On January 8th, 1992, U.S. President George H.W. Bush was in Japan as part of his 12-day trade-oriented tour through Asia. At the state dinner for over 100 diplomats held at the home of the Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa, the president experienced sudden, violent gastric distress, vomited — as the news reports put it — “copiously” into the lap of Miyazawa and fainted in what was one of the most embarrassing diplomatic incident in the U.S. history.
Earlier that day, the president played an exhausting tennis match with the Emperor and Crown Prince of Japan. A competitive man, Bush nearly killed himself by trying to cover for his lousy doubles partner, the former U.S. ambassador to Japan.
Footage of the president vomiting was broadcast on ABC, and became a fodder for late night comedians. In Japan, a new phrase for vomiting, Bushu-suru which literally means ‘to do the Bush thing’ was coined. The USA Today called it one of the top “25 memorable public meltdowns that had us talking and laughing or cringing over the past quarter-century.” A satiric play and an art exhibit were later made. Mr. Bush is a model of gentlemanliness, manners and Episcopalian propriety, a true Yankee aristo so his mortification the next day on reading the newspapers can be imagined.
What made the incident so piquant was that 48 years before, he had been shot down by the Japanese while trying to torpedo one of their warships. Japanese hardliners still harbor suspicions that the presidential barf had been no accident.