When Sony met Tokyo reporters last month to finally explain the battery debacle that kept the company in the headlines for more than two months it raised eyebrows not for what it said but for what it did, or rather didn\u2019t do.In a country where the image one projects on the rest of society is vitally important, Sony executives on stage surprised some with the bow they gave when offering their apology to consumers.Yutaka Nakagawa, executive deputy president of Sony, made his apology to consumers and customers and then bowed slightly while remaining seated. It wasn\u2019t the full-on bow of humility that\u2019s become a common site on the evening news here in recent months as Japan has swung from one corporate scandal to another.Apologizing and bowing is something of an art form in Japan. A simple "I\u2019m sorry" won\u2019t do. If you don\u2019t get just the right balance of humility in your words, the apology risks being treated with contempt. Bowing is equally important. The angle to which you bow and the time you bow establishes, in the event of an apology, just how sorry you are.Consider this explanation, which still holds true today, from The Japanese, a book published in 1934 by the top-class Fujiya Hotel to help explain the country and its mysterious ways to visitors: "On meeting on the street, for instance, two Japanese, especially women, bend double for what appears to a foreigner to be a dozen times in greeting each other. \u2018How do you do, Miss Suzuki?\u2019 Mrs. Sato asks, and she bows, when the addressee bows low too, saying, \u2018How do you do, Mrs. Sato?\u2019 or \u2018I am well, thank you.\u2019 \u2018I missed the meeting with you the other day,\u2019 one says with an apologetic bow, and the other responds with, \u2018And we also missed you,\u2019 accompanied with a bow. \u2018How is your baby? Is she all right now?\u2019 \u2018She is all right, thank you.\u2019\u00a0And both bow to each other. In this way they may bow five or six times and even more for anything and everything they may have to thank or make an apology for."Reporters were already questioning Sony\u2019s handling of the crisis. Neither Howard Stringer, chief executive officer (CEO), nor Ryoji Chubachi, president and CEO of the electronics business, had appeared in front of the media since the battery problems surfaced in August, and at the late-October news conference they were also no-shows. For some, the bow was confirmation that the company wasn\u2019t really sorry at all.Sony counters that the criticism is unwarranted and that observers are reading too much into the bow. The news conference was about explaining the battery problem. It wasn\u2019t held for the sole purpose of apologizing and so the bow, to which thought had been given, was deemed appropriate, it said.-Martyn Williams, IDG News Service (Tokyo Bureau)Related Link:\n\nSony Battery Recalls: Who\u2019s Next?Check out our CIO News Alerts and Tech Informer pages for more updated news coverage.