A motto is philosophy in a nutshell: The sky’s the limit, knowledge is power, less is more.

In Japan, these little words of wisdom are known as 座右の銘 (zayū no mei), and they are at least as popular here as they are in the English-speaking world, if not more. In fact, questions like あなたの座右の銘を教えてください (anata no zayū no mei o oshiete kudasai, Please tell me your motto) are a common topic even in job interviews, so you’d better have one at the ready.

There are many Japanese internet sites where users can upload their personal mottos. From these we collected a total of around 200 examples and had a closer look at both their contents and formal characteristics. The mottos originated from a number of sources, including proverbs and quotes by famous people, while others were entirely homemade. Most of the mottos here are in Japanese, though there are also a handful of English lines. And one even came in a Latin-Japanese bilingual format: Carpe diem, その日を掴め (sono hi o tsukame, seize the day).