Apology Culture in Japan

Japanese people do indeed use a great number of words of apology. Very often, they use an apology in place of words of gratitude.
For instance,an old woman gets on a bus. Someone gets up to give her their seat. While there are some old ladies who will say a simple “Thank you” most people will say ” I am sorry” in such a situation.

An old lady who says “I am sorry” is thinking like this-“If I had not boarded this bus, you would have been able to keep your seat. Since you got up because I got on the bus. I have been a bother to you. I am indeed sorry for this.” It is for this reason that Japanese apologize instead of expressing direct gratitude. We feel that this approach makes people feel better than direct gratitude.