru?
    Child Japan: [bows] Hello China, whom the sun sets upon. I am Japan...
    China: Wah! This kid is so rude, aru!
    • Truth in Television, this is practically how Japan addressed itself at their first diplomatic document to China (The Emperor of the Land of the Sunrise to the Emperor of the Land of the Sunset...note ). The Chinese Emperor — who considered himself the only person in the world entitled to call himself an emperor — was of course pissed off, saying "bring not those impolite states before me." And when the messengers returned to Japan, they claimed that the Chinese reply was lost to pirates on the way, probably to avoid a Shoot the Messenger situation.
    • The author is not above making fun of this tendency of Japan, however: "Sir! I, like a true Japanese man, will be as vague as possible, saying 'Perhaps another time...', 'I'll think about it...', or 'That may be difficult...', by all of which I mean 'No!', sir!"
  • In Hikaru no Go, Akira asks his club president to put him on third board for the tournament. The club president responds with "I will consider it." Akira doesn't immediately realize that he's just been told no.
  • On Neon Genesis Evangelion, Asuka, who was raised in Germany and America and is only a quarter Japanese, complains about Shinji and Rei being so polite. She particularly hates how they refuse to admit their feelings. This is rather ironic considering she does the same in regards to Shinji.
    • This is ironic because when Asuka's English and Japanese voice actors once met each other, her English actor was amazed by how (paraphrased) "polite in the Japanese way" her Japanese actor was, unlike the character, and they quickly became friends.
  • In Ouran High School Host Club, the fact that Tamaki was raised in France and still doesn't fully understand Japanese Politeness explains a lot about his personality — he doesn't take hints, he's never learned to hide his emotions to avoid making a fuss the way many Japanese people do, and he's constantly suggesting harebrained schemes because he genuinely thinks people would just refuse if they didn't want to go along. This comes up most obviously in one of the last episodes, which flashes back to how he met his best friend Kyouya shortly after moving to Japan. His enthusiasm drove Kyouya nuts until the latter realized he could just tell Tamaki no without having him take offense.
  • In Welcome to the NHK a group of people who just barely avoided committing group suicide get a stern lecture from the local janitor — for having been selfish and inconsiderate by not thinking of how much trouble they would have caused for those who would have had to investigate the deaths, clean up the mess, and fill out the paperwork.
  • The manga Hana-Kimi has the main character, who was raised in America, attempt to make friends at her new school in Japan by marching up to people and literally shouting "HI I LIKE YOU LET'S BE FRIENDS!" — because that's pretty much how Americans' emotional expressiveness comes across by Japanese standards.
  • Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei parodies this with Kaere Kimura, a Japanese-born transfer student who spent much of her childhood in the West before returning to Japan, and has a Split Personality as a result. In Westerner mode, she's a brash, loudmouthed, selfish and arrogant Jerkass. In Japanese mode, she becomes an Extreme Doormat who's constantly contemplating suicide in order to avoid becoming a bother to anyone.
  • Puni Puni☆Poemi parodies this when Poemi meets the Aasu sisters and bows so enthusiastically that she cracks her head on the coffee table.
    Mutsuki: Oh, you don't have to bleed over everything just to be polite.
    Poemi: It's just the Japanese etiquette!
  • In Tari Tari, "Wien" tends to accidentally parody this trope because he's been away from Japan for most of his life. While introducing himself to the class, he nearly planks on the floor instead of doing a normal bow and speaks excessively formally, thoroughly perplexing his classmates.
  • In Tokyo Ghoul, the ever-polite Amon brings his passed out partner home after a night of heavy drinking. He takes the time to greet and apologize to her cat for intruding. The cat, being a cat, couldn't care less.
  • Ascendance of a Bookworm
    • This causes a few minor problems for the main character Myne when making business deals. Making polite excuses is how she was taught to say no when offered a deal, but she's in a medieval European esque setting that, unlike many isekai, does not ignore the cultural differences that would actually be present in such a setting. She has to be informed that if she is against a deal she needs to directly refuse. More subtly, you can also see that her manners often cause adults to pause slightly when responding to her. By Japanese standards, her attitude is fairly normal, even casual. By the standards of the setting, she's being very polite and well spoken.
    • She's later assigned three assistants to help her. Two of them are children and a respectful but not overbearing attitude is enough to win her quite a bit of loyalty. The third attendant is an adult and is actually increasingly offended by her good manners. As his master, she's not supposed to be so polite to someone well below her in the social hierarchy: He's being a good servant, but she's being a bad master by not showing a properly decisive and direct attitude.

    Comic Books 
  • In The Loners, Mickey, who is of Japanese descent, employs Japanese Politeness to save her team from an ass-kicking after they run afoul of Fujikawa Industries.

  • In one of his stand-ups, Robin Williams was talking about how different nationalities get drunk. When he gets to the Japanese, he mentions how polite they are normally, bows to the audience, and says a few words in Japanese. Then, he pretends to be a drunk Japanese person. The voice suddenly goes very low and very loud. The politeness is gone, replaced with rudeness and swears.

    Fan Works 
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers fanfic Gankona, Unnachgiebig, Unità: Japan refers to himself as "watashi", refers to others as "anata"—"kimi" for Italy and Italy only—speaks formally in Japanese, and uses honorifics for everyone. Except Russia of course.
  • In Amazing Fantasy, all of Izuku's English is extremely formal and apologetic due to his discomfort in speaking the language, not helped by the fact that he electrocuted Peter a few minutes ago. He refers to Peter as "Parker-san" before changing it to "Peter-san" at the latter's request.
  • Invoked and inverted in The Simpsons: Team L.A.S.H.. When Anastasia explains that her attraction to Simon Skinner-Chalmers began when she noticed how polite he was to her, Hikaru responds thusly:
    Hikaru: Wait… that’s why you like him? Because he’s polite? Well, he ain’t special. I’m half-Japanese. Politeness is in my DNA.
    Anastasia: …Hikaru, you are not polite. You’re loud, impulsive, have no filter, and you eat like a wild beast.
    Hikaru: (while shoving handfuls of food into his mouth) I DO NOT!
  • It's cause for major political tension in Waking To Another Sky — when ten thousands people find themselves trapped in a deadly virtual simulation, the American Project Bluebook offers to take care of the victims. The Japanese government answers "it might be difficult", which meant they wanted for the Americans to leave them alone, but the American military thought they had been given the green light for deporting the victims in a secure facility, and proceeded. Cue accusations of mass-kidnapping.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Played seriously in The Last Samurai, where Nathan does appreciate the incredible levels of politeness of the Japanese village, though as a 19th century career officer he should be extremely versed in etiquette. And at this time he is technically their prisoner and killed one of their best warriors before he was captured.
  • Played for laughs in Mr. Baseball as Jack Elliot is initially rather confused and put off by the fact that unlike American ball players, Japanese ball players don't spit, swear or engage in brawls on the pitcher's mound, at least not at first.
  • Invoked by Connors in Carefree (1938). Over the telephone, he pretends to be a female reporter named "Miss Satsuma Naguchi" from the Honolulu Daily Bugle. He ends virtually every sentence with "please."
  • A big theme in Yasujiro Ozu movies.
    • It verges on Stepford Smiler in Equinox Flower, when a friend of Hirayama's is smiling broadly while telling him that she has a chronic disease which causes constant pain.
    • In another Ozu film, Late Spring, Noriko is getting pressured by multiple people into getting married. She is smiling and cheerful as she tells Prof. Onodera that she finds it "distasteful" and "filthy" that he got remarried after his wife died. She is also grinning broadly when she tells her divorced friend Aya "Who are you to lecture me about marriage?"
    • Discussed Trope in Record of a Tenement Gentleman. Tane berates herself for not being nicer to Kohei, then starts ruminating about how the traumas and deprivations of the war have eroded Japanese Politeness.
    "Even when we get on a train we shove people aside. We don't care if other people starve as long as we get our fill."
  • Army: A badly wounded soldier staggers into the Takagi pawnshop in 1866. As he's getting bandaged up he says "Sorry to bother you, but can I have some tea?"
  • A gag in the opening scene of Walk, Don't Run, in which no fewer than five hotel workers all come up to Sir William to apologize for his room not being available, because everything's booked up by tourists arriving for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
  • Invoked in Yamato in a scene where some of the officers of the Yamato are clearly displeased that the admiral in charge of the suicidal operation is cowering in a bunker while sending them out to be destroyed needlessly. One of the officers politely asks the admiral which ship he will be on board during the mission, and the admiral is forced to lose face by announcing that he's going to remain ashore. It's strongly implied that everyone knows that officer already knew this anyway, but since he maintained proper respect and deference to his superior and never actually questioned or criticized him, the embarrassed admiral can't do anything about it.
  • In Big Bird in Japan, Big Bird is coached on how to bow formally when meeting someone new, and to remove his shoes on entering a home. The shoes prove difficult because it turns out he doesn't have any shoes to take off. But he becomes quite accomplished at bowing, so much so that in trying to show extra respect to his hosts' grandparents he manages to fall flat on his face.

  • Dave Barry Does Japan:
    According to the guidebooks, when two Japanese businessmen meet, they tend to be very formal, and each man tends to be self-effacing and apologetic, often for no apparent reason.
    First Businessman: Hello, sir.
    Second Businessman: Hello, sir.
    First Businessman: I am sorry.
    Second Businessman: I am extremely sorry.
    First Businessman: I cannot stand myself.
    Second Businessman: I am swamp scum.
    First Businessman: I am toenail dirt.
    Second Businessman: I should be put to death.
    • In the same book he describes an incident when his wife was talking to a Japanese travel agent. She wanted to book a flight, but the agent kept pushing the idea of using a train instead. Dave remarks that, had they had this conversation after the trip, they would've picked up on the message that the agent was too polite to say: the fact that there wasn't a flight available where and when they wanted.
  • In Interesting Times, the Fantasy Counterpart Culture for the Far East is going through a revolution. However, as politeness and respect for authority are deeply ingrained in their culture, the Red Army uses revolutionary protest signs and slogans that are incredibly polite and harmless, and makes appointments when they want to burn down guard checkpoints.
  • Yoko The Cat and her mother from Rosemary Wells's Yoko series are very polite with other people.
  • Tale of Yashima features a majority of characters exhibiting Japanese politeness at some point.
  • In The Shadowspawn, Tokairin Hajime and his wife provide classical examples—Justifiedly so, since they are aristocratic Japanese vampires who grew up in the 19th century. This makes them no less murderous than most other vampires in that setting, however.
  • The Executioner. When Mack Bolan is in Japan in "The Invisible Assassins", there's a scene where he's wondering what to do next and a line of school children file politely around him rather than disturb his contemplation.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A scene plays out in Shogun where Rodrigues points out to Anjin-san how the Japanese are all about ceremony, and how breaking it has serious consequences, as a samurai beheads a peasant right there on the beach as they stroll by.
  • Hiro from Heroes exhibits this. He actually apologized to Tracy Strauss before knocking her unconscious.
  • An episode of F Troop had the boys protect a Japanese woman from "honorable bad man". When she's told "dishonorable" is the better word, she replies, "Must be polite to everyone."
  • An episode of Are You Being Served? featured a broad parody of a "cledit caa"-wielding Japanese Tourist who bows deeply and says "soooooooooooooo" at the least provocation.
  • JAG: Harm and Mac faces this trope in the episode "Innocence," which is set in Japan.
  • Samurai Gourmet is Japanese-language and Japanese-produced, so it's certainly not a parody of Japanese Politeness. But it is an intricate and critical look at it. Most of the social dilemmas Kasumi encounters amount to his being paralyzed by social mores, even when his Inner Monologue admits that more assertiveness is called for. This is the cue for a trademark Indulgent Fantasy Segue, where a nameless Sengoku samurai shows him one way such a problem might be solved. Sometimes this inspires him to action, sometimes it doesn't. Two themes underlie this. First, modern Japanese Politeness and the samurai ideal are very, very different, but they do have a speck of common ground that's worth examining.

    Second, what Kasumi is really coming to terms with is a subtlety of Japanese Politeness that's often overlooked: the privilege of age. Kasumi is sixty and has just retired, so he's "served his time" and earned a position in the hierarchy he's not used to. For example, when his enjoying a book and coffee in a quiet café is interrupted by a pair of obnoxious patrons, he notices that all the other patrons are staring him down. That's when it dawns on him that, as the oldest one there, he's the only one who's really allowed to speak his mind, and they're counting on him. (Except the waitress beats him to it. He remarks that she's "the real samurai".)

    The show also can turn Japanese Politeness on its head. When two young American tourists wander into a yakitori joint, Kasumi is not the only one appalled at the chef's prejudice and overbearing hostility toward them, even while acknowledging that the Americans are being slightly rude. It leads to a twist in the fantasy sequence, where Kasumi concludes that the situation calls for the touch not of a samurai, but of a Western knight in shining armor.
  • Charite has Doctor Kitasato who stands out among his German colleagues with his perpetual politeness and patience. The stereotype is lampshaded when one of the other doctors says that "even the most polite Japanese won't endure Behring for long".

  • In Japanese folklore, many otherwise bloodthirsty monsters take politeness seriously, allowing humans to beat them by compulsion. For instance, a Kappa will always return a bow, forcing them to spill the water stored on their head which weakens them. The Kuchisake-Onna is a scissor-wielding ghost that slices up children and precedes her slaughter by asking prospective victims if she's beautiful. A "No" will unsurprisingly inspire a murderous rage. A "Yes" won't exactly lead to a better outcome because the Japanese word for "pretty" sounds almost exactly like a word meaning "to cut" and she apparently has a terrible sense of humor... but if you tell her that you have an appointment to get to, she'll apologize for having inconvenienced you and let you go freely.


    Professional Wrestling 

  • Old Harry's Game: One episode has Satan mention Japanese people in Hell take twice as long to torture because demons have no idea if they're legitimately screaming in pain, or just going along to avoid being rude.

  • Referenced in The Mikado several times, for comedic purposes. For example, when Pooh-Bah describes the (made-up) execution of a criminal, he states that the man's severed head stood on its neck and bowed three times to him. Similarly, the Mikado himself is very polite and even apologetic to the people who supposedly murdered his son, while stating that nonetheless, they must suffer the legally-prescribed penalty "something lingering, with boiling oil".

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech: Zig-zagged with the Draconis Combine, which is based on Imperial Japan. In civilian life, politeness is very heavily emphasized as the Combine operates under a caste system based on the Bushido code. In military life, there's less emphasis though it's still present. One example is shown when the Dropship that Takashi Kurita, the then-ruler of the Combine, is traveling on is sabotaged as it is descending to a starport. The general with Kurita saves both their lives by evacuating the Dropship in his Battlemech - and apologizes beforehand for not having time to reprogram the Battlemech so that Takashi could pilot it himself.

    Video Games 
  • Kuukiyomi is this as a game, requiring the player to read the situation and react accordingly, in the most polite and considerate manner possible, though some players can have the choice to subvert it for added hilarity.
  • In Freedom Force vs. The Third Reich, Red Sun, an Energy X-infused Japanese army captain who reacted to the energy by turning into a lot of physically identical people who have a Hive Mind, follows this trope. He views Freedom Force as a Worthy Opponent and spouts phrases like "You are a most worthy adversary. Please die.". At one point he kills a Nazi Mook over a Back Stab on Tricolour and apologizing to the heroes for the Mook's rudeness. The game is an extremely faithful homage to Silver Age comics, which often featured well-meaning writers and artists perpetuating unpleasant stereotypes while attempting to be anti-racist (Red Sun is also a Third-Person Person and spreaks, er, speaks, with a pronounced Asian Speekee Engrish accent).
  • One of the bosses in Monster Party has been slain before you meet it. It tersely apologizes to the player for being dead.
  • In Dirge of Cerberus, Vincent uses the ritual phrase 'It's been a long time' when talking to the main party members over the phone. It's customary to do this when talking to someone you haven't seen in a while in the same way that the Japanese have ritual phrases for use before eating and on leaving and returning home.
  • An interesting variant of the "maybe means no" rule appears in Katawa Shoujo. After Hisao loses the game of Risk, he will be asked if he wants to join the Student Council, to which will essentially say "maybe" (with his answer being more reluctant if he makes the choice Shizune disapproves of). Misha says she hopes he isn't merely saying it so that they don't feel bad, hoping that he'll come around if his answer is "maybe" rather than "no". However, Hisao does not join the student council in any of the routes besides Shizune's, and even in Shizune's route, he once reflects that he was initially unwilling to do so.
  • Mass Effect: While not expressly Japanese, the hanar are large jellyfish who believe in politeness before all else. They believe speaking in the first person is rude, and any hanar expected to interact with other species has to take special classes so that they don't freak out at all the perceived impoliteness. In the first game a hanar religious zealot can be convinced to leave quietly by pointing how rude he is being to those around him. In the second game, Jack mentions that when she dropped a space station on a hanar moon, they called it "vandalism" ("They really liked that moon"). Much like Feudal Japan, they have a booming assassination industry, because killing each other face to face would be rude.
  • Similar to the Hanar, the Quaggan from Guild Wars 2 never refer to themselves by name, instead preferring to call themselves "this Quaggan". In their case it's because they're extremely non-confrontational- although rather than being Actual Pacifists, it's because they're afraid of what they do when they ARE forced into confrontation.
  • At one point in The Great Ace Attorney, Ryunosuke, a lawyer from Japan (that's right, they averted Thinly-Veiled Dub Country Change), apologizes a lot. When told by a Brit that he doesn't have to apologize that much he grumbles to himself "(Let me just tell that to the entire nation of Japan.)"
  • Melody:
    • Xianne, upon learning of her mistake in offering the protagonist a handjob, shows up at his home to apologize in person. In fact, she is never rude to anyone.
    • Averted with the owner of the karaoke bar, who is blunt about not letting the protagonist and Melody bring food into the booths.
  • Final Fantasy XIV Stormblood: Hingashi, which largely serves as Hydaelyn's counterpart to Japan, features a lot of this. Most notably, when an attempt to bribe the Kugane law enforcement for an ally's release seems to be taking a long time by Eorzean standards, Alisaie observes that there's a "right way to do everything" in Hingashi, even bribery, and the delay is chalked up to formalities rather than a Bribe Backfire.

    Web Comics 
  • Parodied in Casey and Andy, where Lord Milligan manages to become prime minister and dictator of Japan through asking for it in the right way.
  • In an early Starslip comic, Captain Vanderbeam and his crew visit 35th century Space Japan, which still fits this trope perfectly.
  • Yuki in Ménage à 3 invokes this when politely and amiably accepting Angel's card while he insults the band she's currently in (with Zii, in front of Zii). Yuki explains this by saying "Zii, I'm Japanese and Canadian. I know how to be double polite!" (Of course, knowing how doesn't always equate to being willing to...)

    Web Original 
  • Hashimoto Daichi from Greek Ninja, is impolite even by Western standards, yet he seems to place some importance on politeness when it comes to other people addressing him casually.
  • Not Always Working has this story, about a Japanese-American working at a Japanese restaurant, and is criticized by the manager for telling a customer that they do not serve the dish (kimchi, a Korean food) that the customer wanted. Although as it turns out, the restaurant's owners were more in tune with American standards of service and thought the manager was the one out of line.
  • Bennett the Sage: For his review of the Troubled Production of Gundress, Sage shows us behind the scenes footage of the creative team not adhering to this, openly complaining about how lousy Masamune Shirow's mecha design were (which he had blatantly reused from Appleseed). They ended up missing every deadline and had to release the film to theatre unfinished. That's how badly things went.

    Western Animation 
  • Many WWII era cartoons, like Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips, Tokio Jokio and The Ducktators feature the Japanese saying "Ah, so solly!" as they fired on Allied forces.
  • In one episode of King of the Hill, Hank visits Japan and it turns out that he has a Japanese half-brother. The two had to race to stop their father Cotton (who got his legs shot off by a Japanese machine gun in World War II) from spitting on the Emperor at an apology ceremony. Hank is impatient with the slow, measured pace of interpersonal interactions, while his brother criticizes Hank's rash, cowboy attitude. By the end of the episode, both of them see the value in each other's approaches. First, the importance of Japanese Politeness is shown when Junichiro's (Hank's half- brother) method of asking everyone he meets to call him if they see Cotton actually works. Then Hank's urging Junichiro to get in a subway ticket-taker's face in order to stop wasting time proves effective, much to both their surprise. Towards the end, while trying to push through a crowd, Junichiro forgoes asking and just blurts out, "I KICK-A YOUR ASS!"
  • Mocked, like everything else, on The Simpsons.
    "Well, I say we ban Homer from our restaurants!"
    "No, that would be impolite. I say we KILL HIM!"
    • Also happens in "30 Minutes Over Tokyo" (understandable, since it's actually set in Japan), especially when the Simpsons are competing on a game show to win tickets back to the U.S. The host and audience is unfaillibly polite despite the show's incredibly painful and cruel contests, with one exception; the host gets angry when Marge calls him the wrong name. He also gets mad at the backstage crew for making one the questions too easy (the answer to a question about Japan was just "Japan")
  • As mentioned in the literature section, Yoko and her mother from the Timothy Goes to School Animated Adaptation are very polite with people. Especially Yoko's mother who would give cookies to Timothy when he visits his best friend Yoko.
  • Molly of Denali: Tooey Ookami, who is part-Japanese, is a complete sweetheart (and considering Qyah is already a friendly town, that's saying something). His father, Kenji, is also polite, almost never getting angry.
  • Thomas & Friends: Hiro the Japanese engine doesn't have a mean bone in his body. He's even kind to Spencer, who tried to kill him. Deconstructed in "No More Mr. Nice Engine", where Diesel tries to make Hiro lose his cool.

    Real Life 
  • The picture above is from a city like Nara, where the native sika deer are sacred and it is forbidden to harm them and they walk freely. Locals and tourists alike often pay for leaves or special "deer crackers" to feed them, with the deer themselves learning to bow respectfully to receive treats. However, this is actually a subversion, as the deer are known to get rude and aggressive once their feeder runs out of treats, with numerous signs being posted around the city to warn people of the risks of feeding the deer as people have been headbutted, knocked over, bitten, and had their feet trampled by these gluttonous animals. Which is a natural response, since the deer are wild animals and have no understanding of politeness, human culture or anything else, their actions being a conditioned response to being offered treats for certain kinds of behavior.
  • Masi Oka appeared on Regis and Kelly. He said that Japan has only just started watching Heroes at season one. When he was there to promote the show, he said his fans would rush up to him, shout "YATTA!", bow deeply, and then "scurry off."
  • After the largest bank robbery in Japan, at least up to that point, the crooks sent a thank you note to the bank. Snopes has it right here.
  • David Sedaris notes the politeness of the Japanese in one of his articles about his visit to the country. One day, he witnessed a woman walking her dog. When her dog peed on the sidewalk, she bent over and poured bottled water to rinse the urine off the pavement. Never any traces of dog poop.
  • In the wake of the 2011 tsunami, Japanese politeness has been cited as a reason that the situation has remained relatively orderly. One news article mentions an injured woman who was rescued by paramedics, apologizing for the trouble and asking if there were others who needed to be helped before her. Of course, the reality is that the situation in Japan was extremely grave and chaotic, but the Japanese considered it rude to tell such things to the foreign press. That would be an example of criticizing one's in-group.
  • There's also an eyewitness account of a Japanese mall that was shook by the earthquake where everyone either took cover or evacuated with whatever they intended to buy, then returned to the stores to complete the purchases rather than just walking away with it.
  • During the time of Imperial Japan and before when assassinations were a more common way of resolving disputes, political and otherwise, the assassin would go to the victim's home and kill him. Then, he would apologize to the servants (and the family, if they weren't targets as well) for messing up the house.
  • Japanese audiences at concert venues and sporting events tend to be very quiet, which can be quite eerie to westerners. In concerts, audiences usually sit quietly until the song ends, then erupt in applause afterwards. Many Mixed Martial Arts commentators at Japanese venues will remark that you could hear a pin drop in an auditorium holding 100,000 spectators.
    • While cheering in the middle of a song in an orchestral concert is considered bad etiquette everywhere, Satoru Iwata and Eiji Aonuma were much quicker than their Western collegues to state their displeasure with fans doing just that during concerts held for the 25th Anniversary of The Legend of Zelda.
    • At a Japanese screening of the original Star Wars, Lucas and his main editing/production team were unaware of this tendency. They were discouraged and unsettled by that fact that the audience stayed stock-still, even during the climactic moments of the film where American audiences would be cheering, until the moment the credits finished and the entire audience immediately rose from their seats and gave deafening applause.
    • Averted with Japanese rock or pop concerts held by a big name artists or bands like JAM Project or Nana Mizuki, where they actively encourage their fans to be loud and sing along.
    • As noted in the above Dave Barry Does Japan, Dave attends an eerily quiet baseball game and makes mention of the fact that each team has "cheer squads" who perform the exact same ritualized cheer only when their team scores and is otherwise silent. He made the mistake of drinking too many beers at the game, and when one of the players came out on the field, Dave said (not yelled, said) "Let's go, [player name]." He writes that it felt like the entire field turned to stare at him.
    • There's typically a single section at a Japanese baseball game that's not quiet - the one with American visitors. It's also the dirtiest section after the game, since Japanese are trained to always clean up after themselves. Americans just figure it's someone else's job. Also, it's considered extremely rude to boo an umpire, as Americans are prone to do.
  • Japanese railways routinely charge the clean-up work after suicides to the families of the deceased. Suicidal depression may be tragic and in many ways motivated by Japanese honor culture, but it's no excuse for causing massive public disruptions on traffic schedules; after all, the Shinkansen must always run on time. In addition, the charge is affected by the proximity to busy traffic areas; kill yourself in Tokyo Station in rush hour and your family will be charged a lot more than if you killed yourself out in an obscure countryside station during the graveyard shift.
  • It's not unheard of for the Yakuza to call a press conference and make a public apology when their activities — such as, say, a gang war — have seriously inconvenienced the public.
  • After their team lost its opening match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup to Ivory Coast, Japanese fans stayed behind in the stadium to clean up their section, an occurrence that is actually rather common in Japan but came as a pleasant shock to other international visitors, earning them much praise on Twitter. This is a common occurrence at international sporting competitions, along with Japanese athletes cleaning the locker room and leaving a note behind, thanking their host for the hospitality: in the Olympic Games two years later, they displayed this habit again.
  • Japan has a law against desecrating foreign flags but no law against desecrating its own flag. See here for details. In fact, one interpretation of the law protects this act, as it is considered a form of free speech or protest.
  • A Japanese train line issued a public apology after one of their trains departed twenty seconds early.
  • This was actually averted in the post-World War II era. Ask anyone who is old enough to have had encountered Japanese tourists in the 50s and 60s, or especially if they had visited Tokyo for the 1964 Olympics (or even Japanese people who grew up in the 70s and had to endure the generation before them), and you will undoubtedly be shocked by horror stories of the type typically associated with Chinese people today; as in littering everywhere, street brawls, urinating in public, yelling, pushing and shoving in line and through crowds, the whole nine yards, on top of obnoxiously thinking everything and everyone is a photo-op. The classic Japanese Lower-Class Lout stereotype, a usually drunk, boorish, haramaki-wearing, cigarette-smoking, short-tempered, lower working class middle-aged male, is very much a product of the era up to around this period. They were pretty much the Trope Maker for Asian Rudeness actually (though to be fair they would have been the only Asians who were rich enough to travel at the time), and rivaled the Ugly Americans as The Dreaded for those who lived in tourist areas. This is because after the war, Japan went through an even bigger economic growth spurt than before... which basically resulted in a bunch of Lower Class Louts, just coming out of a long period of desperation, struggling with life in a war-torn, basically incinerated country (that had lost a good chunk of its population, among them many fathers and educated and upper-class men) coming to the cities to rebuild them, and/or getting a bunch of money. And they never stopped being Lower Class Louts... oh yeah, and a lot of them were addicted to meth too. Politeness, as noted many times above, has long been a Japanese value, but the poorer members of society (who were most of the population), had much, much catching up to do until it became an actual, true societal norm (and got rid of the meth problem). This will be seen in old manga or old anime like Doraemon, where urinating on a telephone pole or shoving one’s way through a crowd will be shown as fairly normal. Possibly due to the conformist nature of Japan and fortunately for the sanity of tourist hosts everywhere, this behavior fizzled out during the 70s to give way to the Japan we all know today. And fortunately for them, they’ve managed to let this embarrassing fact be quietly forgotten for the most part.
  • Catch Japanese people in a crowd, in those rare times they’re expected to go nuts, and watch in awe as this wildness comes back to them en masse, albeit in a somewhat tamer way. Riot police were actually set up at Shibuya one year to contain potential overeager Japanese Football Hooligans, who, while usually much tamer and manageable than, say, European or Latin American ones, and as mentioned above are very quiet when sitting on actual bleachers, can also get carried away... just if everyone else around is getting carried away with them too. They’re weird like that.
  • Unfortunately this can cause serious issues in an emergency. The Japan Civil Aviation Bureaunote  has cited "extreme politeness in the cockpit" to be a serious safety problem. Specifically, it's rude to second-guess authority in Japan, which is a problem because second-guessing the pilot is part of the co-pilot's job. Worse, some co-pilots are so used to following a pilot's orders that they literally become unable to fly the plane if the pilot becomes incapacitated.
  • The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear incident was made significantly worse because personnel tried too long to contact superiors before attempting to correct the problem at hand. For the reason mentioned above, the personnel had gotten used to calling off-site authority figures whenever there was a deviation from normal conditions, and reflexively did so during the incident despite the phone lines being down.
  • Supposedly, some Japanese businesses hire a "rude American" coworker for the specific purpose of countering this — while the employees would never dream of contradicting the boss or explaining his latest idea is dumber than a screen door on a submarine, Americans are known to have no such taboos, and can give the boss some Brutal Honesty without anyone involved losing face.
  • Ironically, the Japanese ritual of the Tea Ceremony, considered the epitome of Japanese politeness and hospitality, becomes a jumble when it comes to treatment of missionaries from the Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints, another group of people famous for their extreme emphasis on politeness and hospitality. The Japanese consider it to be polite and customary to offer tea to guests, but unfortunately, Mormons are not allowed to consume hot drinks containing caffeine such as tea. This results in a lot of misunderstanding, as because of both Japanese and Mormon emphasis on politeness, it becomes awkward to express displeasure of the tea or refuse it.
  • This politeness, or more accurately the unwillingness to disturb "social harmony", is often a cause of strife in relationships between Japanese, and even more so with interracial couples and lovers. Problems that would otherwise be addressed with mutual talk get swept up under the rug and simmer until they boil over and the relationship ends. The "Gyaru" subculture, of Japanese girls and women who adopt outrageous fashion and behavior — for Japanese sensibilities at least —, has far less compunction to conform to the strict social norms of Japan, being comparatively much more free spirited and opinionated. Relationships with gyaru may turn out better than with "proper" ladies.
  • One of the most common forms of culture shock people experience when visiting in Japan is that the locals are so honest with each other, and trust each other so much, they will do things that foreigners would find baffling to do in their own country. A common example is if you lose your wallet, it will show up in a lost-and-found or the local police box within a few hours, with everything still in there, as well as villages and towns in the countryside often having unmanned produce stalls with the understanding that you pay for what you want, then take it, even if the goods would be free for anyone to steal. Another subtle one is people will, when say pulling up to a convenience store for a quick stop, will just walk out of their car while it's still on.
  • During the COVID-19 Pandemic, a lot of people cited Japanese politeness when pointing out that people in Japan often wore face masks in public during cold and flu seasons for many years before the pandemic, in contrast to the resistance to the practice in the West, particularly among the American right wing. Many observers perceived that this was due to the lower social cohesion and greater sense of individualism in America in contrast to Japan, where people were more eager to mask up to protect others. Infecting people with airborne pathogens is rude!