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.