“Superiority” is measured by true modesty in Japan

There is a famous old saying in Japanese, “the boughs that bear most hang lowest.”  This means “the greater you become as a person,  the more modest you become.”  The origin of this phrase is not known.  However, this concept still holds true in Japan.  The current Japanese Emperor, Akihito, who is the highest in rank in Japan is considered the most humble person in Japan.  This video footage was taken when he visited the earthquake victims in Kumamoto in 2016.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was also kneeling down when he met with the earthquake victims. This kind of “modest attitude” is somewhat expected of a great leader in Japan.

In Bible, a very similar concept of a “great” person is stated.

42 So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those regarded as rulers of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and their superiors exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be this way among you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,  44 and whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all.…

New Testament, Mark 10:42-44

The famous Japanese company called MINOLTA also lives by this motto.  The corporation’s website explains the origin of the company name.  They took the first letters from “Machinery and instruments Optical by Tashima.”  It also comes from the Japanese word, “Minoru (crop bearing) ta (rice field).”  It is explained that they wanted to remember the founder’s mother’s word to always be modest as in “the boughs that bear most hang lowest.”  The concept of modesty is valued even in the business world in Japan.

There has been no known written religious dogma or rules to make people modest in Japan but this tradition has been cherished for millennia.

In the first Japanese formal history document edited by the government of that time called “Nihonshoki” which was completed in AD 720,  the Emperor Nintoku’s word is recorded.  It states the following:

The reason for the Heavenly Person (Emperor) to be standing is for the People.


Book of Emperor Nintoku, Nihonshoki

From the ancient time, it has been known in Japan that the leader (the Emperor) existed to serve the people.  This may be closely related to the fact that modesty is still highly valued in the Japanese society.

Human Rights and the concept of People as the Emperor’s great treasure: “Oomitakara”

The concept of “the people as the nation’s treasure” existed for millennia in Japan. The word “Oomitakara” was used to mean “people” in the ancient Japan.  In the first Japanese formal historical document called “Nihonshoki”  which was completed in AD 720,  the Emperor Nintoku’s words are recorded.  It states the following:

The reason for the Heavenly Person (Emperor) to be standing is for “Oomitakara,” the People.

Book of Emperor Nintoku, Nihonshoki

Since the Chinese characters were considered the international language at the time, the Japanese made 2 kinds of historical documents, one in Chinese and one in Japanese language. Nihonshoki was written in Chinese and Kojiki was written in Japanese “Kana” letters.

The word “Oomitakara” was sometimes expressed using the Chinese characters 百姓 which means “all people with all kinds of last names.”  The characters 大御宝 was also used to mean “Oomitakara” which means “Great Honored Treasure.”

The Japanese word “takara” generally means “treasure.”  According to the dictionay “Genkai,” the word “ta” in “takara” is derived from “ta” as in “rice field.”  The word “kara” generally means “from” but it also means “people” or “companions” as in the words such as “harakara” and  “yakara.”  “Harakara” consists of the word hara (womb) and kara (out of, people) .  The word “yakara” traditionally meant “people that belong to the same tribe.”  Therefore, the word “takara” also meant “people at the rice field” or “companions at the field” in the old days.

The concept of “human rights” was traditionally expressed in the word, “Oomitakara” in Japan.  This was not only Emperor Nintoku’s personal credo, but it was considered something that was passed down from his ancestors as the basic principle.  The following phrase is found in book 3 of Nihonshoki  which is included in the declaration of founding the county (Kenkoku no Mikotonori) by the first Emperor Jimmu.

The Emperor’s work is to benefit “Oomitakara,” the people.

Emperor Jimmu, Book 3, Nihonshoki

It also says that the Emperor must humbly take on the throne and respect “Oomitakara,” the people. In this case, the word people (Oomitakara) was expressed using the characters元元 which means “The foundation of the foundation” or “the basis of the basis”  This suggests that the people was considered the basic foundation of the country.