Do Japanese people bow and apologize as much in real life as they do in mafia movies?
. . . so you've seen some of those too, then . . . hee, hee, hee..
Well, there is some drama, as you'd know, but pretty much that's it. When I had gone back State Side (for the first time) after my first 8 years of having been here, some friends asked me if I had had neck problem--due to my bobbing
(kind like one of those cute little dogs, or whatever, that you sometimes see behing the back seat in the rear automobile windows bobbing up and down with the bumps).
But no, no neck problems; that's just the normal, most informal bowing technique--you kind of bob your head a couple of times when passing someone (even [depending on circumstances] if you don't know them).
Boy, you should see one of the uni's graduation ceremonies. The dean who announces the opening, the school president, board of trustees head, every of the usually 3 guest speakers, and the dean who then closes the ceremony will bow to the faculty (all present), the guests (on the opposite side of the gym), then go up on stage, bow towards the school flag and the national flag, take a position behind the podium, then bow to the audience at large, then move up to the podium. Each person will do the exact reverse after their task on stage is done.
It was hard, but I managed to do it, when I first my wife's parents--that is the down on the floor, on bended knees, hands to each side, palms on the floor, elbows up, with head bent low, forehead practically on the floor, giving some fixed greeting of humiliation and thanks for letting me have their daughter and making a connection with the house
. (almost just like in the Samurai movies)
So yeah, it happens quite a bit. At the local major grocery store, the floor workers who happen to back through the full-sized swinging doors to get some more stuff, or whatever, always stop (whether anyone really notices or not), faces the store interior, bows with bow hands kind of clasped (the top hand covering the bottom hand at about the major finger joint, held against the stomach at about at belly button height, then turns and goes through the door into the back room area.