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Trans-Continental Divide

Our pal in Japan, Mike Plugh shared an interesting bit about Godzilla Matsui with me recently that I’ve been meaning to pass along. It has to do with a small reference Bill Madden made about Matsui last week:

The pregame topics of conversation – Hideki Matsui’s return to the Stadium to address the small army of Japanese media and once again apologize for breaking his wrist; Torre’s depleted lineup – had become distant memories.

Mike sent Madden a letter because he believes that the American media has it twisted and thinks that Matsui was apologizing for all the wrong reasons. Anyhow, here is what Plugh wrote to Madden:

Hello Mr. Madden.

My name is Mike Plugh and I live in Akita, Japan where I am an English instructor and baseball blogger. I also teach Cross Cultural Awareness and perhaps have some insight into Matsui’s statements.It seems that the US media hasn’t quite caught the right angle for the storyline, and since I enjoy your writing very much, I decided to send this tip to you.

Matsui isn’t apologizing because he’s sorry for being hurt. Clearly, even he knows that something like that is out of his hands. No pun intended. He’s isn’t apologizing exclusively because he’s letting the team down. He’s apologizing because the Yankees (his employer) made a tremendous financial commitment to him, and he is obligated to earn his pay. He is obligated by what the Japanese call “giri” to perform his assigned duty for the employer, and since he is no longer able to do so, but still collects a paycheck, he has to make amends by lowering himself before the public in an appropriate display of remorse. He’s acknowledging to the Japanese public that with the money he collects and the status he’s afforded he also will bear the burden
of humility to balance the situation and promise to work hard to come back and earn his keep.

Yes, he’s a stand up guy, but that has little to do with his statements and it’s almost a Japanese cultural thing on auto-pilot. You’d see a fisherman, janitor, school teacher, or CEO do the exact same thing. It’s required of them as a matter of protocol.

Good stuff, Mike. Thanks for the enlightenment.

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