A Japanese official has apologized after being filmed with his hands in his pockets during an official trip to Washington, D.C.
Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiji Kihara, who serves as an aide to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, received heavy criticism online for a gesture viewed as casual and inappropriate according to traditional Japanese etiquette standards.
The incident occurred during Kishida’s first summit with U.S. President Joe Biden on Jan. 13.
As Kishida spoke to the media, Kihara was captured in the background with his hands inside his pants pockets. Many in Japan believe that such an action portrays a dismissive attitude and is considered inappropriate in formal scenarios.
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When footage of Kishida’s interview emerged on Japanese media, viewers criticized Kihara as “shameful,” “disrespectful” and “arrogant.”
The 52-year-old aide addressed the gaffe last week during a YouTube livestream, where he apologized and revealed that his mother saw the comments online.
She reportedly called him on the phone to tell him she was “ashamed” of his behavior and even suggested that he sew up his suit pockets to avoid repeating such an “embarrassment” in the future.
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Speaking with Japanese YouTuber Yoshikatsu Ikuta, Kihara described himself as “the kind of person who puts his hands in his pockets and walks while thinking.”
Justifying his actions, Kihara claims that at the time of the incident, he was “thinking of how the amicable relations at the Japan-US summit talks could be conveyed.”
Kihara is not the only Japanese politician to face criticism for being caught with their hands in their pockets.
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Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike faced a similar backlash in 2019 for warming her hands in her coat pockets due to the cold weather. The governor apologized to reporters before being criticized on social media.