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Dogeza (土下座 "sitting right on the ground" ) is an element of Japanese manners by kneeling directly on the ground and bowing to prostrate oneself as touching one's head to the floor. It is translated into English as "prostration" or "kowtow". It is used to show deference to the most highly-revered high-class person, as a deep apology and to express the desire for a favor from said person. The term is used in Japanese politics such as "dogeza-gaikō" (土下座外交) which is translated to "kowtow diplomacy" or "kowtow foreign policy".
In gishiwajinden (魏志倭人伝, the oldest Chinese record of encounters with the Japanese), as a custom of yamataikoku (邪馬台国, a country in old Japan), it was mentioned that commoners would, upon meeting noblemen along the road, fall prostrate on the spot, clapping their hands as in prayer (柏手 read: kashiwade), and this is believed to be an old Japanese custom. The haniwa (埴輪) of the Kofun Period (古墳時代) can be seen prostrating themselves in dogeza. In addition, common people performing dogeza in modern times when being interviewed by higher-ups was normal. In the early modern period, popularly as the daimyo's procession passed by, it is believed that it was mandatory for the commoners present to perform dogeza, but that is incorrect.
In the Japanese social consciousness, the act of sitting on the ground and creating a scene (dogeza), is an uncommon deference only used when one is deviating greatly from daily behavior. Seen as an etiquette filled with the meaning of "sorry to trouble you", in the Edo period, by performing dogeza and apologizing to someone, usually the person would have a tendency to forgive.
Even nowadays, as a method of self-protection and apology in which damage to one's image is neglected, the idea of feeling shame while performing dogeza remains firmly rooted. However, generally people willingly performing dogeza in order to show that they come from a lower social standing essentially has almost no meaning.
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