Japanese Proverbs

Japanese proverb (諺, ことわざ kotowaza) may take the form of:

  • a short saying (言い習わし iinarawashi),
  • an idiomatic phrase (慣用句 kan’yōku), or
  • a four-character idiom (四字熟語 yojijukugo).

Although “proverb” and “saying” are practically synonymous, the same cannot be said about “idiomatic phrase” and “four-character idiom”. Not all kan’yōku and yojijukugo are proverbial. To be considered a proverb, a word or phrase must express a common truth or wisdom; it cannot be a mere noun.

Japanese proverbs (諺 kotowaza) take the form of short sayings, idiomatic phrases and four-character idioms.

A collection of Japanese proverbs to inspire you. Wise Japanese sayings in the form of proverbs that have been passed down for generations. Please DO page find from your browser for your SEARCH.

Japanese Proverbs

(Apply) fitting ability in the fitting place. – Japanese Proverbs

A bad wife is a poor harvest for sixty years.  – Japanese Proverbs

A bad wife is one hundred years of bad harvest.  – Japanese Proverbs

A bath refreshes the body, tea refreshes the mind.  – Japanese Proverbs

A bean-jam rice cake into the open mouth.  – Japanese Proverbs

A beautiful woman is like an axe in one’s life.  – Japanese Proverbs

A bee stinging a crying face.  – Japanese Proverbs

A boat that is not tied up will drift along with the stream.  – Japanese Proverbs

A borrowed cat catches no mice.  – Japanese Proverbs

A boy living near a Buddhist temple can learn an untaught sutra by heart.  – Japanese Proverbs

A Buddha’s face when asked three times.  – Japanese Proverbs

A centipede, though dead, will not fall.  – Japanese Proverbs

A clever hawk hides its talons.  – Japanese Proverbs

A coin to a cat.  – Japanese Proverbs

A country can be conquered from the back of a horse but may not be ruled in the same manner.  – Japanese Proverbs

A country may go to ruin but its mountains and streams remain. – Japanese Proverbs

A crooked top on a crooked kettle.  – Japanese Proverbs

A crying child thrives. – Japanese Proverbs

A dead cherry tree will not blossom.  – Japanese Proverbs

A dog that walks around will find a stick.  – Japanese Proverbs

A dying man discovers the honesty with which he was born.  – Japanese Proverbs

A faithful wife does not marry again.  – Japanese Proverbs

A fallen blossom never returns to the branch.  – Japanese Proverbs

A father’s goodness is higher than the mountain, a mother’s goodness deeper than the sea.    

A faultless person has seven faults, a faulty person forty-eight faults. 

A few kind words can warm three winter months. – Japanese Proverbs

A fish gets bigger when it gets away.  – Japanese Proverbs

A fog cannot be dispelled by a fan.  – Japanese Proverbs

A fool is only cured by dying.  – Japanese Proverbs

A frog in a well does not know the great sea. – Japanese Proverbs

A frog in the well knows not the ocean.  – Japanese Proverbs

A fruit-bearing tree is known by its flowers.  – Japanese Proverbs

A full belly is not the stomach of a scholar.  – Japanese Proverbs

A gilt-edged visiting card often hides an ugly face.  – Japanese Proverbs

A good cat does not need a collar of gold.  – Japanese Proverbs

A good husband is healthy and absent. – Japanese Proverbs

A good Jack makes a good Jill.  – Japanese Proverbs

A good religion does not need miracles.  – Japanese Proverbs

A good sword is the one left in its scabbard.  – Japanese Proverbs

A joke is often the hole through which truth whistles.  – Japanese Proverbs

A journey of a thousand miles starts with one step.  – Japanese Proverbs

A lie has no legs, but scandalous wings.  – Japanese Proverbs

A man can endure the worst pain — of others.  – Japanese Proverbs

A man in love mistakes a pimple for a dimple.  – Japanese Proverbs

A man of straw is still a man.  – Japanese Proverbs

A man who always wears his best kimono has no Sunday clothes.  – Japanese Proverbs

A man with a sour face should not open a shop.  – Japanese Proverbs

A man’s good name is as precious to him as its skin is to a tiger.  – Japanese Proverbs

A man’s heart and the autumnal sky.  – Japanese Proverbs

A man’s heart changes as often as does the autumn sky.  – Japanese Proverbs

A man’s word is his honor. – Japanese Proverbs

A mended lid to a cracked pan.  – Japanese Proverbs

A merchants happiness hangs upon chance, winds, and waves.  – Japanese Proverbs

A merry companion on the road is as good as a nag.  – Japanese Proverbs

A miser and his persimmon seeds.  – Japanese Proverbs

A monkey makes fun of the red behinds of his fellow monkeys.  – Japanese Proverbs

A padded jacket is an acceptable gift even in summer.  – Japanese Proverbs

A pig used to dirt turns its nose up at rice.  – Japanese Proverbs

A powerful man has big ears.  – Japanese Proverbs

A proposal without patience breaks its own heart.  – Japanese Proverbs

A protruding post is hammered down.  – Japanese Proverbs

A red lacquer dish needs no decoration.  – Japanese Proverbs

A rosy face in the morning, white bones in the evening.  – Japanese Proverbs

A round egg can be made square according to how you cut it; words would be harsh according to how you speak them.  – Japanese Proverbs

A short temper is a disadvantage.  – Japanese Proverbs

A silent man is the best one to listen to.  – Japanese Proverbs

A single arrow is easily broken, but not ten in a bundle.  – Japanese Proverbs

A single arrow is easily broken, but ten in a bundle aren’t. – Japanese Proverbs

A single prayer moves heaven.  – Japanese Proverbs

A smooth talker is a good-for-nothing person.  – Japanese Proverbs

A statement once let loose cannot be caught by four horses.  – Japanese Proverbs

A sutra in a horse’s ear.  – Japanese Proverbs

A sutra.  – Japanese Proverbs

A tea cup on the edge of a well.  – Japanese Proverbs

A thousand li journey begins with a single step.  – Japanese Proverbs

A three inch tongue — the iron bulwark of politics.  – Japanese Proverbs

A tiger dies and leaves his skin; a man dies and leaves his name.  – Japanese Proverbs

A whip even to a galloping horse.  – Japanese Proverbs

A wild goose may be worth a hundred pieces of gold, but you first have to spend three pieces of gold to buy an arrow.  – Japanese Proverbs

A willow before the wind.  – Japanese Proverbs

A wise man does not lose his way, a brave man does not fear.  – Japanese Proverbs

A woman has many mouths.  – Japanese Proverbs

A woman’s heart and spring weather.  – Japanese Proverbs

A word can’t be recalled once spoken.  – Japanese Proverbs

Absent friends get further away every day.  – Japanese Proverbs

Abuse often starts with praise.  – Japanese Proverbs

Acorns compare their height with each other.  – Japanese Proverbs

Adversity is the foundation of virtue.  – Japanese Proverbs

Advertising is the mother of trade. – Japanese Proverbs

Affinity is a mysterious thing, but it is spicy.  – Japanese Proverbs

Afraid of his own shadow.  – Japanese Proverbs

After the fight both parties give each other a good smack.  – Japanese Proverbs

After three years even a disaster can be good for something.  – Japanese Proverbs

After three years useless things are useful too.  – Japanese Proverbs

After victory, tighten your helmet chord.  – Japanese Proverbs

All married women are not wives.  – Japanese Proverbs

Although dying of thirst, i drink not the water of a stolen fountain.  – Japanese Proverbs

An accomplishment sticks to a person.  – Japanese Proverbs

An ant hole may collapse an embankment.  – Japanese Proverbs

An ant’s nest could bring down a hill.  – Japanese Proverbs

An eight-sided beauty is coldhearted.  – Japanese Proverbs

An evil act runs a thousand miles.  – Japanese Proverbs

An excess of courtesy is a discourtesy. – Japanese Proverbs

An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.  – Japanese Proverbs

An idiot is eloquent when he stays silent.  – Japanese Proverbs

Any ground is good enough to be buried in.  – Japanese Proverbs

Apple blossoms are beautiful, but rice dumplings are better.  – Japanese Proverbs

Art is the illusion of spontaneity.  – Japanese Proverbs

As soon as a man leaves his house he has seven enemies.  – Japanese Proverbs

As soon as stones can swim, leaves will sink.  – Japanese Proverbs

As though a bird had flown up from under your feet.  – Japanese Proverbs

As to flowers, when half open; as to sake, when a person is half tipsy.  – Japanese Proverbs

At a distance enjoy the fragrance of flowers.  – Japanese Proverbs

At the bottom of the lighthouse it is dark.  – Japanese Proverbs

At the first cup man drinks wine, at the second wine drinks wine, at the third wine drinks man.  – Japanese Proverbs

Bad and good are intertwined like rope.  – Japanese Proverbs

Beat your wife on the wedding day, and your married life will be happy.  – Japanese Proverbs

Beaten with his own rod.  – Japanese Proverbs

Beauty is skin deep.  – Japanese Proverbs

Because of their figure, vain women stay cold. – Japanese Proverbs

Beginning is easy – Continuing is hard.  – Japanese Proverbs

Beginning is easy — to keep going is hard.  – Japanese Proverbs

Better be proficient in one art than a smatterer in a thousand.  – Japanese Proverbs

Better go without medicine than call in an unskilled physician.  – Japanese Proverbs

Better than a banquet somewhere else is a good cup of tea and a bowl of rice at home.  – Japanese Proverbs

Better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great teacher.  – Japanese Proverbs

Better to be a crystal and to be broken, than to be a tile upon the housetop.  – Japanese Proverbs

Better to die than to live in shame.  – Japanese Proverbs

Better to wash an old kimono than borrow a new one.  – Japanese Proverbs

Better to write down something one time than to read something ten times.  – Japanese Proverbs

Big fish do not live in small ponds.  – Japanese Proverbs

Boasting begins where wisdom stops.  – Japanese Proverbs

Boat-swalling fish do not live in brooks.  – Japanese Proverbs

Books are preserved (parts of) minds. – Japanese Proverbs

Books are preserved minds. – Japanese Proverbs

Books are preserved parts of minds.  – Japanese Proverbs

Borrowed garments do not fit well.  – Japanese Proverbs

Both quarrellers are to be punished.  – Japanese Proverbs

Breeding rather than birth.  – Japanese Proverbs

Brides and mothers-in-law are like dogs and monkeys.  – Japanese Proverbs

Business and folding screens must be crooked to stand.  – Japanese Proverbs

Business is a two-way street.  – Japanese Proverbs

By poking at a bamboo thicket, one drives out a snake.  – Japanese Proverbs

By seeing one spot you know the entire leopard.  – Japanese Proverbs

Character can be built on daily routine. – Japanese Proverbs

Cheerfulness is the very flower of health.  – Japanese Proverbs

Cherry blossoms in the recesses of a mountain.  – Japanese Proverbs

Children grow up, with or without parents.  – Japanese Proverbs

Children yoke parents to the past, present and future.  – Japanese Proverbs

Clear sky, cultivate; rainy, read. – Japanese Proverbs

Clouds over the moon, a storm over blossoms.  – Japanese Proverbs

Cold tea and cold rice are bearable, but cold looks and cold words are not.  – Japanese Proverbs

Cold tea and cold rice are tolerable; cold looks and cold words aren’t. – Japanese Proverbs

Common sense is essential. – Okinawan Proverb

Conqueror the self and you will conquer the opponent. – Samurai Proverb

Consider the facts seven times before you suspect someone.  – Japanese Proverbs

Consult anyone, even your knees.  – Japanese Proverbs

Control of mental conduct, not skill, is the sign of a matured samurai. – Samurai Proverb

Control your emotion or it will control you. – Samurai Proverb

Cooked rice grains sticking to the soles of the feet.  – Japanese Proverbs

Count the skins of badgers which haven’t been caught.  – Japanese Proverbs

Cover the ears and steal the bell.  – Japanese Proverbs

Cover your head, and not cover your bottom.  – Japanese Proverbs

Crabs dig holes according to the size of their shells.  – Japanese Proverbs

Cupidity has no peak.  – Japanese Proverbs

Darkness lies one inch ahead.  – Japanese Proverbs

Darkness reigns at the foot of the lighthouse. – Japanese Proverbs

Day has its eyes, night has its ears.  – Japanese Proverbs

Deceive the rich and powerful if you will, but don’t insult them.  – Japanese Proverbs

Deceiving a deceiver is no knavery.  – Japanese Proverbs

Depend on your walking stick, not on other people.  – Japanese Proverbs

Destroy a country, but its mountains and rivers remain.  – Japanese Proverbs

Difficulties make you a jewel.  – Japanese Proverbs

Disgrace is like the grain of a tree trunk — time makes it bigger instead of erasing it.  – Japanese Proverbs

Do good things quickly.  – Japanese Proverbs

Do not prophesy to the man who can see further than you can.  – Japanese Proverbs

Do not stay too long when the husband is not home.  – Japanese Proverbs

Don’t call in the doctor after the funeral.  – Japanese Proverbs

Don’t estimate the value of a badger skin before catching the badger.  – Japanese Proverbs

Don’t give your son’s wife fall-harvest eggplant to eat.  – Japanese Proverbs

Don’t rejoice over him that goes, before you see him that comes.  – Japanese Proverbs

Don’t scratch your shoe when it’s your foot that itches.  – Japanese Proverbs

Don’t stay long when the husband is not at home.  – Japanese Proverbs

Don’t take a golden sword to cut a radish.  – Japanese Proverbs

Don’t take seriously the cat who mourns for a mouse.  – Japanese Proverbs

Don’t tell others to do what you cannot do.  – Japanese Proverbs

Don’t try to cover the stone with a quilt.  – Japanese Proverbs

Drink and sing: the dark night is ahead of us.  – Japanese Proverbs

Due to the presence of fools wise people stand out.  – Japanese Proverbs

Dumplings are better than flowers.  – Japanese Proverbs

Duty is heavy as a mountain but Death is lighter than a feather.  – Japanese Proverbs

Duty knows no family.  – Japanese Proverbs

Each day you can admire the moon, the snow and the flowers.  – Japanese Proverbs

Each has his yang chi.  – Japanese Proverbs

Earthquakes, thunderbolts, fires, fathers.  – Japanese Proverbs

Eat before falling in love.  – Japanese Proverbs

Eggplants do not grow on melon vines.  – Japanese Proverbs

Eggs and promises are easily broken.  – Japanese Proverbs

Eggs and vows are easily broken.  – Japanese Proverbs

Entering the village, obey the village.  – Japanese Proverbs

Even a fool has one talent.  – Japanese Proverbs

Even a fool knows the glow of gold.  – Japanese Proverbs

Even a one-inch insect has a half-inch soul.  – Japanese Proverbs

Even a sheet of paper has two sides. – Japanese Proverbs

Even a superb hawk will not catch game unless it is loosed.  – Japanese Proverbs

Even a thief takes ten years to learn his trade.  – Japanese Proverbs

Even a thousand-mile journey begins with the first step.  – Japanese Proverbs

Even confucius had his misfortunes.  – Japanese Proverbs

Even dust amassed will grow into a mountain.  – Japanese Proverbs

Even if you hide yourself from the world, don’t lose sight of your real nature. – Okinawan Proverb

Even in hell you meet relations.  – Japanese Proverbs

Even monkeys fall from trees. – Japanese Proverbs

Even the Buddha’s face, only until the third.  – Japanese Proverbs

Even the stone you trip on is part of your destiny.  – Japanese Proverbs

Even thinking about sexual pleasure has its roots in greed.  – Japanese Proverbs

Even though you tread slowly over your rice field it will become muddy.  – Japanese Proverbs

Even when a samurai has not eaten, he holds his toothpick high.  – Japanese Proverbs

Even when he has not eaten, a samurai wields his toothpick.  – Japanese Proverbs

Even when months and days are long, life is short.  – Japanese Proverbs

Even when our sleeves brush together it is our karma.  – Japanese Proverbs

Every fashion goes out of style.  – Japanese Proverbs

Every little yielding to anxiety is a step away from the natural heart of man.  – Japanese Proverbs

Every meeting is the beginning of a good-bye.  – Japanese Proverbs

Every worm to his taste.  – Japanese Proverbs

Fall seven times, stand up the eighth.  – Japanese Proverbs

Fallen blossom doesn’t return to the branch.  – Japanese Proverbs

Fallen blossoms do not return to branches; a broken mirror does not again reflect.  – Japanese Proverbs

Fast Ripe, Fast Rotten.  – Japanese Proverbs

Fate aids the courageous.  – Japanese Proverbs

Fear blows wind into your sails.  – Japanese Proverbs

Fear is only as deep as the mind allows. – Japanese Proverbs

Feed a dog for three days and it is grateful for three years. Feed a cat for three years and it forgets after three days. 

Fire does not burn in a jar.  – Japanese Proverbs

First the man takes a drink [liquor], then the drink takes a drink, and then the drink takes the man. – Japanese Proverbs

First the man takes a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes the man.  – Japanese Proverbs

First things first.  – Japanese Proverbs

Flattery is the best persuader of people.  – Japanese Proverbs

Flattery is the best persuader. – Japanese Proverbs

Follow the villagers when you are in the new village.  – Japanese Proverbs

Food is delicious when one is hungry.  – Japanese Proverbs

Fools and knives require good handling.  – Japanese Proverbs

Fools and scissors require good handling.  – Japanese Proverbs

For rice cakes, go to the rice-cake maker.  – Japanese Proverbs

Forgetting your native tongue means forgetting your native country.  – Japanese Proverbs

Forgiving the unrepentant is like drawing pictures on water.  – Japanese Proverbs

Fortune will call at the smiling gate.  – Japanese Proverbs

Fortunes exist among leftovers.  – Japanese Proverbs

From gods that are left alone, there is no curse.  – Japanese Proverbs

From the mouths of babes and drunkards, you will learn the truth.  – Japanese Proverbs

Gain from your opponents without sacrificing your own strength.  – Japanese Proverbs

Generals conquer, soldiers are killed.  – Japanese Proverbs

Getting money is like digging with a needle. Spending it is like water soaking into the sand.  – Japanese Proverbs

Giving gold coins to a cat.  – Japanese Proverbs

God lives in an honest heart.  – Japanese Proverbs

Good luck in business is like the froth on an ox’s face.  – Japanese Proverbs

Good medicine often has a bitter taste.  – Japanese Proverbs

Good things are never cheap.  – Japanese Proverbs

Good things, many devils.  – Japanese Proverbs

Gossip about a person and his shadow will appear. – Japanese Proverbs

Great deeds come from times of shortage.  – Japanese Proverbs

Great talents mature late.  – Japanese Proverbs

Great trees are envied by the wind.  – Japanese Proverbs

Great villainy is often called loyalty.  – Japanese Proverbs

Greetings are the patron gods of our time.  – Japanese Proverbs

Grief itches but scratching it makes it worse.  – Japanese Proverbs

Growing rice gives you more than poetry will.  – Japanese Proverbs

Had the pheasant not screamed, it wouldn’t have been shot.  – Japanese Proverbs

Half an hour in a spring evening is worth a thousand gold pieces.  – Japanese Proverbs

Happiness rarely keeps company with an empty stomach.  – Japanese Proverbs

Happiness spring — cleans the heart.  – Japanese Proverbs

Having conquered, tighten the thongs of your helmet.  – Japanese Proverbs

He draws water over his own rice field.  – Japanese Proverbs

He flies into the flame, the summer insect.  – Japanese Proverbs

He is not poor that hath not feel content.  – Japanese Proverbs

He is poor who does not feel content.  – Japanese Proverbs

He is rich who knows when he has enough.  – Japanese Proverbs

He who admits to his ignorance shows it once only; he who tries to hide it shows it frequently.  – Japanese Proverbs

He who burns his mouth on the soup will blow on a cold fish dish.  – Japanese Proverbs

He who buys useless things, later sells things that he needs.  – Japanese Proverbs

He who eats globefish soup is a fool; so is he who does not.  – Japanese Proverbs

He who has gold is served by the devil.  – Japanese Proverbs

He who hunts two hares leaves one and loses the other.  – Japanese Proverbs

He who insults another, digs two graves.  – Japanese Proverbs

He who is always right will never get round the world.  – Japanese Proverbs

He who is dependant on others must make friends with the dog.  – Japanese Proverbs

He who is desperate will squeeze oil out of a grain of sand.  – Japanese Proverbs

He who is too servile ruins his back.  – Japanese Proverbs

He who knows not when he has enough, is poor.  – Japanese Proverbs

He who makes the first bad move always loses the game.  – Japanese Proverbs

He who never goes is a fool; he who goes twice is also a fool.  – Japanese Proverbs

He who sits in the shade won’t take an axe to the tree.  – Japanese Proverbs

He who smells does not know it himself.  – Japanese Proverbs

He who steals incense smells of it.  – Japanese Proverbs

He who talks to a silent listener will soon stand naked. – Japanese Proverbs

He who treads the path of love walks a thousand meters as if it were only one.  – Japanese Proverbs

He who wants what God wants of him will lead a free and happy life.  – Japanese Proverbs

He who wears a smile instead of worrying is always the strongest.  – Japanese Proverbs

He who would go a hundred miles should consider ninety-nine as halfway.  – Japanese Proverbs

Heart rather than appearance.  – Japanese Proverbs

Hidden virtues ring like a soft bell.  – Japanese Proverbs

How can swallows and sparrows know the thoughts of a great swan?  – Japanese Proverbs

How good at combing is the bald priest.  – Japanese Proverbs

I have no (set) principles; I make adaptability to all circumstances my principle. – Samurai Proverb

I have no friends; I make my mind my friend. – Samurai Proverb

I have no set principles; I make adaptability to all circumstances my principle.  – Japanese Proverbs

I have no sword; I make no-mind my sword. – Samurai Proverb

I would like to break off the flower, but the branch is too high.  – Japanese Proverbs

If a man be great, even his dog will wear a proud look.  – Japanese Proverbs

If a man deceive me once, shame on him; if he deceive me twice, shame on me.  – Japanese Proverbs

If a waterwheel exerts itself, it has no time to get frozen.  – Japanese Proverbs

If eating poison finish up the plate.  – Japanese Proverbs

If every day was a sunny day, who would not wish for rain?  – Japanese Proverbs

If her works for you, you work for him.  – Japanese Proverbs

If I peddle salt, it rains; if I peddle flour, the wind blows.  – Japanese Proverbs

If man has no tea in him, he is incapable of understanding truth and beauty.  – Japanese Proverbs

If money be not thy servant, it will be thy master.  – Japanese Proverbs

If my shirt knew my design, I’d burn it.  – Japanese Proverbs

If neither animal nor vegetable you be, then mineral you are.  – Japanese Proverbs

If one man praises you, a thousand will repeat the praise.  – Japanese Proverbs

If the bird hadn’t sung, it wouldn’t have been shot.  – Japanese Proverbs

If the father is a frog, the son will be a frog.  – Japanese Proverbs

If the fountainhead is clear, the stream will be clear.  – Japanese Proverbs

If the skin of your belly is tight, the skin of your eyelids can sleep.  – Japanese Proverbs

If there is a lid that doesn’t fit, then there is a lid that does. – Japanese Proverbs

If there is a lid that doesn’t fit, then there is a lid that does. To a person that does not wander, there is not enlightenment. Fall seven times, stand up eight.  – Japanese Proverbs

If unreason comes, reason goes.  – Japanese Proverbs

If you are eager to be in the shadow, leave your axe at home.  – Japanese Proverbs

If you are going out for a fight leave your best hat at home.  – Japanese Proverbs

If you are going to fall it’s muddy everywhere.  – Japanese Proverbs

If you are going to sit on it for three years, the seat will certainly get warm.  – Japanese Proverbs

If you are in a boat you are more afraid of fire than you are of water.  – Japanese Proverbs

If you are looking for bad luck, you will soon find it.  – Japanese Proverbs

If you are travelling towards the East, you will inevitably move away from the West.  – Japanese Proverbs

If you beat even new floor mats, dirt will come out.  – Japanese Proverbs

If you become a dog, turn into the dog of a wealthy family.  – Japanese Proverbs

If you believe everything you read, better not read. – Japanese Proverbs

If you believe everything you read, you had better not read.  – Japanese Proverbs

If you carry treasure, don’t travel at night.  – Japanese Proverbs

If you hate a man, let him live.  – Japanese Proverbs

If you have no one else, then confer with your knee.  – Japanese Proverbs

If you have only two pennies left in the world, with the first penny, you should buy rice to feed your family. With the second penny, say the wise Japanese, you should buy a lily. The Japanese understand the importance of dreaming…  – Japanese Proverbs

If you look up, there are no limits.  – Japanese Proverbs

If you love your son, let him travel.  – Japanese Proverbs

If you love your son, make him leave home. – Japanese Proverbs

If you make a mistake, don’t hesitate to correct it.  – Japanese Proverbs

If you make love in the shade you get cold.  – Japanese Proverbs

If you never climb Mt. Fuji, you’re a fool, and if you climb it more than once, you’re a crazy fool.  – Japanese Proverbs

If you respect others, others will respect you. – Okinawan Proverb

If you run after two hares, you will catch neither.  – Japanese Proverbs

If you see Mt. Fuji, a hawk, and an eggplant on New Year’s Day, you will be forever blessed.  – Japanese Proverbs

If you sit by the river long enough, you will see the body of your enemy float by.  – Japanese Proverbs

If you think about things too long, good thoughts will disappear.  – Japanese Proverbs

If you turn into a dog, be sure to choose a rich family.  – Japanese Proverbs

If you understand everything, you must be misinformed.  – Japanese Proverbs

If you wait long enough, it will be good weather.  – Japanese Proverbs

If you wait, there will come nectar – like fair weather.  – Japanese Proverbs

If you want a thing done well, do it yourself.  – Japanese Proverbs

If you wish to learn the highest truths, begin with the alphabet.  – Japanese Proverbs

If you would shoot a general, shoot his horse first.  – Japanese Proverbs

I’ll give away rice fields and footpaths.  – Japanese Proverbs

In a quarrel, the higher voiced person will win.  – Japanese Proverbs

In a wealthy man’s house there is no lean dog.  – Japanese Proverbs

In strategy, secrecy is highly regarded. – Japanese Proverbs

In the eyes of a lover a pock-marked face is one with pretty dimples.  – Japanese Proverbs

In the struggle between the stone and water, in time, the water wins. – Japanese Proverbs

In trying to straighten the horns you kill the ox.  – Japanese Proverbs

Indifference is a generous kind of intolerance.  – Japanese Proverbs

Inquire seven times then doubt a person.  – Japanese Proverbs

Instead of worrying, a strong man wears a smile. – Japanese Proverbs

Into the house where joy lives, happiness will gladly come.  – Japanese Proverbs

Invalids live the longest.  – Japanese Proverbs

It belongs neither to the sea nor to the mountain.  – Japanese Proverbs

It is a beggar’s pride that he is not a thief.  – Japanese Proverbs

It is a blessing in disguise.  – Japanese Proverbs

It is better to be ignorant than mistaken.  – Japanese Proverbs

It is better to be the head of a chicken than the rear of an ox.  – Japanese Proverbs

It is better to go home and make your net than to gaze longingly at the fish in the deep pool.  – Japanese Proverbs

It is better to write down something once than read it ten times. – Japanese Proverbs

It is easy to die — the difficulty lies in living.  – Japanese Proverbs

It is foolish to deal with a fool.  – Japanese Proverbs

It is no use cutting a stick when the fight is over.  – Japanese Proverbs

It is one life, whether we spend it in laughing or in weeping.  – Japanese Proverbs

It is precisely the uncertainty of this world that makes life worth living.  – Japanese Proverbs

It is the same life whether we spend it crying or laughing.  – Japanese Proverbs

It is useful to first see the spark before the fire.  – Japanese Proverbs

It’s better to lie a little than to be unhappy. – Japanese Proverbs

It’s better to not read at all than to believe everything you read. – Japanese Proverbs

It’s awful, I hate it” is hardly the other side of “That is beautiful and I loved it.”  – Japanese Proverbs

It’s better to lie a little than to be unhappy.  – Japanese Proverbs

It’s better to not read at all than to believe everything you read. The day you decide to do it is your lucky day.  – Japanese Proverbs

It’s easier to make it than to think about it.  – Japanese Proverbs

It’s hard to know the quality of a person, or a watermelon.  – Japanese Proverbs

It’s no good trying to bite your navel.  – Japanese Proverbs

Jizo’s face when borrowing; emma’s face when repaying.  – Japanese Proverbs

Karma and shadows follow one everywhere.  – Japanese Proverbs

Kind hearts are better than fair faces.  – Japanese Proverbs

Kindness will never be wasted in any way.  – Japanese Proverbs

Knowledge without wisdom is a load of books on the back of an ass.  – Japanese Proverbs

Kyoto people ruin themselves for clothing. Osaka people for food.  – Japanese Proverbs

Large trees are envied by the wind.  – Japanese Proverbs

Laughter cannot bring back what anger has driven away.  – Japanese Proverbs

Laughter is the hiccup of a fool.  – Japanese Proverbs

Lazy people have no spare time.  – Japanese Proverbs

Let the past drift away with the water.  – Japanese Proverbs

Let what is past flow away downstream.  – Japanese Proverbs

Let’s live helping each other in this world.  – Japanese Proverbs

Life is a candle before the wind.  – Japanese Proverbs

Life is a long journey with a heavy bag on its back.  – Japanese Proverbs

Life is for one generation; a good name is forever.  – Japanese Proverbs

Life is the source of all things.  – Japanese Proverbs

Life without endeavor is like entering a jewel-mine and coming out with empty hands.  – Japanese Proverbs

Life? That is a candle in the wind; frost upon a roof; the twitching of the fish in a pan.  – Japanese Proverbs

Life’s not all beer and skittles.  – Japanese Proverbs

Like a Buddha met with in hell.  – Japanese Proverbs

Like a millstone dressed in a kimono.  – Japanese Proverbs

Like trying to put a comb upon the nun’s head.  – Japanese Proverbs

Look for a thrifty woman — even though it may cost you a pair of shoes.  – Japanese Proverbs

Looking up we are not ashamed in the presence of heaven, nor bowing down are we ashamed in the presence of earth.  – Japanese Proverbs

Love and a cough cannot be hidden.  – Japanese Proverbs

Love lives in palaces as well as in thatched cottages.  – Japanese Proverbs

Love without friendship is like a shadow without the sun.  – Japanese Proverbs

Luck is like having a rice dumpling fly into your mouth.  – Japanese Proverbs

Making money is like digging with a needle.  – Japanese Proverbs

Man and wife are one flesh.  – Japanese Proverbs

Man cannot reach perfection in a hundred years; he can fall in a day with time to spare. – Japanese Proverbs

Man is the instrument of illness.  – Japanese Proverbs

Man longs to see that which he is afraid to see.  – Japanese Proverbs

Many flowers, few fruits.  – Japanese Proverbs

May you live up to one hundred years and i up to ninety-nine.  – Japanese Proverbs

Men and women are never placed too far apart to be near.  – Japanese Proverbs

Money grows on the tree of persistence.     – Japanese Proverbs

Money has no ears but it hears; no legs but it walks.  – Japanese Proverbs

Money has no smell.  – Japanese Proverbs

Money matters make strangers.  – Japanese Proverbs

Moonlight and boiled rice.  – Japanese Proverbs

More festive than the feast itself is the day before.  – Japanese Proverbs

Mountains are not esteemed because they are high, but because they have trees.  – Japanese Proverbs

My skirt with tears is always wet: I have forgotten to forget.  – Japanese Proverbs

My son is my son till he gets him a wife, but my daughter’s my daughter all the days of her life.  – Japanese Proverbs

Never admit that there is a tomorrow.  – Japanese Proverbs

Never judge things of which you only know the shadow.  – Japanese Proverbs

Never rely on the glory of the morning or the smiles of your mother-in-law. – Japanese Proverbs

Never trust a woman, even if she has borne you seven children.  – Japanese Proverbs

Never trust the advice of a man in difficulty.  – Japanese Proverbs

Never watch a bonfire wearing a straw coat.  – Japanese Proverbs

No branch is better than its trunk.  – Japanese Proverbs

No one buys what he recommends himself.  – Japanese Proverbs

No one was ever hurt by laughter.  – Japanese Proverbs

No road is too long in the company of a friend.  – Japanese Proverbs

Not to know is to be a Buddha.  – Japanese Proverbs

Nothing so visible than what you want to hide.  – Japanese Proverbs

Not-speaking is the flower.  – Japanese Proverbs

Obey the customs of the village you enter.  – Japanese Proverbs

Old age cures us of our youth.  – Japanese Proverbs

Old horses don’t forget the way.  – Japanese Proverbs

Old people are everyone’s treasures. – Okinawan Proverb

Once conquered — always a traitor.  – Japanese Proverbs

Once dead the good and the bad are covered by the same moss.  – Japanese Proverbs

Once we meet and talk, we are brothers and sisters.  – Japanese Proverbs

Once you have made a fortune, know how to spend it.  – Japanese Proverbs

One can stand still in a flowing stream, but not in a world of men.  – Japanese Proverbs

One cannot always find a fish under a willow.  – Japanese Proverbs

One cannot become a priest just by having a rosary.  – Japanese Proverbs

One cannot quarrel without an opponent.  – Japanese Proverbs

One cannot scoop up the ocean with a sea shell.  – Japanese Proverbs

One coin saved, a hundred losses.  – Japanese Proverbs

One dog yelping at nothing will set ten thousand straining at their collars.  – Japanese Proverbs

One joy can drive away a hundred sorrows.  – Japanese Proverbs

One kind word can warm three winter months.  – Japanese Proverbs

One kind word can warm winter months.  – Japanese Proverbs

One kindness is the price of another.  – Japanese Proverbs

One may study calligraphy at eighty.  – Japanese Proverbs

One moment of intense happiness prolongs life by a thousand years.  – Japanese Proverbs

One sees the sky through a hollow reed.  – Japanese Proverbs

One who eats plain food is healthy.  – Japanese Proverbs

One who eats plain food is healthy. – Okinawan Proverb

One who smiles rather than rages is always the stronger.  – Japanese Proverbs

One who waits patiently will catch a big fish.  – Japanese Proverbs

One word let slip and four horses would fail to catch it.  – Japanese Proverbs

One written word is worth a thousand pieces of gold.  – Japanese Proverbs

One’s village is revealed.  – Japanese Proverbs

Only God knows one’s term of life.  – Japanese Proverbs

Only he who knows his own weaknesses can endure those of others.  – Japanese Proverbs

Only lawyers and painters can turn white to black.  – Japanese Proverbs

Only through suffering and sorrow do we acquire the wisdom not found in books.  – Japanese Proverbs

Only when the coffin is closed will we see how long lasting is the name.  – Japanese Proverbs

Our fates are as registered by heaven.  – Japanese Proverbs

Over-intelligent people can’t find friends.  – Japanese Proverbs

Overturned water doesn’t return to the tray.  – Japanese Proverbs

Parents and children teach one another.  – Japanese Proverbs

Pears and women are the sweetest in the parts that are heaviest.  – Japanese Proverbs

People want to avoid the dew before they become wet.  – Japanese Proverbs

People who are asleep can’t fall down.  – Japanese Proverbs

People with the same disease share sympathy.  – Japanese Proverbs

Pick your wife in the kitchen.  – Japanese Proverbs

Plan your life at New Year’s eve, your day at dawn.  – Japanese Proverbs

Poetry moves heaven and earth.  – Japanese Proverbs

Poets know all about famous places without having been there. – Japanese Proverbs

Poke a bush, a snake comes out.  – Japanese Proverbs

Poor is the person who does not know when he has had enough. – Japanese Proverbs

Poor men sleep the best.  – Japanese Proverbs

Poverty is no sin, but terribly inconvenient.  – Japanese Proverbs

Proof rather than argument.  – Japanese Proverbs

Pursue your duties and don’t let them pursue you.  – Japanese Proverbs

Put faith in your own abilities and not in the stars. – Samurai Proverb

Quiet worms will bore a hole in the wall.  – Japanese Proverbs

Rained on ground hardens.  – Japanese Proverbs

Rather ten thousand lanterns from a wealthy man than one lantern from a poor man.  – Japanese Proverbs

Repentance never comes first.  – Japanese Proverbs

Respect old people, and be gentle with children. – Okinawan Proverb

Revere the Emperor and expel the barbarians.  – Japanese Proverbs

Say what you have to say, tomorrow.  – Japanese Proverbs

Seeing is poison for the eyes.  – Japanese Proverbs

Serve your neighbors as you would be served yourself.  – Japanese Proverbs

Sickness is a thing of the spirit.  – Japanese Proverbs

Silence makes irritation grow.  – Japanese Proverbs

Silence surpasses speech.  – Japanese Proverbs

Silent worms dig holes in the walls.  – Japanese Proverbs

Sleep and wait for good luck.  – Japanese Proverbs

Sleeping people can’t fall down.  – Japanese Proverbs

Small things are lovable.  – Japanese Proverbs

Snakes follow the way of serpents.  – Japanese Proverbs

Some people like to make of life a garden, and to walk only within its paths.  – Japanese Proverbs

Some pray to the gods only when in trouble.  – Japanese Proverbs

Sometimes it takes only an hour to get a reputation that lasts for a thousand years.  – Japanese Proverbs

Sorrow is the seed of wealth.  – Japanese Proverbs

Sparrows, though they live to be a hundred, do not forget their dance.  – Japanese Proverbs

Speak well of others.  – Japanese Proverbs

Spend words as efficiently as money. – Okinawan Proverb

Spending it is like pouring water into sand.  – Japanese Proverbs

Steal goods and you’ll go to prison, steal lands and you are a king.  – Japanese Proverbs

Stupidity begins with honesty.  – Japanese Proverbs

Suspicion bears dark devils.  – Japanese Proverbs

Talk about things of tomorrow and the mice inside the ceiling laugh.  – Japanese Proverbs

Teaching is half learning.  – Japanese Proverbs

Ten men, ten minds. – Japanese Proverbs

Ten men, ten tastes.  – Japanese Proverbs

The absent get further off every day.  – Japanese Proverbs

The acolyte at the gate reads scriptures he has never learned.  – Japanese Proverbs

The bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that resists. – Japanese Proverbs

The bandits in the mountain are easily subjected, but it is difficult to subject the bandits in my heart.  – Japanese Proverbs

The base of a lighthouse is dark.  – Japanese Proverbs

The bean paste that smells like bean paste is not the best quality.  – Japanese Proverbs

The beginning of sin is sweet; its end is bitter.  – Japanese Proverbs

The boaster and the proud person are fools.  – Japanese Proverbs

The caged bird dreams of clouds.  – Japanese Proverbs

The cat is a saint when there are no mice about.  – Japanese Proverbs

The character of a man lies not in his body but in his soul.  – Japanese Proverbs

The cherry blossom among flowers, the warrior among men.  – Japanese Proverbs

The child who died too soon was always beautiful and intelligent.  – Japanese Proverbs

The clog and amida are both from the same piece of wood.  – Japanese Proverbs

The consequence is the reward of the cause.  – Japanese Proverbs

The country is in ruins, and there are still mountains and rivers.  – Japanese Proverbs

The cow drinks water and it turns to milk; the snake drinks water and it turns to poison.  – Japanese Proverbs

The criticism of a blind man.  – Japanese Proverbs

The crow that mimics a cormorant gets drowned.  – Japanese Proverbs

The day you decide to do it is your lucky day. – Japanese Proverbs

The devil was good looking at eighteen, and course tea makes a bitter first cup.  – Japanese Proverbs

The dog called “Sorrow,” without eating, will be fat in every house.  – Japanese Proverbs

The dog that wags its tail won’t be beaten.  – Japanese Proverbs

The extreme form of passionate love is secret love. – Japanese Proverbs

The eye that is still says more than a chattering mouth.  – Japanese Proverbs

The eyes are the mirror of the soul.  – Japanese Proverbs

The eyes speak as much as the mouth.  – Japanese Proverbs

The fast talker makes mistakes.  – Japanese Proverbs

The flow of water and the future of human beings are uncertain.  – Japanese Proverbs

The flowers of others are red.  – Japanese Proverbs

The fortune-teller never knows his own.  – Japanese Proverbs

The friendship of water and fish.  – Japanese Proverbs

The frog in his pond sneers at the ocean.  – Japanese Proverbs

The go-between wears out a thousand sandals.  – Japanese Proverbs

The gods just laugh when men pray to them for wealth.  – Japanese Proverbs

The goodness of the father reaches higher than a mountain; that of the mother goes deeper than the ocean.  – Japanese Proverbs

The guest who seeks special attention muddies the host’s tea.  – Japanese Proverbs

The hard road turns the traveller into the same dust that he has to swallow.  – Japanese Proverbs

The hawk with talent hides its talons.  – Japanese Proverbs

The head of a dragon, the tail of a snake.  – Japanese Proverbs

The head of a monkey, the headdress of a prince.  – Japanese Proverbs

The heart is the most essential human quality. – Okinawan Proverb

The heaviest rains fall on the house that leaks most.  – Japanese Proverbs

The hen tells the cock to crow.  – Japanese Proverbs

The hole the crab digs takes on the shape of its shell.  – Japanese Proverbs

The human heart is neither of stone nor wood.  – Japanese Proverbs

The inarticulate speak longest.  – Japanese Proverbs

The intimacy of water and fish.  – Japanese Proverbs

The jellyfish never dances with the shrimp.  – Japanese Proverbs

The lawyer will extend the frontiers of a fight.  – Japanese Proverbs

The lazy one stands up between one armchair and another.  – Japanese Proverbs

The lotus flower blooms in the mud.  – Japanese Proverbs

The man who makes the first bad move always loses the game.  – Japanese Proverbs

The marten is proud where there is no weasel.  – Japanese Proverbs

The matchmaker always asks for too much money for his eight hundred lies.  – Japanese Proverbs

The more stupid the child the dearer it is.  – Japanese Proverbs

The more the merrier.  – Japanese Proverbs

The more you eat, the more you gain.  – Japanese Proverbs

The most beautiful flowers flourish in the shade.  – Japanese Proverbs

The mouth is the cause of calamity.  – Japanese Proverbs

The mouth is the door of evil.  – Japanese Proverbs

The mouth of a man is a terrible opening.  – Japanese Proverbs

The nail that sticks its head up is the one that gets hit. – Japanese Proverbs

The nail that sticks out [non-conformist] gets hammered down. – Japanese Proverbs

The nail that sticks up will be hammered down. – Japanese Proverbs

The neighbour’s lawn is green.  – Japanese Proverbs

The old people are treasures to us.  – Japanese Proverbs

The old should be treated with due respect. Children should be treated with gentleness.  – Japanese Proverbs

The other side also has another side.  – Japanese Proverbs

The past is the future of the present.  – Japanese Proverbs

The path of duty lies in what is near at hand, but men seek for it in what is remote.  – Japanese Proverbs

The pebble in the brook secretly thinks itself a precious stone.  – Japanese Proverbs

The pensioner gets the wages of the death.  – Japanese Proverbs

The person who admits ignorance shows it once; the one who tries to hide it shows it often. – Japanese Proverbs

The plagiarist turns the body inside-out and changes the bones.  – Japanese Proverbs

The poor have no time to spare.  – Japanese Proverbs

The poor sleep soundly.  – Japanese Proverbs

The prettiest of shoes makes a sorry hat.  – Japanese Proverbs

The reputation of a thousand years may be determined by the conduct of one hour. – Japanese Proverbs

The reverse side also has a reverse side. – Japanese Proverbs

The sack of longing has no bottom.  – Japanese Proverbs

The second word makes the fray.  – Japanese Proverbs

The second word makes the quarrel.      – Japanese Proverbs

The shade of the same tree, the flowing of the same stream.  – Japanese Proverbs

The skill of using a mortar and pestle never leaves one.  – Japanese Proverbs

The smaller the margin, the greater the turnover.  – Japanese Proverbs

The smallest good deed is better than the grandest good intention.  – Japanese Proverbs

The soul of a three year old until a hundred.  – Japanese Proverbs

The sparrow flying behind the hawk thinks the hawk is fleeing.  – Japanese Proverbs

The speaker may well be a fool but the listener is wise.  – Japanese Proverbs

The spendthrift beats his money as if it were a carpet.  – Japanese Proverbs

The spirit of a three-year-old lasts a hundred years.  – Japanese Proverbs

The spit aimed at the sky comes back to one.  – Japanese Proverbs

The splendor of the rose of sharon is but a day.  – Japanese Proverbs

The spot that makes the warrior benkei cry.  – Japanese Proverbs

The strong will protect the weak and, in return, the weak will serve the strong.  – Japanese Proverbs

The stumbling of a fabulous horse.  – Japanese Proverbs

The taller the bamboo grows, the lower it bends.  – Japanese Proverbs

The taste of cold water after drinking, is a pleasure that the teetotaler will never know.  – Japanese Proverbs

The tongue is but three inches long, yet it can kill a man six feet high.  – Japanese Proverbs

The tongue is more to be feared than the sword. – Japanese Proverbs

The tongue of woman is her sword, which never rusts.  – Japanese Proverbs

The turtle underestimates the value of fast feet.  – Japanese Proverbs

The unscrupulous succeed every time.  – Japanese Proverbs

The very thing one likes, one does well.  – Japanese Proverbs

The winds may fell the massive oak, but bamboo, bent even to the ground, will spring upright after the passage of the storm.  – Japanese Proverbs

The world is the world for the world.  – Japanese Proverbs

There are formalities between the closest of friends.  – Japanese Proverbs

There are no national frontiers to learning.  – Japanese Proverbs

There are old men of three years old and children of a hundred.  – Japanese Proverbs

There as many ways of making a living as seeds of grass.  – Japanese Proverbs

There can be no offense where none is taken.  – Japanese Proverbs

There is no coincidence in getting married.  – Japanese Proverbs

There is no escape from heaven’s web.  – Japanese Proverbs

There is no escape from the net of heaven.  – Japanese Proverbs

There is no flower that remains red for ten days, and no power that lasts for ten years.  – Japanese Proverbs

There is no medicine for a fool.  – Japanese Proverbs

There is no such thing as bad food when you are really hungry.  – Japanese Proverbs

There is no such thing as dirty clothes when it is cold.  – Japanese Proverbs

There is nothing that cannot be achieved by firm imagination.  – Japanese Proverbs

Thirty-six plans of how to win the battle are not so good as one plan to withdraw from the fight.  – Japanese Proverbs

Though the blind man cannot see it, light remains light.  – Japanese Proverbs

Though the wind blows, the mountain does not move.  – Japanese Proverbs

Tigers die and leave their skins; people die and leave their names.  – Japanese Proverbs

Time flies like an arrow.  – Japanese Proverbs

Time spent laughing is time spent with the gods.  – Japanese Proverbs

Time spent laughing is time spent with the kami [gods]. – Japanese Proverbs

Time tries a’.  – Japanese Proverbs

Time waits for no one.  – Japanese Proverbs

To a person that does not wander, there is not enlightenment. – Japanese Proverbs

To ask is a temporary shame; not to ask, an eternal one.  – Japanese Proverbs

To change like the eyes of a cat.  – Japanese Proverbs

To commit harakiri with a pestle.  – Japanese Proverbs

To draw water into one’s own rice field.  – Japanese Proverbs

To endure what is unendurable is true endurance.  – Japanese Proverbs

To gamble as the dice fall.  – Japanese Proverbs

To go in the right ear and out the left.  – Japanese Proverbs

To kick with sore toe only hurts foot.  – Japanese Proverbs

To know and to act are one and the same. – Samurai Proverb

To leap into a pool embracing a stone.  – Japanese Proverbs

To lend your hatchet and get your forest cut down.  – Japanese Proverbs

To make the tea cloudy.  – Japanese Proverbs

To one who does not wander there is not enlightenment.  – Japanese Proverbs

To receive a favor is to sell one’s liberty.  – Japanese Proverbs

To teach is also to learn.  – Japanese Proverbs

Japanese Proverbs

To teach is to learn.  – Japanese Proverbs

To teach is to learn. – Japanese Proverbs

To tell tales out of school.  – Japanese Proverbs

To the partial eyes of a lover, pockmarks seem like dimples.  – Japanese Proverbs

To the starving man the beauty of Fujiyama has no meaning.  – Japanese Proverbs

To wait for luck is the same as waiting for death.  – Japanese Proverbs

To wear two pairs of straw sandals at once.  – Japanese Proverbs

Tomorrow is a new day.  – Japanese Proverbs

Tomorrow’s battle is won during today’s practice. – Samurai Proverb

Too many accomplishments makes no accomplishments.  – Japanese Proverbs

Too many boatmen will run the boat up to the top of the mountains.  – Japanese Proverbs

Too many hands will row the boat up a mountain.  – Japanese Proverbs

Too much is worse than too little.  – Japanese Proverbs

Too much politeness is impertinent.  – Japanese Proverbs

Transactions in Hell also depend upon money.  – Japanese Proverbs

Trash accumulates in stagnant water.  – Japanese Proverbs

True patience consists in bearing what is unbearable.  – Japanese Proverbs

Truth often comes out of a joke. – Japanese Proverbs

Truthful words are seldom pleasant.  – Japanese Proverbs

Two lovers in the rain have no need of an umbrella.  – Japanese Proverbs

Under a powerful general there are no feeble soldiers.  – Japanese Proverbs

Unhappiness can be a bridge to happiness.  – Japanese Proverbs

Unless you enter the tiger’s den you cannot take the cubs. – Japanese Proverbs

Unspoken words are the flowers of silence.  – Japanese Proverbs

Victims of the same disease have a lot to talk about.  – Japanese Proverbs

Virtue carries an empty purse.  – Japanese Proverbs

Virtue is not knowing but doing.  – Japanese Proverbs

Vision with action is a daydream; action without vision is a nightmare. – Japanese Proverbs

Vision without action is a daydream. Action with without vision is a nightmare.  – Japanese Proverbs

Walls have ears, bottles have mouths.  – Japanese Proverbs

Walls have ears, paper sliding doors have eyes.  – Japanese Proverbs

Water will always take the form of the vase it fills.  – Japanese Proverbs

We are no more than candles burning in the wind.  – Japanese Proverbs

We can laugh happily with our children, but not with money.  – Japanese Proverbs

We get along well with those we can get along with well.  – Japanese Proverbs

We learn by watching and listening. – Okinawan Proverb

We learn little from victory, but a great deal from defeat.  – Japanese Proverbs

Wealth gets in the way of wisdom.  – Japanese Proverbs

We’re fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.  – Japanese Proverbs

We’ve arrived, and to prove it we’re here.  – Japanese Proverbs

What is good is not necessarily beautiful.  – Japanese Proverbs

When a bonsai stops growing, you know it’s dead.  – Japanese Proverbs

When a girl in the tea house smiles at you, look the other way.  – Japanese Proverbs

When folly passes by, reason draws back.  – Japanese Proverbs

When one dog barks for nothing, all other dogs bark in earnest.  – Japanese Proverbs

When someone is really hungry, then there is no such thing as “bad food.” – Japanese Proverbs

When someone offends you, you haven’t given him enough love.  – Japanese Proverbs

When ten thousand soldiers lie rotting, the general’s reputation is enhanced.  – Japanese Proverbs

When the cat mourns for the mouse do not take her seriously.  – Japanese Proverbs

When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends.  – Japanese Proverbs

When the hand is put in, the foot follows.  – Japanese Proverbs

When the heat has passed, you forget about the shade of trees.  – Japanese Proverbs

When the heat has past, you forget about the shade tree.  – Japanese Proverbs

When the moon is full, it begins to wane.  – Japanese Proverbs

When the time comes, even a rat becomes a tiger.  – Japanese Proverbs

When there are two fires in one room, only one will smoke.  – Japanese Proverbs

When you are looking upwards you see no frontiers.  – Japanese Proverbs

When you are polite, the others think they are wearing flowers.  – Japanese Proverbs

When you are thirsty, it is too late to think about digging a well.  – Japanese Proverbs

When you are thirsty, it’s too late to think of digging the well.  – Japanese Proverbs

When you do something wholeheartedly, you are not in need of helpers.  – Japanese Proverbs

When you have a good government the grass will grow over your troubles.  – Japanese Proverbs

When you have children yourself, you begin to understand what you owe your parents.  – Japanese Proverbs

When you have completed % of your journey you are halfway there.  – Japanese Proverbs

When you reject gifts from heaven you will be rewarded in hell.  – Japanese Proverbs

When you talk about future happenings the devil starts to laugh.  – Japanese Proverbs

When your companions get drunk and fight, Take up your hat, and wish them good night.  – Japanese Proverbs

When you’re dying of thirst it’s too late to think about digging a well.  – Japanese Proverbs

When you’re thirsty it’s too late to think about digging a well.  – Japanese Proverbs

Where profit is, loss is hiding nearby.  – Japanese Proverbs

Where there is fish, there is water.  – Japanese Proverbs

Where there is laughter happiness likes to be.  – Japanese Proverbs

Where there is no antagonist, you cannot quarrel.  – Japanese Proverbs

Whether to go east or west depends on one’s mind or feet.  – Japanese Proverbs

While we consider when to begin, it becomes too late.  – Japanese Proverbs

While young, the tree can be easily bent.  – Japanese Proverbs

Who cares if a crow is male or female?  – Japanese Proverbs

Who travels for love finds a thousand miles not longer than one.  – Japanese Proverbs

Wine is the best broom for troubles.  – Japanese Proverbs

Wine is water adulterated by foolish talk.  – Japanese Proverbs

Wisdom and virtue are like the two wheels of a cart.  – Japanese Proverbs

Wisdom is lost in a fat man’s body.  – Japanese Proverbs

With the first glass a man drinks wine, with the second glass the wine drinks the wine, with the third glass the wine drinks the man.  – Japanese Proverbs

Without a smiling face, do not become a merchant. – Japanese Proverbs

Without oars, you cannot cross in a boat.  – Japanese Proverbs

Without wine, even beautiful cherry blossoms have small attraction.  – Japanese Proverbs

Without women there is no day and no night.  – Japanese Proverbs

Women’s quarrels cause the men’s wars.  – Japanese Proverbs

Work the fields on a fine day, study on a rainy day. v

Yesterday’s flowers are today’s dreams.  – Japanese Proverbs

You are wise to climb Mt. Fuji, but a fool to do it twice.  – Japanese Proverbs

You can only endure the weaknesses of others by knowing your own. Flattery is the best persuader.  – Japanese Proverbs

You can only endure the weaknesses of others by knowing your own. – Japanese Proverbs

You can see heaven through the eye of the needle.  – Japanese Proverbs

You can worship a sardine’s head if you believe in it.  – Japanese Proverbs

You can’t see the whole sky through a bamboo tube. – Japanese Proverbs

You cannot catch a tiger cub unless you enter the tiger’s den.  – Japanese Proverbs

You can’t eat the rice cake in the picture.  – Japanese Proverbs

You can’t see the whole sky through a bamboo pole. 

You can’t straighten a snake by putting it in a bamboo cane.  – Japanese Proverbs

You don’t have to die: heaven and hell are in this world too.  – Japanese Proverbs

You have to bow a few times before you can stand upright.  – Japanese Proverbs

You know your body best.  – Japanese Proverbs

You should climb Mount Fujiyama once in your life. Climb it twice and you’re a fool.  – Japanese Proverbs

You warm up something for ten days and it goes cold in one.  – Japanese Proverbs

You will lack nothing if you think privation is always with you.  – Japanese Proverbs

You will never learn enough looking for only the good things in life; you will always be a pupil.  – Japanese Proverbs

You won’t get sick if you have plenty of work.  – Japanese Proverbs

Your years will still remain the same whether you laugh or cry.  – Japanese Proverbs

Japanese Proverbs

Japanese Proverbs & Meaning

A flower on an inaccessible height. [Something beyond one’s ability to gain, an unattainable prize. Cf. Wishing for the moon.]

A great man does not seize small things. [A great man does not stick at trifles.]

A harlot has no faithfulness. [This maxim warns men of such women.]

A high-crawling dragon repents. [Too great ambition brings failure.]

A hunter is sometimes caught in a trap. [That is, the man who plots to ruin another may end up ruined himself. Cf. Harm watch, harm catch.]

A jewel will not sparkle unless polished. [An untaught fellow may have latent abilities all the same.]

A light-buttocks woman. [A woman of easy virtue]

A man of arm. [A man of ability]

A man with a wound on his leg will run to a plain of dwarf bamboo. [A man with a guilty conscience will seek cover.]

A most disciplined people may still fail for it. [To forgo breakfast, adjust for long with bodily discomfort and pain make up a rigorous life of hardship and deprivation that may lead to “muga,” which is variously translated as “effortlessness,” and “to live as already dead” etc.]

A packsaddle on an eel. [- is difficult to fasten. – Used to describe the ambiguous and equivocal ways some people speak.]

A person with a broad face. [A person with many acquaintances.]

A red spot amidst the green grass. [Lit. Within ten thousand greens, one red spot. – The only lady in a gathering of gentlemen.]

A short-tempered man destroys things. [A hot-tempered person does much harm.]

A skilled merchant keeps his goods deeply hid and acts as if he had none. [So, a wise one hides his talents when opportune.]

A snake though placed in a bamboo tube, cannot become perfectly straight. [A man who is morally crooked cannot be reformed by discipline.]

A truth that looks like a lie. [Cf. Truth is stranger than fiction.]

A wen above the eye. [An eyesore.]

Above everything the body is most important. [Health of body and mind is worth going for and keeping.]

Against the solid earth, a hammer. [We hardly miss when we strike the ground with a hammer. A meaning: “Not to fail in one’s intentions.]

Because there are fools wise men look to advantage. [Cf. Were there no fools there would be no wise men.]

Before you fall take a staff. [Take all necessary precautions.]

Beginning may be easy, continuing may be hard.

Better be a chicken’s head than an ox’s rump. [Better be the tail of something worthwhile than the head of something worthless.]

Big hearted. [Liberal; generous]

Boat-swallowing-fish do not live in brooks. [Cramped circumstances do not produce great men.]

Bone-rest. [Relaxation; well-earned rest]

Buddha’s image is made but the eyes have not been put in. • Buddha’s image is made but the spirit has not been put in. [You do not give the finishing touch to your work. The reference to putting in the soul goes back to a buddhist service needed before the image can become an object of worship. Cf. The English: ploughing the field but forgetting the seed.]

Build a fence even between intimate friends. [A fence of courtesy had better be there. Cf. Familiarity breeds contempt.]

Carelessness [lack of caution, heedlessness] is a great enemy. [The Japanese word “yudan” literally means “without oil”. Cf. Haste makes waste.]

Clams cannot be taken in a field. [Look for things where they may be found.]

Confused crabs miss their holes. • A bewildered crab does not enter its hole. [Agitated people soon become unable to behave correctly and composedly. The confused or demoralised person can get into great danger.]

Deer of autumn come at the blowing of a flute. [It is used about love-sick men]

Don’t become too intimate with a worthwhile person. [Cf. Familiarity breeds contempt.]

Don’t give an order after listening only to one side. [Be sure to look on both sides before making decisions. Cf. Look on both sides of the shield.]

Don’t let your daughter-in-law eat your autumn eggplants. [Don’t let yourself be taken advantage of.]

Don’t suffer headache for the lumbago of another. [Mind your own business.]

Eating is preferable to amorousness. [There are some who prefer eating to sexual activity. Cf. Without bread and wine even love will pine.]

Edo (Tokyo) is the rubbish heap of men. [All sorts of people from all parts of the country flock there.]

Egg plants do not grow on melon vines. [There are different kinds of folks too. Cf. The onion will not produce a (sweet-smelling) rose.]

Even a small grain of Japanese pepper is hot. [Not only great size may influence people.]

Even an imaginary river goblin is sometimes drowned. [Mod. Kappa no kawa nagare. “The kappa drowns in the river.” The kappa is an imaginary river goblin that drowns people.]

Even beautiful things must be used with caution. [Abr.]

Even in a metropolis we may find backward people and conditions. [In the Capital there are rural elements.]

Even medicine when exceeded becomes poison.

Even the face of Jizo, three times. [There are limits to insults one can accept. Jizo, a popular buddhist deity, is the patient and loving guardian of little children and travellers.]

Fate assists the courageous. [Cf. Fortune favors the brave.]

First authority (influence), second money, third a good figure. [To win a woman’s heart you may need at least sound self-esteem and support.]

First drive off the flies from your own head. [Mind your own business.]

Fish and water. [Two close friends who constantly help each other. Cf. To be hand in glove with.]

Flowers from parched peas. [Something that very rarely happens.]

From the fingers of a skillful hand, water may leak. [An expert sometimes makes a slip.]

Getting money can be like digging with a needle.

Good articles are not [always] cheap. [Beware of cheap products.]

Good things, demons many. [Good luck invites many mishaps. Used to remind a person or family enjoying an easy life not to become overconfident.]

Great trees are envied by the wind. [Quoted when attacked by lessers. Outstanding or prominent persons may receive much criticism and are more often subject to attack than the average person. Cf. High regions are never without storms.]

Heart rather than appearance. [About solid worth]

Had the pheasant not screamed it would not have been shot. [So keep quiet and refrain from unwise remarks.]

Has an arm. [Able, capable. [Lit.]

He doesn’t even know whether the potatoes are boiled or not. [He lacks common sense. About someone who is not aware of what is taking place under his very nose.]

He who sees righteousness and does not do it is not brave. [An exhortation to moral courage.]

Heart messenger. [Anxiety; worry]

His face is good. [His status is good; his reputation is fine.]

I desire to eat globefish but I value my life.

Japanese globefish tastes delightfully, but if not properly prepared, it is so poisonous that it kills the eater. This proverb is used when a person hesitates to take any chance at a great risk, or when there is a conflict between the dictates of heart and head.

There are at least 120 species in the fish family of puffers – known as balloonfish, blowfish, globefish and pufferfish etc. Most pufferfish species are toxic, and some of them are among the most poisonous animals (vertebrates) in the world. Nonetheless, the meat of some species is considered a delicacy in Japan, Korea and China when prepared by specially trained chefs who know which part is safe to eat and how much. In other waters there are pufferfish species with nontoxic flesh as well. They too are considered a delicacy, and the northern puffer is among them. (Wikipedia, “Tetraodontidae”)

I would like to break off the flower, but the branch is too high. [Said by a man in love with a high-born lady who is indifferent to him.]

If the hands are empty, the mouth is empty. [If a person will not work he may not eat. Cf. Work not, eat not.]

If you believe everything you read, better not read.

If you desire it, first prepare for it.

If you don’t crop it while it is a bud, it will grow into something that will require an axe. [Take necessary measures early.]

If you make a mistake, don’t hesitate to correct it.

If you stop at a place, get in the shade of a big tree. [Cf. It is good sheltering under an old hedge. Wider meaning: If you cannot live independently, attach yourself to a successful man or house.]

In a tumbler, a storm. [A big to-do about a small matter. It is more than likely that the Japanese is a direct translation of “a tempest in a teacup”, comments Buchanan.]

In sexual love there are no distinctions . . . [At times]

Individuality does not [easily] change [The word seikaku has the combined meaning of “individuality”, personality” and “character”.]

Inquire seven times, then doubt a person. [This use of ‘seven’ indicates “quite a number.]

It belongs neither to the sea nor to the mountain (river). [The true nature of the thing is uncertain. Cf. Neither fish, flesh, nor fowl.]

It can be advisable to leave wild flowers and fair girls in their natural surroundings rather than take them to any other place.

It is a beggar’s pride that he is not a thief.

It is dark before the feet of the lantern bearer.

It is difficult to subject the bandits in my heart. [Partial]

It is rust from the person himself. [To have no one to blame but oneself; one must take the consequences of his own deeds.]

It was the Heike who overthrew the Heike.

“Heike” is the Japanese-Chinese pronunciation of “Taira,” a famous clan that ruled Japan for many years, but adopted frivolous and luxurious habits that sapped their strength and morale until in the end they were defeated by rivals, and the control of Japan passed into the hands of the Genji (Minamoto) clan.

Know your [present] limits. [Adjust to what you can do so far.]

Like a needle hidden in a mass of floss silk. [It is used to warn against persons who hide evil designs under fair looks.]

Like an ant dragging an anchor. [Someone who attempts more than he is capable of.]

Many mouths can melt metal. [Criticism (slander) by many people can melt metal. The Japanese are very sensitive to criticism, especially from a large group, Buchanan tells].

Merchants regard each other as foes. [They are trying to undercut each other].

Miscanthus which took a thousand days to reap is destroyed in one day.

In Japan, silvergrass, Miscanthus is a reed used for roofing, especially in rural areas: it keeps the house warm in winter and cool in summer. Its chief drawback is that it is easily set on fire by sparks or flames from a neighbour’s house, for example. The essence: Carelessness or ill luck can destroy in one day the result of many days’ hard labor. Cf. An hour may destroy what it took an age to build.

Moonlight and boiled rice. [That is, one never tires of eating even a simple meal of boiled rice by the light of the moon].

Neither the hands nor the feet will go out. [To be at wit’s end].

Never rely on the glory of the morning nor the smiles of your mother-in-law.

No tax is placed on the mouth. [To be free to speak. Cf. Talking pays no toll].

Not enough hands. [To be shorthanded].

Not the slightest dirt in the nails. [Not the slightest dishonesty in one’s conduct].

Not to clothe the teeth with silk. [To speak frankly].

Not to let madmen or irresponsible people get hold of tools or weapons with which they may injure themselves or others.

Not to see, not to hear, not to speak.

That is, not to see other’s faults, not to hear other’s scandals, and not to talk of other’s failures. The proverb is portrayed in Japanese painting and sculpture as three monkeys sitting side by side: the first with his hands to his eyes (“see no evil”), the second with his hands to his ears (“hear no evil”), and the third with his hands to his mouth (“speak no evil”). These mark the well-bred and well-disciplined person. Cf. the Confucian form of the Golden Rule: What you do not wish others to do to you, do not to them.

One barking dog sets many other dogs in the street to barking. [When one person starts a false rumor, other people may spread it as if it were true].

One look, a thousand trees! [An expression used to describe places noted for plum or cherry blossoms].

One thickness of plank, and below hell. [To explain the hazardous nature of a fisherman’s or a sailor’s life in his frail craft on the sea].

One who chases after two hares won’t catch even one. [Trying to do two things at the same time can make you fail in both].

One-single-spear! [One supreme effort. From “Forward even with only a spear!”

One-tenth of an inch, forty-eight feet. [Be careful not to make even little mistakes, especially when aiming, since the difference between aim and result may be very great whether we shoot an arrow, bullet, or something else].

Oxen go with oxen, horses with horses. [People are more contented and do better work if they belong among their kind. Also: Birds of a feather flock together. Like attracts like.

Passionate love and a cough cannot be hidden.

Please, make me the loan of your ears. [Please listen. Cf. Mark Anthony’s speech from Julius Caesar: “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.”]

Poetry softens the relationship between men and women. [In pre-modern Japan, courtship among the upper classes was largely in the form of delicately couched love poems.]

Precaution must be taken in advance.

Scholarship in rural areas is equivalent to taking a siesta in the metropolis. [Yet outstanding leaders have come from rural areas.]

Sickness a convenient excuse. [When they get into a difficult situation, the Japanese will often plead “illness” and withdraw or resign until matters have cleared up. (Buchanan)]

Silent worms dig holes in (pierce) the walls. [Cf. Silent men, like still waters, may be deep and dangerous.]

Some wealthy persons and spittoons become filthier as accumulation takes place. [Mod.]

Stars on a rainy night. [Things that rarely happen]

Suitable ability in the suitable place. [The right man in the right place can be good for something.]

Sweet words please fools. [Many a person is misled by the honeyed words of flatterers and sycophants.]

Tadpoles will become frogs. [There is little or no hope that they will develop further.]

Take an umbrella before you get wet. [Be prepared. Cf. Prevention is better than cure.]

Tall trees, much wind. [Tall trees catch much wind.]

Ten men, ten bellies. [Ten men, ten minds.]

The after-wit of a fool. [Cf. After-wit is everybody’s wit.]

The belly, too, is part of me. [Be temperate in eating and drinking.]

The Buddhist prayers of a devil.

This saying is used when a cruel and wicked man feigns kindness and sympathy, as when someone who has been on bad terms with a deceased person attends the funeral service for appearance’s sake and chants a sutra, when actually he has no sympathy with the sorrowing family, is spoken of as “the sutra-chanting of a devil” and is despised because of the inherent deceit.

The buttocks are heavy. [To be lazy or inactive]

The buttocks are in contact with fire. [To be pressed by urgent business]

The castle is not overthrown by precaution.

The cat that does not mew catches rats. [The efficient person goes about his or her business quietly.]

The cherry tree is known among others by its flowers. [Describes a person who stands out among his fellows.]

The conger eel has one span of life, the lobster also one span of life. [Each has its span of life. Cf. Life is but a span.]

The crow that mimics a cormorant gets drowned. [Keep within your limitations – including your current abilities and skills.]

The ears grow fat. [To have a trained or cultivated ear]

The eyes are distant. [To be farsighted; to have grand ideas]

The eyes are high. [The ideas are lofty]

The eyes grow fat. [To have a trained eye]

The eyes speak as much as the mouth.

The fruits are few. [E.g. To make many promises but fail to keep them]

The hare’s midday nap. [Inattention may prove fatal; due attention is called for. It refers to an Aesop’s fable in which a hare lost a race because he took a nap on the way.]

The hasty hand bungles things. [Hasty ones may make blunders more frequently.]

The hasty hand will do things wrong. [Haste may increase the risk of errors, that is.]

The hawk with talent hides its talons [The person who knows most often says least.]

The loins are strong. [To be firm, brave]

The loud bark of the brainless dog. [Inefficient people may go to extremes of jabber or at least talk overly much while capable persons remain quiet or attain their goals, rather.]

The lunch is from previous preparations.

The monkey remains a monkey although wearing the dress of a nobleman. [Avoid doing what is beyond you and thereby making something sad of yourself.]

The nightingale that has found a plum tree. [That is, a fin place to sing. It refers to the condition of a man who has been placed in a suitable and comfortable position.]

The nose opens. [To be amazed]

The person who goes ahead controls others.

The river-bred person comes to an end in the river. [Lots of persons die in surroundings they are used to.]

The self enters. [To be interested]

The thief is eaten by the dogs. [Even when the dogs were chewing up a thief, if he made no outcry he was greatly admired by the Japanese for his self-control, asserts Buchanan (!).]

The thing in hand. [One’s strong point.]

The unskillful talk long. [Poor speakers hold forth a long time. Cf. Brevity is the soul of wit.

The warrior lives an honorable life even in poverty. [It is beneath his dignity to beg for food.]

The wind that comes in through a crack is cold. [For such a draft may bring on some illness. So better take care of small trifles, as you later could have to deal with big consequences otherwise.]

The wise hawk hides his talons. [A truly wise person does not make a show of his resources and ability. Cf. It is a fool who does not hide his wisdom (at times, when convenient).]

The young of frogs are frogs. [Used to discourage people from trying to rise above their station in life. Cf. Like begets like.]

There are those who ride sedans, those who carry sedans, and those who make straw sandals for the sedan bearers. [The wealthy are able to take vehicles whenever they go out, while others barely eke out a living by carrying them or other lowly work.]

There is no being bored with precautions. [One cannot be too cautious.]

There is no end if you look up. [In modern Japan it may have a positive ring to it.]

There is no hero in the eyes of his servant. [Perhaps because faults are revealed through much association.]

There is no instance of a nude man dropping anything. [Destitute people are not likely to lose anything. If you have anything, exercise caution lest you lose it.]

Things sweet to the mouth do not necessarily nourish the belly. [What at first seems good and desirable is not always best.]

Those who speak do not know. [A wise man is silent while an ignorant man chatters. Cf. Who knows most says least.]

Though she may be a beauty, it is but one layer of skin. [Beauty is but skin deep.]

Though small a needle is not to be swallowed. [Even small things are to be handled with care.]

Though the wind blows, the mountain does not move. [A self-controlled person maintains calm enough.]

Though you see the back of another you cannot see your own. [But wise persons hardly shy away from noticing their own defects.]

Thunderclap from a clear sky. [A bolt from the blue, a complete surprise]

To act the sleeping badger. [To pretend not to see or know]

To agree with one’s mouth. [To suit one’s taste]

To be ear-learned. [To have learning because of things heard, or through hearing learned discourses. This is often said of people who have not gone to school, or who have read or travelled extensively.]

To be foolishly honest. [To be honest to one’s harm is sadly not greatly admired.]

To built a castle on sand. [Cf. To build a house on sand. About a foolish and useless undertaking.]

To caution put in caution. [One cannot be too careful. Cf. Hear twice before you speak once.]

To close the anus after breaking wind. [To assume a look of innocence after committing an indiscretion]

To cross a stone bridge by tapping on it. [This describes the caution of a blind man tapping with his stick as he walks across a stone bridge. The proverb is used metaphorically to describe an over-cautious person.]

To cross over the world with a single arm. [To be fully self-supporting. Cf. To paddle one’s own canoe]

To dye the finger. [To have a finger in; to make an attempt; to try]

To elevate one’s nose. [To be proud; be boastful]

To fasten to the eyes. [To observe with care]

To hang a large stone from a lotus thread. [To do the impossible. Cf. To sweep the sea with a broom.]

To hang up a sheep’s head at the shopfront and sell dog meat. [- is crafty butcher’s trick. Cf. To cry wine and sell vinegar]

To have a foot wound. [To have a guilty conscience]

To have a robber watch the money. [To give a position of financial responsibility to a notoriously dishonest person]

To have even the hairs of the anus pulled out. [To be fleeced of everything]

To hold it eight-tenths of an inch above the eyes. [It refers to the custom of holding a thing most respectfully. This is done as a matter of ceremony when making a presentation to or receiving something from a superior.]

To laugh embracing one’s abdomen. [To hold one’s sides with laughter]

To lean a ladder against the clouds. [An impractical enterprise]

To lose face and eyes. [To suffer a let-down; to lose face; to disgrace oneself]

To pass through the eyes. [To scan or read rapidly]

To perform a glorious exploit with undrawn sword. [A comment. It applied to warriors on the battlefield but it is now refers to someone who attains his object without going to extremes.]

To place into the head. [To take under consideration]

To put bean paste on food. [A secondary meaning: “to make a mess of things” or “to make a failure of a project]

To put forth the feet. [To reveal a secret. Cf. To let the cat out of the bag]

To put on a cat show. [To feign innocence. In Japanese lore the cat is said to have the power to dance bewitchingly.]

To put your biceps into it. [To take great interest in; to show a zeal for]

To read a person’s belly, or mind. [To read another’s thoughts]

To ripen in the ears. [To hear and understand well]

To search for a needle at the bottom of the water. [Cf. To look for a needle in a haystack]

To speak of a needle as if it were a club. [To exaggerate. Cf. To make a mountain out of a molehill]

To step on the second foot. [To hesitate, balk, or demur]

To stick out the tongue in secret. [To laugh in one’s sleeve]

To take without wetting one’s hand. [A slight effort; a small amount of labour. This saying is derived from fishing]

To use a double tongue. [To tell a lie; be double faced]

To use a million hands. [To try all possible means. Cf. To leave no stone unturned]

To walk cutting the wind with your shoulders. [To strut along; swagger. The proud samurai often walked in that manner.]

To write a number on water. [A figure of speech for a useless thing to do]

Unless you have been a retainer you cannot use a retainer. [Retainer: servant, soldier, supporter. Know your trade – in this case: good bossing.]

Walls have ears, bottles have mouths. [A caution against getting tipsy and loose-tonged.]

Walls have ears, paper sliding doors have eyes.

Wash your clothes when the devil is away. [Make [sound and good, fit and fair] use of your opportunities.]

This proverb originated in the eleventh century when a bandit chieftain known as “the devil” (“oni”) lived near the capital city, Kyoto, and often attacked the inhabitants. It was only when he was away that the women of the city felt safe enough to go out of their homes to wash their clothes in the streams of the city. Cf. When the cat’s away the mice will play.

What is cheap may also be bad.

When considered as my own, lightly weighs the snow of my hat. [The above proverb is a well-known haiku (seventeen-syllable poem). The hat is a broad-brimmed umbrella-like hat of bamboo or sedge grass.]

When politeness is overdone it becomes flattery. [One should be moderate in showing courtesy, and not very sarcastically either.]

When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends.

When the entrance is carefully shut a dog does not come in. [Advice against getting unwelcome guests.]

Wherever you may be, nature can be enjoyed. [A worldwide urbanisation slowly works against enjoying the world Compare:

Today, we have knowledge of many, many things and the relations among human beings have multiplied ad infinitum. But we live in cities that are like deafening factories in awful Babels. [Rudolf Steiner, Esoteric Cosmology]

Why should flowers be seen only when at their best and the moon at its fullest? [Beauty is not to be found only in perfection or completion, but also before and after that.]

Willows when green, flowers when red. [They are best enjoyed in nature, alive.]

Wiping the mouth after eating leeks. [Feigning innocence]

Wisdom and virtue are like the two wheels of a cart.

With the fall of one leaf we know that autumn has come to the world. [A single sign is often enough to foretell the approaching fate of a prosperous man or nation.]

Romanji to English 

Aho ni toriau baka. – It is foolish to deal with a fool.

Aite no nai kenka wa denkinu. – One cannot quarrel without an opponent.

Ame futte ji katamaru. – Rained on ground hardens (Adversity builds character).

Asu no koto o ieba, tenjo de nezumi ga warau. – Talk about things of tomorrow and the mice inside the ceiling laugh (Nobody knows what tomorrow might bring).

Atama kakushite, shiri kakusazu. – Cover your head, and not cover your bottom (Don’t cover your head but expose your bottom, ie: you have to be careful not to expose your weak point while attempting to protect yourself).

Ayamachitewa aratamuruni habakaru koto nakare. – If you make a mistake, don’t hesitate to correct it.

Baka ga atte riko ga hikitatsu. – Due to the presence of fools wise people stand out.

Baka mo ichi-gei. – Even a fool has one talent (Even a fool may be good at something).

Baka na ko hodo kawaii. – The more stupid the child the dearer it is.

Bushi wa kuwanedo taka-yoji. – A samurai, even when he has not eaten, uses his toothpick.

Chisa wa madowazu, yusha wa osorezu. – A wise man does not lose his way, a brave man does not fear.

Deta-toko shobu. – To gamble as the dice fall.

Doku kurawaba sara made. – If eating poison finish up the plate (or, If eating poison don’t forget to lick the plate)..

Fuku sui bon ni kaerazu. – Overturned water doesn’t return to the tray (There’s no use crying over spilt milk).

Gaden insui. – To draw water into one’s own rice field

Gou ni itte wa, gou ni shitagae. – Entering the village, obey the village (When in Rome, do as the Romans do)

Hotoke no kao mo san-do made. – Even the Buddha’s face, only until the third [slap], meaning even the most mild-mannered person will lose his/her temper eventually.

Inu o mikka kaeba san-nen on o wasurenu, neko wa san-nen katte mikka de on o wasureru. – Feed a dog for three days and it is gratefull for three years. – Feed a cat for three years and it forgets after three days.

Ippai-me wa hito sake o nomi, nihai-me wa sake sake o nomi, sanbai-me wa sake hito o nomu. – With the first glass a man drinks wine, with the second glass the wine drinks the wine, with the third glass the wine drinks the man.

Iwanu ga hana. – Not-speaking is the flower (Silence is golden)

Ko-in ya no gotoshi. – Time flies like an arrow.

Koji ma Oshi. – Good things, many devils.

Kokai saki ni tatazu. – Repentance never comes first.

Kuni yaburete, sanga ari. – The country is in ruins, and there are still mountains and rivers.

Me wa kokoro no kagami. – The eyes are the mirror of the soul.

Me wa kuchi hodo ni mono o ii. – The eyes speak as much as the mouth.(love needs no words)

Migi no mimi kara hidari no mimi. – to go in the right ear and out the left.

Mime yori kokoro. – Heart rather than appearance.

Mimi o oute, suzu o nusumu. – Cover the ears and steal the bell.

Mitsugo no tamashii hyaku made. – The soul of a three year old until a hundred.

Mizukara boketsu o horu. – to dig one’s grave

Muri ga toreba, dori hikkomu. – If unreason comes, reason goes.

Muyo no cho-butsu. – a useless long object

Naite kurasu mo issho, waratte kurasu mo issho. – It is the same life whether we spend it crying or laughing.

Nana korobi, ya oki. – to fall seven times, to rise eight times

Neko ni koban. – A coin to a cat (Don’t offer things to people who are incapable of appreciating them).

Nou aru taka wa tsume wo kakusu. – The hawk with talent hides its talons (The person who knows most often says least).

Nurenu saki koso tsuyu omo itoe. – People want to avoid the dew before they become wet.

Saru mo ki kara ochiru. – Even monkees fall from trees (Even an expert can make mistakes).

Shunsho ikkoku, atai senkin. – Half an hour in a spring evening is worth a thousand gold pieces.

Sode fure-au mo tasho no en. – Even when our sleeves brush together it is our karma.

Sugitaru wa nao oyobazaru ga gotoshi. – Let what is past flow away downstream.

Tazei ni buzei. – Few against many.

Tonari no shibafu wa aoi. – The neighbour’s lawn is green (The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence).

Yabu wo tsutsuite hebi wo dasu. – Poke a bush, a snake comes out (Let sleeping dogs lie).

Japanese Proverbs

  • 寄らば大樹の陰  – Yoraba taiju no kage
    • Meaning: If you take shade, do it under a large tree.
      In other words, serve the powerful for your own good.
  • ただより高いものはない – tada yori takai mono wa nai
    • Meaning: Nothing is more expensive than free.
      This refers to all the things that people do for you for free. Those are harder to repay, where as money is easier to repay.
  • 多芸は無芸 – tagei wa mugei
    • Meaning: Many skills is no skill.
      A jack of all trades, but in a bad way. You’re decent at a lot of things, but not a genius in one single skill. Kind of like learning Japanese, Chinese, Russian…and not really being amazingly fluent because you’re spread so far.
  • 大器晩成 – Taiki bansei
    • Meaning: Great talents mature late.
      Or you can interpret it as “great men succeed in their later years.” Suck it, Mark Zuckerberg. Just to reinforce that time is the essential to developing amazing skill… and most us young people don’t get that.
  • 初心忘るべからず – Shoshin wasuru bekarazu
    • Meaning: Should not forget our original intention.
      Thus, can be interpreted as “we shouldn’t forget our beginner’s spirit” when we were so excited. “Yea! Let’s learn Japanese!” More experienced learners tend to lose their excitement that had them motivated, because of all that work they’re doing.
  • 小打も積もれば大木を倒す – Shōda mo tsumoreba taiboku-wo taosu
    • Meaning: With many little strokes a large tree is felled.
      Small consistent actions allow you to reach a greater goal. So, if you keep striking at the tree, every day, non-stop, that tree will eventually fall.
  • 盛年重ねて来らず – Seinen kasanete kitarazu
    • Meaning: The prime of your life does not come twice.
      Essentially, this how you say “YOLO” in Japanese. You’re only young once and youth won’t come back! That is, unless technology finds a way, long after I write this.
  • 酒は本心を表す – Sake wa honshin wo arawasu
    • Meaning: Alcohol (Sake) reveals true feelings.
      Alcohol, meaning, sake…as that’s the top alcohol of choice in Japan. And as all things, the Japanese are not invincible to the honest effects of alcohol either.
  • 女房と畳は新しい方がよい – Nyoubou to tatami ha atarashii hou ga yoi
    • Meaning: Wives and tatami mats are best when they’re new.
      Well, this interpretation is up to you. Marry young, I guess? 🙂
  • ローマは一日にしてならず – Ro-ma wa ichinichi ni shite narazu
    • Meaning: Rome wasn’t build in a day.
      Did you really need more of an explanation for this? Awesome things aren’t accomplished in a day. Keep striking at that big tree.
  • 鳴く猫はねずみを捕らぬ – Naku neko wa nezumi o toranu
    • Meaning: A loud (meowing) cat doesn’t get mice.
      Meow! Well, this is obvious, isn’t it? Don’t talk about it, do it. Real cats don’t meow about how they’ll catch mice, they stalk them quietly and attack with bloodthirsty fervor!
  • 七転び八起き – Nanakorobi yaoki
    • Meaning: Fall seven times, stand up eight.
      Oh, you fell while learning Japanese? Well, too bad. Get up again. LinguaJunkie said so. Just some more Japanese inspiration coming your way in the form of a proverb.
  • 雨降って地固まる – Ame futte ji katamaru
    • Meaning: After the rain, the earth hardens
      Ground that gets rained on, hardens. In other words, adversity builds character.
  • 疑心暗鬼 – Gishin Anki
    • Meaning: Suspicion will raise bogies.
      Once you become suspicious, everything is suspicious. And thus, a doubtful mind creates it’s own devils and sets itself up for failure. Not a good thing.
  • 井の中の蛙大海を知らず – I no naka no kawazu taiki o shirazu
    • Meaning: A frog in a well does not know the great sea.
      Pretty much used for ignorant people that are sitting in their own wells, unaware of the great sea out there. It’s used to encourage someone to get a wider perspective.
  • 人のふり見てわがふり直せ – Hito no furi mite waga furi naose
    • Meaning: Watch a person’s behavior and correct your own behavior.
      In other words, one man’s fault is another man’s lesson. Watch, observe, and learn.
  • 会うは別れの始め – Au ha wakare no hajime
    • Meaning: To meet is the beginning of parting
      Things constantly change in life. Just a Buddhist observation that as soon as you meet someone, you will soon part with them.
  • 忙中閑あり- Bouchuu kan ari
    • Meaning: In the midst of busyness ,there is free time.
      Don’t lie to yourself, you coconut. There IS free time; you’re just operating by hard and fast rules that prevent you from doing so. And ultimately, those rules don’t matter. Take a break. Maybe a nap. Eat a cake. Hell, eat the whole cake, you deserve it.
  • 千里の道も一歩から – Senri no michi mo ippo kara
    • Meaning: A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.
      Well, how do you think people learn Japanese? They open the big, grand book that’ll teach them everything, then shut themselves indoors for 5 years and don’t come out ’til they’re ready? No! Everything takes a first, small step. You’re thinking too much.
  • 継続は力なり – Keizoku ha chikara nari
    • Meaning: Perseverance is power.
      Just another way of saying – stick with it – brah. A big tree can be felled by a ton of small strikes. Fall seven times, get up eight. Persevere!
  • 出る杭は打たれる。 Deru kui wa utareru.
    • Literal meaning: The stake that stands out is struck.
      You all know it as “the nail that sticks out gets hammered in.” True of Japanese culture to conform, but of course, intentions and thoughts may differ, despite the conforming looks.
  • 悪妻は百年の不作。 Akusai ha hyaku-nen no fusaku.
    • Literal Meaning: A bad wife is 100 years of crop failure.
      There’s more to this than a bad wife accidentally over-watering the crops and ruining a harvest for her husband. The “sai” in “akusai” is derived from 天災 (natural disaster), by its reading and not by it’s kanji character. So, aside from wives, this has a double-meaning and refers to all sorts of catastrophes, that Japan is prone to, that will mess up a hundred years of harvest.
  • 三日坊主。Mikka Bouzu.
    • Literal Meaning: 3 Day Monk.
      What’s a 3 Day Monk? Well, it’s someone that wanted to be a monk, tried for 3 days, and gave up. Or, someone that tried learning Japanese… and then gave up. Or… someone that wanted to be this awesome, super talented person that at the end of the day, couldn’t leave their couch.
  • 馬鹿は死ななきゃ治らない。 Baka wa shinanakya naoranai.
    • Literal Meaning: Unless an idiot dies, he won’t be cured.
      Ouch. Well, in nicer English, this can also be translated as “once a fool, always a fool.” But yeah, pretty extreme from a polite culture.
  • 門前の小僧習わぬ経を読む。 Monzen no kozō narawanu kyō wo yomu.
    • Literal Meaning: A young priest will read scriptures before a gate.
      Why is he reading the Buddhist scriptures before a gate? Well, he’s a Buddhist priest, at a Buddhist temple. What else is he to do, but practice Buddhism and learn about it? Why? It’s his environment, duh.
      And that’s the full meaning of this proverb: The environment makes our characters.
  • 沈む瀬あれば浮かぶ瀬あり。Shizumu se areba ukabu se ari.
    • Literal Meaning: If there’s a sinking current, it’ll get a chance.
      Or in other words, any sinking current rise again. When life has its downs, there will be ups. Such is the nature of life. Accept it, and stop worrying about things.
  • 焼け石に水Yake ishi ni mizu.
    • Literal meaning: Water on a burning/hot rock
      Ever tried putting out a burning rock with water? Yeah, I haven’t either.
      But from I’m told, it won’t work. It’s useless. And such is the meaning of the proverb. Pouring water on a burning rock is inadequate. Or, something is bound to fail with inadequate effort.
  • 十人十色 。Juunin, toiro.
    • Literal Meaning: Ten men, ten colors.
      Ten men and ten different colors. Every one is different. Oh! So despite stakes that stick out getting hammered down, there is indeed acknowledgement that we’re all different. And you thought you could judge a culture completely based on a proverb.
  • 押してもダメなら引いてみな。Oshite-mo dame-nara hiite mina.
    • Literal Meaning: If pushing doesn’t work, try pulling.
      Oh, learning Japanese didn’t work with anime? Well then, try a textbook or a podcast. Or maybe even a tutor. Instead of quitting, it’s better to change up your methods and keep trying.
  • 能ある鷹は爪を隠す。No aru taka-wa tsume-wo kakusu.
    • Literal Meaning: A skilled falcon hides its talons.
      Because, why show off your skills and talents?  Use them when to your advantage when no one expects it. BAM! In poker, you don’t show your hand and the wise don’t show off. There’s no need.
  • 下手があるので上手が知る – Heta ga aru node jouzu ga shiru.
    • Meaning: We recognize skill because there is lack of skill.
      This is a Japanese variation of Sturgeons law (ninety percent of everything is crap) in proverb form. Because there’s a lack of skill all over the place, skill and talent are easy to see.
  • 明日は明日、今日は今日 – Ashita wa ashita, kyo wa kyou.
    • Meaning: Tomorrow is tomorrow, today is today.
      Worry about today, because tomorrow will come tomorrow. Priorities first. One day at a time. That type of thing.
  • 顔は心の鏡なり – Kao ha kokoro no kagami nari 
    • Meaning: The face becomes a mirror of the soul.
      What? You can’t judge a book by its cover? Well, you’d be surprised, your face (a.k.a. your cover) reveals a lot about what’s going on inside.
  • 隣の花は赤い – Tonari no hana wa akai
    • Meaning: The flowers next door are red.
      In other worse, the grass is greener on the other side. But in this case, it’s flowers, and they’re red. You jelly?
  • 上には上がある – Ue ni mo ue ga aru
    • Meaning: Even the top has a top.
      In other words, no matter how good you are, there’s always someone better than you. But, you shouldn’t be too worried about that.
  • 天は自ら助くるものを助く – Ten wa mizukara tasukuru mono o tasuku
    • Meaning: Heaven helps those who help themselves.
      If there is a heaven, that is. But, preparation is important, heaven or not.
  • 氏より育ち – Uji yori sodachi
    • Meaning: Birth is much, but breeding is more.
      This is the Japanese version of “nature vs. nurture” except it claims that nurture, growth, or how you’re raised has greater influence on your development rather than your nature – or birth, genetics, etc.
  • 論より証拠 – ron yori shouko
    • Meaning: Proof over theory.
      Well, more so, proof beats any argument, debate or discussion. There’s no point in arguing. Just present the proof and lets move on.
  • 良薬は口に苦し – Ryouyaku wa kuchi ni nigashi 
    • Meaning: Good medicine tastes bitter.
      Or, the best advice is the one you’re afraid of hearing. Tough love. And brutal honesty. And thus, effective/good medicine is bitter, if you wish to take it.
  • 縁側の下の力持ち – Engawa no shita no chikaramochi
    • Meaning: There’s a powerful person underneath the porch/veranda
      What’s this mean? It means there’s always a powerful person somewhere in the background, making the decisions and pulling the strings. In this case, he’s under the porch or deck. This refers to the old style traditional Japanese homes that have an elevated deck/porch.
  • 勝って兜の緒を締めよ – Katte kabuto no o wo shimeyo
    • Literal Meaning: After victory, tighten your helmet strap.
      Just because you have some good news and good luck doesn’t mean you should relax. This is a Japanese samurai proverb that advises to stay on alert despite victory. Because when you relax, that’s when an attack (or bad luck) can sneak up on you.
  • 蓼食う虫も好き好き – Tade kuu mushi mo sukizuki
    • Literal Meaning: Some bugs gladly eat knotweed.
      The overall meaning of this proverb is – to each his own – or – there’s no arguing over taste. And in this case, while the lot of you might not like to eat knotweed, someone does. Some bugs do. To each his own.
  • 類は友を呼ぶ – Rui wa tomo wo yobu
    • Literal Meaning: Similar types call (each other) friends
      This is the Japanese idiom for “birds of a feather flock together.” In other, similar people, whether by personality or interest prefer the company of one another. They understand each other. And thus, they call each other friends.
  • 乞食を三日すればやめられぬ – Kojiki o mikka sureba yamerarenu
    • Literal meaning: If you’re a beggar for 3 days, you won’t be able to stop
      Best way to predict a person’s behavior? Their past actions. This proverb is a good example of human psychology. Once you start doing something, chances are you’ll continue.
    • Someone that has a track history lying will probably lie in the future. And someone who has a history of eating lots of cake will continue to eat lots of cake. Another variation is “once a beggar, always a beggar” or “once ____, always _____.”
  • 有るは無いに勝る– Aru wa nai ni masaru
    • Literal meaning: to have (something) is better than nothing
      Isn’t it? Just a proverb that reminds you to be happy with what you have. Something is better than nothing. Something can grow into something bigger. Be happy that you’re learning some Japanese and don’t stress that you aren’t “fluent” yet. You’ll be there soon enough.
  • 痘痕も笑窪 – Abata mo ekubo
    • Literal meaning: pimples can be dimples (when in love)
      Yes, this is a Japanese love proverb! Meaning, that even a pockmark (a pimple/pimple scar) can be as appealing as a dimple. When one is in love, pockmarks or other defects become “dimples.” Or perhaps you just haven’t been in love yet.
  • 遊び人暇なし – Asobi-nin hima nashi
    • Meaning: Pleasure seekers have no free time
      Why? People that chase fun, activities, and overall busy-ness and pleasure are always consumed by it to ever have “free” time. Basically a proverb that points out that being “busy” isn’t always a good thing. Especially those that have no meaning in life, thus creating useless business. While you’re chasing one thing, then another – time’s flying by.
  • 明日は明日の風が吹く – Ashita wa ashita no kaze ga fuku
    • Literal Meaning: Tomorrow, tomorrow’s wind will blow
      The meaning behind this is that “tomorrow is a new day.” Tomorrow, the wind will blow again. And just as it blows again, you to have another chance – again – to learn more Japanese!
  • 明日のことをいうと天井の鼠が笑う – Ashita no koto wo iu to tenjou no nezumi ga warau
    • Literal meaning: Speak of tomorrow and the rats in the ceiling will laugh
      Why? Because you can’t predict tomorrow! Yes, tomorrow’s a new day but overall, the new day cannot be predicted… and the rats that are snugly lodged in your ceiling are laughing hard.
  • 相手のない喧嘩はできぬ – Aite no nai kenka wa dekinu
    • Literal Meaning: A fight without a partner cannot be had
      The Japanese culture is totally about harmony. So, the best way to avoid a fight? Don’t get the other person a “partner” or a “rival.” Walk away. Without another fighter, there is no fight.
      Granted, you do need a challenge and a “partner” to improve in a skill, but this idiom is more about unnecessary fights/conflicts rather than  “growing” and “improving” by having a partner that challenges you.
  • 失敗を繰り返すことで、成功に至る。- Shippai wo kurikaesu koto de, seikou ni itaru.
    • Meaning: Repeated failures lead to success.
      Everyone hopes to get it right on the first try. The truth is, you need to try, fail, try, fail and try again and again til you get good at something. Especially the Japanese language.
  • 成功する事よりも、失敗しない事の方が重要だ。- Seikou suru koto yori mo, shippai shinai koto no hou ga juuyou da.
    • Meaning: It’s more important to not fail than to succeed.
      In case you really don’t wait to fail – as in quit. That is true “failure.”
  • だんだん上手になってくるよ!- Dan dan jouzu ni natte kuru yo!
    • Meaning: You’ll get better as time goes by!
      Everybody wonders how people get so talented and skilled. It’s just time and work.
  • それだけで頑張れます!- Sore dake de ganbaremasu!
    • Meaning: That’s enough for me to keep going!
      Sometimes, all you need is a coffee to keep going. Great saying to know in Japanese.
  • しっかりとした目標、夢見つけて負けずに頑張ろ。- Shikkari to shita mejirushi, yume mitsukete makezuni ganbarou.
    • Meaning: I’ll do my best to find my dreams and goals.
      For those of you that didn’t set their goals and dreams. Well, if anything, you should be learning Japanese – that should be your goal and dream. But yeah, choose something. It won’t come to you because… see #56.
  • チャンスは自分で作るもの。- Chansu wa jibun de tsukuru mono.
    • Meaning: You create your own opportunities.
      Things won’t come to you. You have to go to them. Want to learn Japanese, you’ll need create the opportunity to get better by studying. You need to get up. You need to go. Or, you can choose to sit here and not create opportunities.
  • 人は失敗から学ぶ。- Hito wa shippai kara manabu.
    • Meaning: People learn from their mistakes.
      That’s one thing books can’t teach us. They can tell us facts and instructions. But it’s by us doing, practicing and making mistakes is when we learn what to do and “not” to do.
  • 周りに流されるな!己を信じろ!- Mawari ni nagasareru na! Onore wo shinjiro!
    • Meaning: Don’t be swayed by those around you! Believe in yourself!
      Not everyone has your best interests in mind. Even parents and friends often do not despite thinking that they do.
  • 前向きにね。- Mae muki ni ne.
    • Meaning: “Stay positive” in Japanese
      And of course, this one. A good phrase to know in Japanese and to use when you’re down.
  • 二兎追うもの一兎も得ず。- Nito ou mono itto mo ezu.
    • Meaning: He who runs after two hares will catch neither.
      If you try doing two things at once, you’ll fail both of them. In this case, you cannot catch two rabbits at once. Choose one. Focus on it. Choose one thing for now. Focus on becoming really good at it.
  • 一年の計は元旦にあり。- Ichinen no kei wa gantan ni ari.
    • Meaning: Preparation and planning are the foundations of success.
      Translation: The sum of the year is on New Year’s day.
  • 善は急げ。- Zen wa isoge.
    • Meaning: “It is good to hurry” or “strike while the iron’s hot.”
      Translation: To rush is good.
      Sure, rushing all the time isn’t always good, but when an opportunity presents itself – you better grab it. It’s zen to rush.
  • 急がば回れ。- Isogaba maware
    • Meaning: Haste makes waste.
      Translation: If you rush, you’ll go around in circles.
      If you rush through your work, you won’t be doing a good job.
  • 失敗は成功のもと – Shippai wa seikou no moto
    • Meaning: Failure is the stepping stone to success
      Literal translation: Failure is the origin/foundation of success.
      You get the point. In other words, failure teaches us what actions should we change in order to achieve success.
  • 弘法にも筆の誤り。- Koubou ni mo fude no ayamari.
    • Meaning: Even the greatest expert or master sometimes fails.
      Literal translation: Even Buddhist teaching scrolls/scripts have some brush slips.
      Anyone can make a mistake. Nobody’s perfect. This is another Japanese proverb variation for “everyone makes mistakes.” And in this case, it’s the Buddhist scrolls that have brush slips and errors.
  • 井の中の蛙、大海を知らず – I no naka no kawazu, taikai wo sirazu
    • Translation: A frog in a well never knows the vast ocean
      This famous Japanese quote is based on a short tale about a frog: There was a frog who was born in a well. The frog was very proud of the fact that he was the biggest creature in the well.
      As a result, the frog believed he was invincible, and one day, he made up his mind to leave the well. Eventually, he ended up in the ocean and realized, in the grand scheme of things, he is much smaller than he thought.
  • 口は災いの元 – Kuchi wa wazawai no moto  
    • Translation: A mouth causes trouble
      A similar Japanese idiom is: “iwanu ga hana,” 言わぬが花.
      Both of these Japanese sayings mean essentially the same thing: sometimes, it’s better to be silent. Think of the English saying, “silence is golden.”
  • 能ある鷹は爪を隠す – Nô aru taka wa tsume wo kakusu
    • Translation: The skillful hawk hides its talons
      A hawk who is a skilled hunter, hides his talons from his prey. This is one of the many Japanese quotes that serve as a reminder to stay humble; talented people don’t need to show off.
  • 猿も木から落ちる – Saru mo ki kara ochiru
    • Translation: Even a monkey can fall from a tree
      Another similar Japanese saying is, “kappa no kawa nagare,”  河童の川流れ. This translates to: even a kappa can drown.
      Monkeys are great at climbing trees and kappas are skilled swimmers, but monkeys can fall and kappas can drown. Essentially, nobody is perfect; even a virtuoso can make a mistake.
  • 豚に真珠 – Buta ni Sinjyu
    • Translation: A pearl to a pig
      Another way to say this is “neko ni koban,” 猫に小判. This means, “a koban to a cat.” A koban is a golden coin that was used hundreds of years ago in Japan.
      Both Japanese idioms mean that it’s worthless to give a gift or something valuable to someone who doesn’t appreciate the gift.
      These Japanese sayings can also be used to describe someone who owns or wears things that don’t really suit them.
  • 武士は食わねど高楊枝 – Bushi wa kuwanedo takayôji
    • Translation: A Samurai pretends, even when he is starved, by holding a toothpick between his teeth
      The meaning of this Japanese quote is simple: don’t let others see your pain.
      The message is positive, but this expression is also used to describe someone who is too proud to give up.
  • 二兎を追う者は一兎をも得ず – Nito wo ou mono wa itto mo ezu
    • Translation: A man who chases two rabbits, doesn’t deserve one
      This Japanese idiom expresses the belief that in order to be successful, you should focus on one thing at a time. Also, don’t be greedy.
  • 悪銭身に付かず – Akusen mi ni tsukazu
    • Translation: Bad money won’t stick with you
      Many Japanese quotes are similar to proverbs. This one says that if you make money by cheating, or as a result of a bad deed, you will lose it.
      Make an honest living; don’t cut corners!
  • 郷に入っては郷に従え – Gô ni haitte wa gô ni sitagae
    • Translation: When you join another village, follow the rules
      A similar phrase but in English would be: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” This Japanese quote is a good reminder to be respectful to others.
  •  負けるが勝ち – Makeru ga kachi
    • Translation: To lose means to win
      This is one of the hardest of all Japanese sayings for Westerners to understand, but its meaning is quite simple: don’t compete over foolish matters.
      Sometimes, just staying away from a conflict is much smarter. Walking away from a competition or challenge can be the better decision.
  • 自業自得 – Jigou jitoku
    • Translation: You get what you deserve
      Westerners have a similar saying to this Japanese idiom as well: you reap what you sow. Ultimately, what you get in life depends on what you do, so behave responsibly.
  • 石二鳥 – Isseki nityou
    • This expression is similar to the English saying, “kill two birds with one stone.” It essentially means unexpected luck.
  • 出る杭は打たれる (でるくいはうたれる)
    • English translation: The nail that sticks up will be hammered down
      The most commonly-known 言い習わし outside of Japan is probably 出る杭は打たれる, which means that by standing out, you invite criticism.
  • 案ずるより産むが易し (あんずるよりうむがやすし)
    • English translation: Giving birth to a baby is easier than worrying about it
      This is used as a reminder that often our fear is worse than the actual threat of danger.
  • 知らぬが仏 (しらぬがほとけ)
    • English translation: Not knowing is Buddha
      The best English meaning I can assign to this is “ignorance is bliss,” with bliss being Buddha in the Japanese version.
  • 虎穴に入らずんば虎子を得ず (こけつにいらずんばこじをえず)
    • English translation: If you don’t enter the tiger’s cave, you can’t catch its cub
      It expresses the same sentiment as “nothing ventured, nothing gained” in English, but literally translates as a perilous adventure with tigers and cubs—which I think paints a great picture of both the risk and the reward.
  • 井の中の蛙大海を知らず (いのなかのかわずたいかいをしらず)
    • English translation: A frog in a well does not know the great sea
      This a wonderful way to express the idea of a person who’s satisfied to judge everything by their own narrow experience, remaining ignorant of the wide world outside.
  • 鯛も一人はうまからず (たいもひとりはうまからず)
    • English translation: Eaten alone, even sea bream loses its flavor
      Even in modern Japanese, it’s believed that a significant part of the pleasure of eating is to sit around the table to share a meal with loved ones. This philosophy of hospitality, family time and shared meals takes on even more significance in our busy modern lives.
  • 腹八分に医者いらず (はらはちぶにいしゃいらず)
    • English translation: Eight-tenths full keeps the doctor away
      This is just like our “an apple a day” saying, but I’d say the Japanese version is a little more helpful for long-term health. Beyond the simple mantra about eating in moderation, this Japanese idiom expresses the cultural taboo of excess in Japan.
  • 明日のことを言うと天井のネズミが笑う (あしたのことをいうとてんじょうのねずみがわらう)
    • English translation: If you speak of tomorrow, the rats in the ceiling will laugh
      This is one of the less concise idioms in Japanese, being a quite convoluted way to express a universal truth: The future is unpredictable. This is similar to the English saying, “we make our plans, and God laughs.”
  • 明日は明日の風が吹く (あしたは あしたのかぜがふく)
    • English translation: Tomorrow’s winds will blow tomorrow
      Now, this is a truly beautiful proverb. It’s a hopeful phrase that means “tomorrow is a new day.”
  • 雨降って地固まる (あめふってじかたまる)
    • English translation: After rain falls, the ground hardens
      This is yet another beautiful phrase coming straight from nature, with the same idea as in the English, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”—but I personally like the Japanese version much better.
    • 慣用句 (かんようく)
    • These 諺 are a little shorter than 言い習わし, but also often use images from nature and agriculture to express their meaning. If you want to learn some more 慣用句, check out ten more in this article from Japanese Words.
  • 花より団子 (はなよりだんご)
    • English translation: Dumplings over flowers
      Everyone’s favorite Japanese drama actually uses a 慣用句 to create the title: “花より男子” (or “Boys Over Flowers” in English). This is a play on the phrase presented above, 花より団子, which translates as “dumplings over flowers” and indicates that one should value substance over form, or that useful items have more value than purely decorative ones.
      So in the timeless classic dorama “花より男子,” Domyouji falls in love with Makino precisely because she’s resourceful and practical rather than superficial.
  • 相変わらず (あいかわらず)
    • English translation: The same as ever
  • 猿も木から落ちる (さるもきからおちる)
    • English translation: Even monkeys fall out of trees
      We all make mistakes! Comfort your Japanese friends after a blunder by saying this cute phrase.
  • 朝飯前 (あさめしまえ)
    • English translation: I’ll do it before I eat breakfast
      This has the same meaning as “a piece of cake” in English.
  • 見ぬが花 (みぬがはな)
    • English translation: Not seeing is a flower
      This another gorgeous Japanese idiom, meaning that reality can’t compete with imagination.
  • 天下り (あまくだり)
    • English translation: To command or dictate, or to descend from heaven
      There’s a practice in Japan so common that it has its own idiomatic name, where bureaucrats are often able to find high-ranking jobs in private firms after retirement.
  • 猫に小判 (ねこにこばん)
    • English translation: Like gold coins to a cat
      This is like the English “casting pearls before swine,” but uses “like gold coins to a cat” to express the folly of wasting beauty or quality on somebody who doesn’t appreciate it.
  • 七転び八起き (ななころびやおき) – Nana korobi, ya oki
    • English translation: Fall seven times, stand up eight
      Motivate yourself through tough times with this idiom. It’s a reminder that when life knocks you down, all you’ve got to do is stand back up. That eight time standing up is what counts in the end—not the seven falls.
  • 口が滑る (くちがすべる)
    • English translation: A slip of the mouth
      This is just like the English idiom “the cat’s out of the bag” or “spill the beans,” as it means to let out a secret.
  • 四字熟語 (よじじゅくご)
    • 四字熟語 are the shortest Japanese idioms, and really show how concise Japanese can be. They’re made up of four kanji characters and are basically untranslatable, as the characters don’t necessarily represent the meaning of the idiom.
  • 因果応報 (いんがおおほう)
    • English translation: Bad causes, bad results
      This emphasizes the Buddhist philosophy of karmic retribution. The English equivalent is “what goes around comes around.”
  • 一期一会 (いちごいちえ)
    • English translation: One opportunity, one encounter
      This expresses how every encounter we have is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. In modern Japan, it’s sometimes used a little differently, to say that “you only have one life”—a little more poetic than #YOLO!
      Many 四字熟語 are derived from Chinese four-character idioms (known as chengyu), but this is an example of an indigenous Japanese idiom.
  • 十人十色 (じゅうにんといろ)
    • English translation: Ten people, ten colors
      This is just like “to each his own.”
  • 起死回生 (きしかいせい)
    • English translation: Wake from death and turn to life
      I like this one because while it’s optimistic and generally used to encourage others to turn a bad situation into a success, it really highlights how terrible it can feel to be in that bad situation.
  • 花鳥風月 (かちょうふうげつ)
    • English translation: Flower, bird, wind, moon
      This is a poetic phrase that doesn’t have any sort of direct translation, but instead concisely expresses the beauty of nature by listing the kanji for “flower, bird, wind, moon.”
  • 一石二鳥 (いっせきにちょう)
    • English translation: One stone, two birds
      This is exactly like the English “to kill two birds with one stone,” but it’s a little more concise. It simply reads “one stone, two birds.”
  • 一日一歩 (いちにちいっぽ)
    • English translation: One day one step
      This Japanese idiom encourages us to take one step a day toward our goals.
  • 温故知新 (おんこちしん)
    • English translation: Review past, know future
      This is to look back at the past and learn from it, and to take that knowledge into the future. It’s a little bit similar to our English, “history repeats itself,” as it implies that your knowledge of the past will help you know what can happen in future situations.
  • 異体同心 (いたいどうしん)
    • English translation: Two bodies, one heart
      This expresses the harmony of mind between two people as “two bodies, one heart.” It’s a beautiful sentiment.
  • 十人十色: Juunin Toiro
    • Translation: Ten people, ten colors
      It’s oddly reassuring to know that a nation as homogenous as Japan has long-established proverbs such as this. As you may have guessed, this one simply means “everybody is different”: ie. if you meet ten people, you meet ten different colors of personality.
  • 井の中の蛙大海を知らず: I no naka no kaeru taikai wo shirazu:
    • Translation: A frog in the well knows nothing of the great sea
      This sounds like it could be a haiku from Basho himself, doesn’t it? While it doesn’t quite bear that distinction, it’s worth noting that we don’t really have an English version of this proverb, which is unusual because it would seem so useful to describe somebody who has a narrow view of the world based only on their own surroundings and experiences. It also follows a theme of many Japanese kotowaza: whereas English tends to use objects and ideas in proverbs, in Japanese animals and items of nature are more common.
  • 一寸先は闇: Issun saki wa yami
    • Translation: Just ahead is darkness
      Now this is the proverb you’d whip out at parties to sound cool! Despite the slightly grim sounding translation, the meaning of it is quite simple: that the future is unknown, and to expect the unexpected. But that doesn’t sound quite as enigmatic, does it?
  • 虎穴に入らずんば虎子を得ず: Koketsu ni irazunba koji wo ezu
    • Translation: if you don’t enter the tiger’s cave, you won’t catch it’s cub
      This one just raises all sorts of questions. First, whoever this is being spoken to is going to have a difficult time catching a tiger, because they aren’t native to Japan. Second, tiger’s don’t even use caves! All jokes aside, this is a pretty colorful proverb, with the English equivalent being “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
  • 毒食わば皿まで: doku kuwaba sara made
    • Translation: when poisoned, eat the plate
      Yikes. Whoever came up with this one must have been a little paranoid Translation: or a picky eater. But again, the meaning is a little more innocuous: when something bad happens to you, you might as well see it through to the end – or in this case, eat the plate. While there’s no straight English equivalent of this proverb, the nearest equivalent would be this famous quote from Winston Churchill: “When you’re going through hell, keep going.”
  • 二兎を追う者は一兎をも得ず: Nito wo oumono ha itto wo moezu
    • Translation: He who catches two rabbits catches neither
      This one speaks for itself! If you try to do two things at once, you’ll succeed in doing neither. Naturally, there’s lots of different English versions of this: “burning a candle at both ends”, or “Biting off more than one can chew”, for example. But it is interesting how once again the Japanese version opts for using animals and nature to convey its meaning.
  • 蓼食う虫も好き好き
    • Romaji: Tade kuu mushi mo suki zuki.
      Translation: There are even bugs that eat knotweed.
      Meaning: Everyone has their own likes/tastes. Knotweed is an invasive species of plant that is quite bitter. But there are even bugs that love to eat this plant. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. To each their own.
  • 覆水盆に返らず
    • Romaji: Fukusui bon ni kaerazu.
      Translation: Spilt water will not return to the tray.
      Meaning: Don’t cry over spilt milk.
  • 井の中の蛙 大海を知らず
    • Romaji: Ino naka no kawazu taikai o shirazu.
      Translation: A frog in a well does not know the great sea.
      Meaning: People make judgments based on their own limited experiences, with no knowledge of the world outside of those experiences.
  • 二兎を追う者は一兎をも得ず
    • Romaji: Nito o oumono wa itto o mo ezu.
      Translation: One who chases after 2 rabbits will not even catch one.
      Meaning: If you try to do two things at once, you will fail at both.
  • 花より団子
    • Romaji: Hana yori dango.
      Translation: Dumplings over flowers.
      Meaning: Preferring substance over style. Someone who prefers a gift of dumplings as opposed to flowers puts needs over wants.
  • 虎穴に入らずんば虎子を得ず
    • Romaji: Koketsu ni hairazunba koji o ezu.
      Translation: If you do not enter the tiger’s cave, you will not catch its cub.
      Meaning: No risk, no reward.

    • Romaji: Sumeba miyako
      Literally: If residing, capital/metropolis
      Meaning: Wherever you live, you come to love it.
      Notes: -eba is a conditional miyako is kun-yomi for the `to’ in Kyoto

    • Romaji: Kappa mo kawa nagare
      Literally: Even a `Kappa’ can get carried away by the river
      Meaning: Similar to saru mo ki kara ochiru, ie: anyone can make mistakes.
      Notes: A `kappa’ is a water-sprite, but is used here for a good swimmer
      Often written as kappa no kawanagare

    • Romaji: Koubou mo fude no ayamari
      Literally: Even `Koubou’ made mistakes with his brush
      Meaning: Similar to saru mo ki kara ochiru, ie: even experts can make mistakes (and to a lesser extent “pride leads to a fall”)
      Notes: Koubou was a Buddhist priest famous for his calligraphy

    • Romaji: Baka mo ichi-gei
      Literally: Even a fool has one talent
      Meaning: Even a fool may be good at something (I can’t think of another way of putting this!)
      Notes: This is the `gei’ of geisha

    • Romaji: Toranu tanuki no kawa zan’you
      Literally: Count the skins of badgers which haven’t been caught
      Meaning: “Don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched”
      Notes: -nu is a negative ending, and toranu modifies tanuki
      A tanuki is a Japanese animal somewhat like a badger or a racoon
      zan’you (usually san’you) means to calculate, or estimate.
    • Romaji: Uma no mimi ni nembutsu
      Literally: A sutra (Buddhist prayer) in a horse’s ear
      Meaning: A wasted effort; “pearls before swine”

    • Romaji: He wo hitte, shiri tsubome
      Literally: Breaking wind, closing buttocks
      Meaning: There’s no point in squeezing your buttocks after you have farted; “No use shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted”
      Notes: He can also be read onara, a fart Tsubomeru is to make narrow or to shut
      The linking of two -te form verbs like this gives the idea of doing X and then doing Y

    • Romaji: Fuku sui bon ni kaerazu
      Literally: Overturned water doesn’t return to the tray
      Meaning: What’s done is done; “There’s no use crying over spilt milk”
      Notes: Fuku-sui is a compound made up of two on readings. The kun reading of fuku is kutsukaesu = to overturn; and the kun reading for sui is of course mizu Bon is the same character as in the obon festival The -zu ending in kaerazu is a negative (like -nai)

    • Romaji: Rakka eda ni kaerazu, hakyou futatabi terasazu
      Literally: Fallen blossom doesn’t return to the branch, a broken mirror can not be made to shine
      Meaning: What’s done is done; “There’s no use crying over spilled milk”
      Notes: The ra in rakka is the kanji for otosu (to drop/let fall), but can also be read as ochi (the punchline of a joke) and is also the ra in rakugo (traditional funny story telling).
      Hakyou is a compound of yaburu (to tear/break) and kagami (mirror)
      Futatabi means again/once more
      Terasu is a verb meaning to shine on/illuminate (eg: teriagaru to clear up after rain), and -zu is a negative ending similar to -nai. Interestingly the kanji is also used for shyness.

    • Romaji: Atama kakushite, shiri kakusazu
      Literally: Cover/hide your head, and not cover your bottom
      Meaning: Don’t cover your head but expose your bottom, ie: you have to be careful not to expose your weak point while attempting to protect yourself
      Notes: -zu is an informal negative, like -nai

    • Romaji: Tonari no shibafu wa aoi
      Literally: The neighbour’s lawn is green
      Meaning: “The grass is always greener on the other side”
      Notes: The wa marks the neighbour’s lawn, thus implying comparison Aoi here means “is green”, -i adjectives do not require a verb

    • Romaji: Ningen banji saiou ga uma
      Literally: Humans everything `Saiou’ horse
      Meaning: All human affairs are like `Saiou’s horse; One’s fortune/luck is unpredictable and changeable
      Notes: Saiou ga uma refers to an old story about a man and a horse, where what at first appears to be good luck turns out to be bad luck
  • 合縁奇縁
    • [あいえんきえん, aien kien]
      Shared bond, mysterious bond (lit.: shared/mutual fate/destiny/bond, strange/mysterious fate/destiny/bond. This phrase is a classical yojijukugo (a four-character idiom in the style of classical Chinese) used to refer to the mysteries of attraction and relationships between men and women; perhaps also between men and men, or women and women, though no such usage has been seen classically). 
  • 挨拶は時の氏神
    • [あいさつはときのうじがみ, aisattsu wa toki no ujigami]
      Arbitration during a quarrel is a gift from the gods (lit.: a greeting is a a local diety who turns up at the right time). Note that here the word 挨拶 is used to mean arbitration rather than its usual meaning of greeting. The word 氏神 refers to a local diety, usually of a town or village.
  • 空いた口に牡丹餅
    • [あいたくちにぼたもち, aita kuchi ni botamochi]
      An unexpected windfall; a sudden gain (lit.: a bean-jam cake[falling] into an open mouth)
  • 相手のない喧嘩はできぬ
    • [あいてのないけんかはできぬ, aite no nai kenka wa dekinu]
      You cannot have a fight alone; it takes two to tango (lit.: a fight without a partner cannot be had; i.e.: conflict requires other people, though perhaps this ignores internal conflict; Japanese culture places great emphasis on group harmony, so often an individual will walk away from a possilbe conflict, which is the embdiment of this proverb)
  • 会うは別かりの始まり
    • [あうはわかりのはじまり, au nowa wakari no hajimari]
      To meet is the beginning of parting (n.b.: this sentiment expresses a Buddhist idea common in Japan about the transience of all things)
  • 秋茄子は嫁に食わすな
    • [あきなすはよめのくわすな, akinasu wa yome ni kuwansuna]
      Do not let your daughter-in-law eat autumn eggplants (n.b.: this refers to the relationship between a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, a traditionally poor one, and that a mean mother-in-law would not share one with her dauhter-in-law)
  • 悪因悪果
    • [あくいんあっか, akuin akka]
      You reap what you sow (lit.: bad causes bring bad results; n.b.: this is a Buddhist sentiment, one that emphasizes the idea of karmic retribution)
  • 悪妻は六十年の不作
    • [あくさいはろくじゅうねんのふさく, akusai wa rokujuu-nen no fusaku]
      A bad wife is a shipwreck of the house; a bad wife is the ruin of her husband (lit.: a bad wife is a poor harvest for sixty years; note that this proverb is also used with 100 years as well)
  • 悪事千里をはしる
    • [あくじせんりをはしる, akuji senri o hashiru]
      Bad news travels fast; bad new has wings (lit.: bad new runs one thousand “ri” [about 2.44 miles], a traditional measure of distance in Japan)
  • 朝起きは三文の得
    • [あさおきはさんもんのとく, asaoki wa sanmon no toku]
      Early rising makes three mon of profit; early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise
  • 朝起きは七つの得あり
    • [あさおきはななつのとくあり, asaoki wa nanatsu no toku ari]
      The early bird catches the worm; early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise (lit.: early rising has seven advantages)
  • 朝茶柱がたつと縁起がいい
    • [あさちゃばしらがたつとえんぎがいい, asacha-bashira ga tatsu to engi ga ii]
      A tea leaf floating upright in a cup in the morning means good fortune (an ancient Japanese superstition; recall that even today Japanese make tea using leaves, not tea bags, and that reading tea leaves is still a common practice among fortune tellers worldwide)
  • 朝爪を切れば日に恥をかく
    • [あさつめをきればひにはじをかく, asa tsume o kireba hi ni haji o kaku]
      If you trim your nails in the morning, you will be put to shame that day (an ancient Japanese superstition )
  • 朝の紅顔、夕べの白骨
    • [あさのこうがん、ゆうべのはっこつ, asa no kougan, yuube no hakkou]
      A rosy face in the morning, white bones in the evening; today red, tomorrow dead (this expresses the frailty of life)
  • 明日のことをいうと天井の鼠が笑う
    • [あしたのことをいうとてんじょうのねずみがわらう, ashita no koto o iu to tenjou no nezumi ga warau]
      If you speak of tomorrow, the rats in the ceiling will laugh (i.e.: prediction is difficult, especially about the future, as Niels Bohr said)
  • 明日は明日の風が吹く
    • [あしたはあしたのかぜがふく, ashita wa ashita no kaze ga fuku]
      Tomorrow is a new day (lit.: on the morrow the winds of tomorrow will blow)
  • 足の裏が痒いのはいい前兆
    • [あしのうらがかゆいのはいいぜんちょう, ashi no ura ga kayui no wa ii zenchou]
      An itch on the bottom of your foot is a good omen (an old Japanese superstition whose origins remain elusive)
  • 明日は明日、今日は今日
    • [あすはあす、きょうはきょう, ashita wa ashita, kyo wa kyou]
      Tomorrow is tomorrow, today is today (i.e.: focus on this day now, and think or worry about tomorrow when tomorrow comes)
  • 明日は雨、人は泥棒
    • [あすはあめ、ひとはどろぼう, asu wa ame, hito ha dorobou]
      Tomorrow will see rain, and people are thieves (i.e.: be careful with people and things; they can be unpredictable)
  • 遊び人暇なし
    • [あそびにんひまなし, asobi-nin ni hima nashi]
      Pleasure seekers have no leisure (i.e.: their time is consumed by all their activities)
  • 頭隠して尻隠さず
    • [あたまかくしてしりかくさず, atama kakushite shiri kakusazu]
      Partly hide one’s faults, to; make like an ostrich, to (lit.: hide the head but not the buttocks)
  • 頭の大きい人は運がいい
    • [あたまのおおきいひとはうんがいい, atama no ookii hito wa un ga ii]
      Destiny awaits a man with a big head; a person with a large head will have good fortunate (an ancient superstition in Japan, akin to European phrenology)
  • 頭の休養、目の正月
    • [あたまのきゅうよう、めのしょうがつ, atama no kyuuyou, me no shougatsu]
      Very interesting, intriguing, fascinating (lit.: a vacation for the head and New Year’s celebration for the eyes)
  • 当たるも八卦当たらぬも八卦
    • [あたるもはっけあたらぬもはっけ, ataru mo hakke, ataranu mo hakke]
      Fortune telling is random (lit.: getting it right is fate, and getting it wrong is also fate; i.e.: the future is uncertain, and fortune telling will sometimes be right and often be wrong)
  • 仇は恩で奉ぜよ
    • [あだはおんでほうぜよ, ada wa on de bouzyo]
      Return good for evil (lit.: repay your enemy with a favor)
  • 暑さ寒さも彼岸まで
    • [あつささむさもひがんまで, atsusa samusa mo higan made]
      Both heat and cold last only until the equinox (n.b.: the equinox is the boundary between the warmer and colder halves of the year, so this proverb implies that summer heat, which can be stifling in Japan, and winter cold, which can be brutal, both will pass with time)
  • 痘痕も笑窪
    • [あばたもえくぼ, abata mo ekubo]
      Love is blind; pimples become dimples [when in love] (n.b.: the entire sayings goes 惚れてしまえば、痘痕も笑窪 [horete shimaeba, abata mo ekubo], meaning that when one is smitten, pockmarks or other defects become dimples or something else appealing)
  • 危ない事は怪我のうち
    • [あぶないことはけがのうち, abunai koto wa kega no uchi]
      To knowingly flirt with danger invites injury (lit.: dangerous things are harm to oneself; i.e.: you have to take responsiblity for attempting something risky)
  • 虻蜂取らず
    • [あぶはちとらず, abu hachi torazu]
      Fail by being too eager, to; he that grasps too much holds fast nothing (lit.: catch neither the horsefly nor the wasp)
  • 甘いものに蟻
    • [あまいものにあり, amai mono ni ari]
      What brings profits attracts people; you can attrack more flies with honey than with vinegar (lit.: ants go to sweet things; i.e.: you have to draw people in with something appealing)
  • 余り物には福がある
    • [あまりものにはふくがある, amari mono ni fuku ga aru]
      One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure (lit.: leftovers can bring good fortune; i.e.: you never know what use something may eventually have)
  • 阿弥陀の光も金次第
    • [あみだのひかりもかねしだい, amida no hikari mo kane shidai]
      No penny, no paternoster (lit.: the light of Amida Buddha is given in proportion to the gold offered by the supplicant)
  • 網の魚
    • [あみのうお, ami no uo]
      A fish in a net (i.e.: a person who will be captured soon)
  • 雨降って地固まる
    • [あめふってちかたまる, ame futte chi katamaru]
      The calm after the storm; strength through hardship; what does not kill you makes you stronger (lit.: after rain falls, the ground hardens; i.e.: difficulties and challenges can lead to greater strength than before they started)
  • 争いには声高の者が勝つ
    • [あらそいにはこわだかのものがかつ, arasoi niwa takagoe ga katsu]
      In a quarrel the louder person wins (in other words, reason and right have nothing to do with winning an argument; shouting and screaming determine the victor)
  • あるはなきに勝る
    • [あるはなきにまさる, aru wa naku ni masaru]
      Anything is better than nothing (lit.: to have[something] is better than nothing)
  • 合わせもの、離れもの
    • [あわせもの、はなれもの, awase mono, hanare mono]
      What may be joined may be separated. (this is a Buddhist view of the world, commenting on the transience of all phenomena, including human relations)
  • 案じるより生むはやすい
    • [あんじるよりうむはやすいむ, anjiru yori umu wa yasui]
      Giving birth is easier than when planned; all things are difficult before they seem easy; the paralysis of analysis (lit.: bringing something forth is easier than planning it; i.e.: doing something often turns out to be easier than it seemed beforehand)
  • 猿も木から落ちる – Saru mo ki kara ochiru.
    • Even monkeys fall from trees.
    • English equivalent: It is a good horse that never stumbles.
    • Meaning: Even experts make mistakes.
  • 井の中の蛙大海を知らず – I no naka no kawazu taikai-o shirazu.
    • A frog in a well does not know the great ocean
    • Chinese equivalent: 井底之蛙
  • 二兎を追う者は一兎も得ず – Nito-o ou mono wa itto mo ezu.
    • Who chases two rabbits catches neither
    • Italian equivalent: Chi troppo vuole, nulla stringe
    • English equivalent: You must not run after two hares at the same time.
  • 良薬口に苦し – Ryooyaku Kuchi ni Nigashi.
    • Translation: Good medicine is bitter to the mouth.
    • Chinese equivalent: 良藥苦口
  • 角を矯めて牛を殺す – Tsuno-o tamete ushi-o korosu.
    • Translation: To kill a bull by straightening its horns.
    • English equivalent: Perfect is the enemy of good.
    • “Action taken to put something right is often more unpleasant or damaging than the original problem.”
  • 継続は力なり – Keizoku wa chikara nari.
    • Translation: To continue is power.
  • 鳥なき里の蝙蝠 = Tori naki sato no koumori.
    • Translation: A bat in a village without birds.
    • English equivalent: In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.
  • 苦あれば楽あり – Ku areba raku ari.
    • Translation: There are hardships and there are delights.
    • English equivalent: After rain comes fair weather; No pain, no gain; March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers.
    • Chinese equivalent: 苦盡甘来。
  • 毒食わば皿まで – Doku kuwaba sara made.
    • Translation: When poisoned, one might as well swallow the plate.
    • English equivalent: “In for a penny, in for a pound”
    • Yiddish equivalent: “If you’re going to eat pork, eat it till your mouth drips”
  • 早起きは三文の徳 – Haya oki wa sanmon no toku.
    • Translation: Early rising benefits you three pence.
    • English equivalent: The early bird gets the worm
  • 本末転倒 – Honmatsu tentou.
    • English equivalent: Putting the cart before the horse.
    • Chinese equivalent: 本末倒置。
  • 早い者勝ち – Hayai mono gachi.
    • Translation: The early one wins.
    • English equivalent: First come, first served; the early bird gets the worm (see above).
  • 愚公山を移す – Gukou yama-o utsusu.
    • Translation: Yugong moves a mountain.
    • English equivalent: Faith can move mountains.
    • Chinese equivalent: 愚公移山。
    • “愚公移山” is a Chinese fable from the book Liezi(《列子》).
    • “Nothing is impossible to those who have sufficient faith; applied not only to religious faith, but to any strong belief in a cause or objective.”
  • 井戸の中の独言も三年たてば知れる 0 Ido no naka no hitori-goto mo san’nen tateba shireru.
    • Translation: Even a lone mutter in a well is known after three years.
  • 亀の甲より年の功 – Kame no kou yori toshi no kou.
    • Translation: Wisdom gotten from age is better than the shell of a tortoise.
    • English equivalent 1: Years know more than books.
    • English equivalent 2: “Experience is the mother of wisdom.”
    • “Prudence is the footprint of Wisdom.”
  • 乗りかかった船 – Nori-kakatta fune.
    • Translation: A ship that you are already partially in.
    • English equivalent: In for a penny, in for a pound.
  • 一盲衆を引く – Ichi mou shuu-o hiku.
    • Translation: One blind man leads the crowd.
    • English equivalent: If the blind leads the blind, they both fall into the ditch.
    • Un sot trouve toujours un plus sot qui l’admire.
    • Translation: A fool always finds one still more foolish to admire him.
    • Variant A fool always finds a greater fool to admire him.”
  • 一寸先は闇 – Issun saki wa yami.
    • Translation: It is dark one inch ahead of you.
    • English equivalent 1: Who can see in the future?
    • English equivalent 2: Expect the unexpected.
  • 出る釘は打たれる – Deru kugi wa utareru.
    • Translation: The nail that sticks out gets hammered down.
    • Chinese equivalent: 棒打出頭鳥。
    • Note: While kui (杭, stake) is sometimes used in place of kugi (釘, nail) some purists point to the incongruity of using “kui” since, in traditional Japanese post and beam house construction, it is physically impossible to hammer a stake flush with the wood, and a stake in the ground would have no structural function.
    • It has often been said that power corrupts. But it is perhaps equally important to realize that weakness, too, corrupts. Power corrupts the few, while weakness corrupts the many. Hatred, malice, rudeness, intolerance, and suspicion are the faults of weakness. The resentment of the weak does not spring from any injustice done to them but from the sense of inadequacy and impotence. They hate not wickedness but weakness. When it is their power to do so, the weak destroy weakness wherever they see it.
  • 艱難にあって初めて真友を知る – Kannan ni atte hajimete shinyū-o shiru.
    • Translation: Friends are known first in hardships.
    • English equivalent: A friend in need is a friend indeed.
    • Chinese equivalent: 患難見真情。
  • 虎穴に入らずんば虎子を得ず – Koketsu ni irazunba koji-o ezu.
    • Translation: If you do not enter the tiger’s cave, you will not catch its cub.
    • English equivalent: Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
    • Chinese equivalent: 不入虎穴,焉得虎子。
    • Meaning: “Nothing can be achieved without effort, suffering or hardship.”
  • 木の実は元へ落つる – Kinomi wa moto e otsuru.
    • Translation: A berry falls to (its tree’s) roots.
    • English equivalent: The apple does not fall far from the tree.
    • “Children observe daily and — in their behaviour — often follow the example of their parents.”
  • 七転び八起き – Nana korobi ya oki.
    • Translation: Fall down seven times, get up eight
    • English equivalent: If at first you don’t succeed try, try again.
  • 能ある鷹は爪を隠す – Nou aru taka wa tsume-o kakusu.
    • Translation: The talented hawk hides its claws.
    • Meaning: One should hide his best abilities until time comes to show them.
    • Closest English equivalent: “Still water runs deep.”
  • 小打も積もれば大木を倒す – Shouda mo tsumoreba taiboku-o taosu.
    • Translation: With many little strokes a large tree is felled.
    • English equivalent: Little strokes fell great oaks.
    • Meaning: “A difficult task, e. g. removing a person/group from a strong position, or changing established ideas cannot be done quickly. It can be achieved gradually, by small steps, a little at a time.”
  • 立つ鳥跡を濁さず – Tatsu tori ato-o nigosazu.
    • Translation: A leaving bird does not leave a mess.
    • English equivalent: It is an ill bird that fouls its own nest; Don’t wash your dirty linen in public.
    • Meaning: “Why wantonly proclaim one’s own disgrace, or expose the faults or weaknesses of one’s kindred or people?”
    • Meaning 2: “It is considered contemptible to defy the rule of solidarity by revealing facts harmful to the group one belongs to.”
  • この父にしてこの子あり – Kono chichi ni shite kono ko ari.
    • Translation: With such father there is such a child.
    • English equivalent: Like father, like son.
    • Chinese equivalent: 有其父,必有其子。
    • Meaning: “Sons may look and behave like their fathers. This is due to inheritance and the example observed closely and daily.”
  • 酒は本心を表す – Sake-wa honshin-o arawasu.
    • Translation: Sake [in other words alcohol], reveals the true heart.
    • English equivalent: In wine there is truth; In vino veritas.
    • Chinese equivalent: 酒後吐真言。
    • Meaning: “Alcohol consumed removes the inhibition against telling the truth that occasionally one would like to keep secret.”
  • 目は口ほどに物を言う – Me-wa kuchi hodo mono-o iu.
    • English equivalent: The eyes are sometimes a true index of the heart.
  • 水に流す – Mizu ni nagasu.
    • Translation: let the water flow
    • English equivalent: Forgive and forget; water under the bridge
  • 石の上にも三年 – Ishi no ue nimo san nen.
    • Translation: [to stay] three years on a rock
    • Meaning: “This proverb teaches the principle of perseverance by encouraging one to see an enterprise through to its conclusion.”

Hilarious Japanese Proverbs

  • 屁を放って尻つぼめ
    へをひってしりつぼめ

    • “There is no use scrunching up your buttocks after a fart.”
  • 毒を食わらば皿まで
    どくをくわらばさらまで

    • “When eating poison, you may as well lick the plate.”
  • 馬鹿は死ななきゃ治らない。
    ばか は しな なきゃ なおら ない。

    • “Unless an idiot dies, he can never be cured.”
  • あばたもえくぼ
    • “A man in love mistakes a pimple for a dimple.”
  • 人生は楽しいことばかりではない。
    じんせい は たのしい こと ばかり で は ない。

    • “Life’s not all beer and skittles.”
  • 戴くものは夏も小袖
    いただくものはなつもこそで

    • “A padded jacket is an acceptable gift, even in summer.”
  • 頭隠して尻隠さず
    あたま かくし て しり かくさす ゙

    • “Hide your head but not the buttocks.”
  • 船頭多くして船山に登る
    せんどうおおくしてふねやまにのぼる

    • “Too many boatmen will bring a boat up a mountain.”
  • 味噌の味噌臭いは上味噌にあらず
    みそのみそくさきはじょうみそにあらず

    • “The bean paste that smells like bean paste is not the best quality.”
  • 毛深い者は色深い
    けぶかい もの は いろ ふかい
  • “A hairy person is sexy.”
  • 爪の垢を煎じて飲む
    つめ の あか を せんじ て のむ

    • “Boil and drink another’s fingernail dirt.”
  • 臍を噛む
    ほぞをかむ

    • “It’s no good trying to bite your navel.”
  • 朝爪を切れば日に恥をかく
    あさ つめ を きれ ば ひ に はじ を か

    • “If you trim your nails in the morning, you will be put to shame that day.”
      **This is not a saying, but rather a very old superstition.
  • 空いた口に牡丹餅
    あいたくちへぼたもち

    • “A bean-jam cake [falling] into an open mouth”
  • 秋茄子は嫁に食わすな
    あき なすび は よめ に くわす な

    • “Do not let your daughter-in-law eat autumn eggplants”
  • 明日のことをいうと天井の鼠が笑う
    あした の こと を いう と てんじょう の ねずみ が わらう

    • “If you speak of tomorrow, the rats in the ceiling will laugh”
  • 馬子にも衣裳
    まご に も いしょう

    • “Even a packhorse driver looks fine in proper dress.”
  • 膝とも談合
    ひざ とも だんごう

    • “Consult anyone, even your knees.”
  • 犬猿の仲
    けんえんのなか

    • “Relations between a dog and a monkey.”
  • 下駄に焼き味噌
    げたにやきみそ

    • “Roast bean paste on wooden clogs.”
  • 花より団子 (はなよりだんご)
    • Dumplings over roses
      This Japanese proverb is also known as “Dumplings rather than flowers.” This is used to describe someone who prefers substance over trinkets and tends to be more practical in what they enjoy instead of showy.
      Or maybe someone who just really likes dumplings.
      For example, do you know someone who doesn’t get really excited over a bouquet of roses or jewelry as a gift, but gets pretty pumped over a new tool set or art supplies? They’re definitely a “dumplings over roses” kind of person.
      If you’re not particular about either, you might just be a rose dumpling sort of person.
  • 耳に胼胝ができる (みみに たこが できる)
    • I’m growing a callus in my ear
      The mental image this Japanese proverb projects isn’t pretty. Neither is having to hear the same thing over and over.
      In Japan, to “grow a callus in your ear” means that you’re sick of hearing the same thing over and over again to the point that your ears build protective tissue to block out the nonsense.
      Remember when you were a kid and your mom reminded you 10 times a day to clean your room? Chances are your ears built up a metaphorical callus to hearing the same request over and over. Hopefully, you cleaned your room.
  • 毒食わば皿まで (どく くわば さら まで)
    • When poisoned, you might as well swallow the plate
      This Japanese proverb is similar to the English proverb “one might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb.” Both idioms are essentially excusing a larger wrongdoing or bad choice when one smaller wrongdoing or bad choice has already been committed.
      Here’s an example. It’s January. Your New Year’s resolution is to go on a diet. You begin the morning of January 1 with a big sugary donut. Instead of eating healthier throughout the day, you give up and have pizza for lunch since you already screwed up.
      You know, this isn’t exactly the best advice on this list of proverbs…
  • イタチの最後っ屁 (いたちの さいごっぺ)
    • A mink’s/weasel’s last fart
      Ah yes, good old Japanese fart humor.
      This Japanese proverb refers to one’s final resort in a difficult situation. For our dear mink, it’s one last fart to get its attacker to leave it be.
  • 女三人寄れば 姦しい(おんな さんにん よれば かしましい)
    • Whenever three women gather it is noisy
      As a woman, I’ll say this proverb is fair. However, there’s a bit of wordplay in this proverb that you might not pick up on if you’re not a native speaker.
      The kanji for 姦 (かん) – “noisy” is composed of three of the kanji for 女 (おんな) – “woman.” 三 (さん) – “three” is also used in the proverb, making the whole thing one big pun and play on written words.
  • 犬猿の仲 (けんえんの なか)
    • A dog-and-monkey relationship
      There are frenemies. There are enemies. And then there are super enemies.
      A “dog-and-monkey” relationship is the Japanese saying for two people who absolutely despise each other and everybody knows it. The closest English proverb to this Japanese proverb would be to describe two people as “a pair that fights like cats and dogs.”
      Let’s say your mother-in-law doesn’t approve of your marriage to her daughter. You don’t approve of her attitude. Neither of you speak to each other, ever, except for passive-aggressive remarks at family reunions over egg salad. You’re both on “dog-and-monkey” terms.
  • 芋を洗うよう(いもをあらうよう)
    • Like a barrel of potatoes
      This Japanese proverb is also read as “like washing potatoes.” The English equivalent would be “packed like sardines.”
      Everyone’s been stuck in a packed crowd before. In Japan, crowds can get pretty crazy in the city. This proverb is relating the appearance of a barrel of potatoes (the traditional way to wash potatoes in Japan is in a bin or barrel) to the congestion of a large crowd.
      “That Britney Spears concert was so crowded, it was like washing potatoes!”
  • どんぐりの背比べ (どんぐりの せいくらべ)
    • Like acorns comparing their height
      This Japanese expression describes a group of people who have very similar strengths, abilities and skills, all of which are usually not that impressive. Anyone in that group who tries to outdo another person in the group would be like an acorn comparing itself to another acorn. Acorns are usually all the same, small size.
      Loser 1: “I got a 33% on the exam.”
      Loser 2: “I got a 34%, I’m so much smarter than you!”
      Onlooker: “Ah, it’s like acorns comparing height.”
  • 蛇足 (だそく)
    • Snake legs
      When was the last time you saw a snake with legs? Snakes get around pretty well without little feet, making the idea of “snake legs” pretty useless. This expression means that something is particularly unnecessary, useless or possibly dangerous.
  • 箸より重い物を持ったことがない (はしより おもいものをもったことが ない)
    • Never had to lift anything heavier than a pair of chopsticks
      Do you know a person who’s particularly privileged? Grew up rich, never had a job as a young adult, got a free ride through college and was pretty much handed a job by their family’s connections?
      Or maybe someone who married a rich person and doesn’t do anything all day? It’s likely that such a person never had to lift a finger and work hard.

Japanese Phrases

  • 能ある鷹は爪を隠す。- Nō aru taka wa tsume wo kakusu.
    • Translation: The talented hawk hides its claws
      Closest English equivalents: Tell not all you know, nor do all you can; Wear your learning like your watch, in a private pocket.
      Meaning: Hide your supposed knowledge and prowess until it is requested.
  • 虎穴に入らずんば虎子を得ず。- Koketsu ni irazunba koji wo ezu.
    • Translation: If you do not enter the tiger’s cave, you will not catch its cub.
      English equivalent: Nothing ventured, nothing gained; No pain, no gain.
      Meaning: There is seldom anything to win where there is no adversity of some sort.
  • 一寸先は闇
    • Translation: Who can see in the future?
  • 酒は本心を表す – Sake-wa honshin-wo arawasu..
    • Translation: Sake [in other words alcohol], reveals the true heart.
      English equivalent: In wine there is truth.
      Meaning: “Alcohol consumed removes the inhibition against telling the truth that occasionally one would like to keep secret.”
  • 石の上にも三年 – ishi no ue nimo san nen
    • Translation: Three years on the rock.
      Meaning: It takes a long time sitting on a stone before it becomes warm. Expect to work at something for three years before you see results.
  • 盲衆を引く
    • Translation and English equivalent: If the blind leads the blind, they both fall into the ditch.
      Meaning: “A person ignorant/inexperienced in something cannot assist someone similar.”
  • 出る杭は打たれる。- Deru kui wa utareru.
    • Translation: The stake that sticks out gets hammered down.
  • 小打も積もれば大木を倒す – Shōda mo tsumoreba taiboku-wo taosu.
    • Translation: With many little strokes a large tree is felled.
      English equivalent: Little strokes fell great oaks.
      Meaning: “A difficult task, e. g. removing a person/group from a strong position, or changing established ideas cannot be done quickly. It can be achieved gradually, by small steps, a little at a time.”
  • 水に流す – mizu ni nagasu
    • Translation: let flow in the water
      Meaning: Forgive and forget; water under the bridge
  • 木の実は元へ落つる – Kino mi-wa moto-he otsuru.
    • Translation: The fruit of a tree falls to its root.
      English equivalent: The apple does not fall far from the tree.
      Meaning: “Children observe daily and — in their behaviour — often follow the example of their parents.”
  • 乗りかかった船
    • English equivalent: In for a penny, in for a pound.
  • 愚公山を移す
    • Translation: Faith can move mountains.
      Meaning: “Nothing is impossible to those who have sufficient faith; applied not only to religious faith, but to any strong belief in a cause or objective.”.
  • 早い者勝ち
    • English equivalent: First come, first served.
      Meaning: “Those who arrive or apply earliest are most likely to get what they want from a limited supply of things, such as tickets, discounted goods or refreshments.”
  • 立つ鳥跡を濁さず – Tatsu tori ato-wo nigosazu.
    • Translation: A foolish bird fouls her own nest.
      English equivalent: It is an ill bird that fouls its own nest; Don’t wash your dirty linen in public.
      Meaning: “Why wantonly proclaim one’s own disgrace, or expose the faults or weaknesses of one’s kindred or people?”
  • 鳥なき里の蝙蝠 – Tori naki sato no koumori.
    • Translation: Bat in island without birds.
      English equivalent: In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.
      Meaning: “People of only limited ability can succeed when surrounded by those who are even less able than themselves.” Reportedly used by Oda Nobunaga to refer to Chōsokabe Motochika.
  • 案ずるより産むが易し。
    • Anzuru yori umu ga yasushi.
    • Literally: Giving birth to a baby is easier than worrying about it.
    • Meaning: Fear is greater than the danger. / An attempt is sometimes easier than expected.
  • 出る杭は打たれる。
    • Deru kui wa utareru.
    • Literally: The stake that sticks up gets hammered down.
    • Meaning: If you stand out, you will be subject to criticism.
  • 見ぬが花。
    • Minu ga hana.
    • Literally: Not seeing is a flower.
    • Meaning: Reality can’t compete with imagination.
  • 花は桜木人は武士
    • Hana wa sakuragi, hito wa bushi.
    • Literally: Of flowers, the cherry blossom; of men, the warrior.
    • Meaning: As the cherry blossom is considered foremost among flowers, so the warrior is foremost among men.

      Japanese Proverbs

Japanese idioms

  • 七転び八起き
    • Nanakorobi yaoki
    • Literally: Fall seven times and stand up eight
    • Meaning: When life knocks you down, stand back up; What matters is not the bad that happened, but what one does after.
  • 猿も木から落ちる
    • Saru mo ki kara ochiru
    • Literally: Even monkeys fall from trees
    • Meaning: Anyone can make a mistake.
  • 花より団子
    • Hana yori dango
    • Literally: Dumplings rather than flowers
    • Meaning: To prefer substance over form, as in to prefer to be given functional, useful items (such as dumplings) instead of merely decorative items (such as flowers).
  •  十人十色
    • jūnin toiro
    • Literally: ten persons, ten colors
    • Meaning: To each his own. / Different strokes for different folks.
  • 因果応報
    • inga ōhō
    • Literally: Cause bring result / bad causes bring bad results
    • Meaning: what goes around comes around
    • Note: this is a Buddhist sentiment that emphasizes the idea of karmic retribution.
  • 弱肉強食
    • jaku niku kyō shoku
    • Literally: The weak are meat; the strong eat.
    • Meaning: Survival of the fittest.
  • 悪妻は百年の不作。(Akusai wa hyaku-nen no fusaku)
    • Literally: A bad wife spells a hundred years of bad harvest.
      Meaning: A bad wife is a ruin of her husband.
  • 残り物には福がある。(Nokorimono ni wa fuku ga aru)
    • Literally: Luck exists in the leftovers.
      Meaning: There is luck in the last helping.
  • 虎穴に入らずんば虎子を得ず。(Koketsu ni irazunba koji wo ezu)
    • Literally: If you do not enter the tiger’s cave, you will not catch its cub.
      Meaning: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. / You can’t do anything without risking something.
  • 夏炉冬扇 (karo tōsen)
    • Literally: Summer heater winter fan
      Meaning: Something which is out of season and therefore rendered useless.
  • 花鳥風月 (Kachou Fuugetsu)
    • Literally: Flower, Bird, Wind, Moon
      Meaning: Experience the beauties of nature, and in doing so learn about yourself.
  • 起死回生 (kishi kaisei)
    • Literally: Wake from death and return to life
      Meaning: To come out of a desperate situation and make a complete return in one sudden burst.
  • 自業自得 (Jigou Jitoku)
    • Literally: One’s Act, One’s profit/Advantage.
      Meaning: That’s what you get, Just desserts, You reap what you sow.
  • 瓜田李下 (kaden rika)
    • Literally: Melon field, under a plum tree
      Meaning: Stepping into a melon field, standing under a plum tree (, such behavior causes misunderstanding that you want to steal those fruits); implying that you must avoid actions which could be taken on a bad faith.
  • 晴天の霹靂 (Seiten no heki-reki)
    • Literally: Thunderclap from a clear sky.
      Meaning: A bolt from the blue. / A complete surprise.
  • 猿も木から落ちる。 (Saru mo ki kara ochiru)
    • Literally: Even monkeys fall from trees.
      Meaning: Everyone makes mistakes. / Nobody’s perfect.
  • 蓼食う虫も好き好き (Tade kuu mushi mo sukizuki)
    • Literally: There are even bugs that eat knotweed.
      Meaning: There’s no accounting for taste. / To each his own.
  • 井の中の蛙大海を知らず。 (I no naka no kawazu taikai wo shirazu)
    • Literally: A frog in a well does not know the great sea.
      Meaning: People are satisfied to judge things by their own narrow experience, never knowing of the wide world outside.
  • 蛙の子は蛙。 (Kaeru no ko wa kaeru)
    • Literally: Child of a frog is a frog.
      Meaning: Like father, like son.
  • 鳶が鷹を産む。 (Tonbi (or Tobi) ga taka wo umu)
    • Literally: A kite breeding a hawk.
      Meaning: A splendid child born from common parents.
  • 覆水盆に帰らず。 (Fukusui bon ni kaerazu)
    • Literally: Spilt water will not return to the tray.
      Meaning: It’s no use crying over spilt milk. / A separated couple can never go back to as it was.
  • 二兎を追う者は一兎をも得ず。 (Ni usagi wo ou mono wa ichi usagi wo mo ezu)
    • Literally: One who chases after two hares won’t catch even one.
      Meaning: Trying to do two things at once will make you fail in both.
  • 継続は力なり。 (Keizoku wa chikara nari)
    • Literally: Continuance (also) is power/strength.
      Meaning: Don’t give up. Just continuing to hold on will yield/reveal strength and power. Continuing on after a setback is its own kind of strength. Perseverance is power.
  • 門前の小僧習わぬ経を読む。 (Mon zen no kozō narawanu kyō wo yomu)
      • Literally: An apprentice near a temple will recite the scriptures untaught.
        Meaning: The environment makes our characters.
  • 知らぬが仏 (Shiranu ga hotoke)
    • Literally: Not knowing is Buddha.
      Meaning: Ignorance is bliss. / It’s better to not know the truth.
  • 見ぬが花 (Minu ga hana)
    • Literally: Not seeing is a flower.
      Meaning: Things will never be as you imagine, so you’re better off not seeing them. / Reality can’t compete with imagination.
  • 猫に鰹節 (neko ni katsuobushi)
    • Literally: fish to a cat.
      Meaning: A situation where one can not let their guard down (because the cat can’t resist stealing your fish).
  • 七転び八起き (nanakorobi yaoki)
    • Literally: stumbling seven times but recovering eight.
      Meaning: perseverance is better than defeat.
  • 三日坊主 (mikka bōzu)
    • Literally: a monk for (just) three days.
      Meaning: Giving up at the first sign of difficulty.
  • 案ずるより産むが易し。 (Anzuru yori umu ga yasashi)
    • Literally: Giving birth to a baby is easier than worrying about it.
      Meaning: Fear is greater than the danger. / An attempt is sometimes easier than expected.
  • 馬鹿は死ななきゃ治らない。 (Baka wa shinanakya naoranai)
    • Literally: Unless an idiot dies, he won’t be cured.
      Meaning: Only death will cure a fool. / You can’t fix stupid.
  • 出る杭は打たれる。 (Deru kui wa utareru)
    • Literally: The stake that sticks out gets hammered down.
      Meaning: Don’t make waves / Apply your effort where it will do the most good / Excellence breeds envy and/or enmity / It’s better to conform than to stick out.
  • 挨拶は時の氏神。 (Aisatsu wa toki no ujigami)
    • Literally: A greeting is the local deity who turns up providentially.
      Meaning: Arbitration in a quarrel is a godsend.
  • 秋茄子は嫁に食わすな。 (Akinasu wa yome ni kuwasuna)
    • Literally: Don’t let your daughter-in-law eat your autumn eggplants.
      Meaning: Don’t let yourself be taken advantage of.
  • 花よりだんご (hana yori dango)
    • Literally: dumplings over flowers
  • Meaning: The person to whom it is directed prefers practical gain to aesthetics.
  • 水に流す (mizu ni nagasu)
    • Literally: let flow in the water
      Meaning: Forgive and forget; water under the bridge
  • 雨降って地固まる (ame futte chi katamaru)
    • Literally: after the rain, earth hardens
      Meaning: Adversity builds character./After a storm, things will stand on more solid ground than they did before.
  • 油を売る (abura o uru)
    • Literally: to sell oil
      Meaning: to spend time chitchatting or to waste time in the middle of a task.
  • 竜頭蛇尾 (ryuutou dabi)
    • Literally: dragon, head, snake, tail
      Meaning: Anticlimax, the beginning is like a dragons head, great and majestic and the ending is like a snakes tail, tiny and pathetic.
  • 晴耕雨読 (seiko udoku)
    • Literally: clear sky, cultivate, rainy, reading
      Meaning: Farm when it’s sunny, read when it rains.
  • 四面楚歌 (Shimen soka)
    • Literally: Chu songs on all sides
      Meaning: Defeat is clear; Situation is desperate beyond hope.
  • 十人十色 (jūnin toiro)
    • Literally: ten men, ten colors
      Meaning: To each his/her own. / Different strokes for different folks.
  • 三日坊主 (mikka bouzu)
    • Literally: 3 day monk.
      Meaning: Someone who gives up easily or is adverse to work.
  • 大同小異 (daidō shōi)
    • Literally: big similarity, small difference
      Meaning: Similarities outweigh the differences.
  • 一石二鳥 (isseki nichō)
    • Literally: one stone, two birds
      Meaning: Killing two birds with one stone; Doing 2 things with one action.
  • 雲散霧消 (unsan mushō)
    • Literally: scattered clouds, disappearing mist
      Meaning: Disappear without a trace.
  • 我田引水 (gaden insui)
    • Literally: pulling water to my own rice paddy
      Meaning: Doing/speaking about things in a way to benefit yourself.
  • 猫に小判 (neko ni koban)
    • Literally: gold coins to a cat.
      Meaning: Giving a gift to someone who can’t appreciate it; A useless gesture; “Pearls before swine.”
  • 自業自得
    • Translation: “One’s act, one’s profit”
      Meaning: Similar to “you reap what you sow.” Everyone eventually faces the consequences of their actions.
  • 十人十色
    • Translation: “Ten men, ten colors”
      Meaning: Similar to “different strokes for different folks.” People have different tastes and preferences — and that’s okay.
  • 起死回生
    • Translation: “Wake from death and return to life”
      Meaning: To take a bad or desperate situation and turn it into a successful one.
  • 我田引水
    • Translation: “Pulling water to my own rice paddy”
      Meaning: To do or say things for your own benefit.
  • 悪因悪果
    • Translation: “Evil cause, evil effect”
      Meaning: Another iteration of “you reap what you sow.” This one is a tad more specific and almost suggests a karmic outcome.
  • 見ぬが花
    • Translation: “Not seeing is a flower.”
      Meaning: In Japan, flowers can be used to represent imagination, beauty, and sometimes politeness. In this case, the idiom means, “Reality cannot compete with imagination.”
  • 弱肉強食
    • Translation: “The weak are meat; the strong eat.”
      Meaning: This one’s pretty straightforward, meaning something like “survival of the fittest.” Bonus points because it rhymes.
  • 海千山千
    • Translation: “Ocean thousand, mountain thousand”
      Meaning: A reference to the sly old fox, someone who’s seen everything and can therefore handle any situation, usually through cunning.
  • 酔生夢死
    • Translation: “Drunken life, dreamy death”
      Meaning: To dream your life away or have your head in the clouds. To spend all your time daydreaming without accomplishing anything.
  • 一期一会
    • Translation: “One life, one encounter”
      Meaning: Every encounter is a once-in-a-lifetime encounter. Sometimes used as a reminder to cherish every moment because you’ll only experience it once.
  • 異体同心
    • Translation: “Different body, same mind”
      Meaning: Refers to kindred spirits or like-minded people, somewhat similar to calling someone a “brother from another mother.”
  • 羊頭狗肉
    • Translation: “Sheep head, dog meat”
      Meaning: False advertising, similar to the phrase “crying wine and selling vinegar,” only the Japanese idiom paints a more graphic picture.
  • 会者定離
    • Translation: “Meeting person always separated”
      Meaning: Perhaps the most Confucius-esque idiom of the bunch, this one simply means that every meeting must end in a parting.
  • 美人薄命
    • Translation: “Beautiful person, thin life”
      Meaning: More superstition than anything else, this one really means that a “beautiful woman is destined to die young” but is more analogous to “beauty fades.”
  • 自業自得
    • Translation: “Work of self, obtainment of self”
      Meaning: Similar to “you get what you give,” only the Japanese version sounds way more fulfilling.
  • 虎穴に入らずんば虎子を得ず。
    • Translation: “If you do not enter the tiger’s cave, you will not catch its cub.”
      Meaning: You can’t achieve anything without taking risks, or “nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
  • 猿も木から落ちる。
    • Translation: “Even monkeys fall from trees.”
      Meaning: A considerably more hilarious way to say, “Everybody makes mistakes.”
  • 蓼食う虫も好き好き
    • Translation: “There are even bugs that eat knotweed.”
      Meaning: A roundabout way of saying, “There’s no accounting for taste” or “to each his own.” Japanese knotweed is one of the world’s worst invasive species.
  • 蛙の子は蛙。
    • Translation: “Child of a frog is a frog.”
      Meaning: “Like father, like son.”
  • 覆水盆に帰らず。
    • Translation: “Spilt water will not return to the tray.”
      Meaning: A way of saying, “No use crying over spilled milk,” only water fittingly seems like way less of a significant loss than milk.
  • 知らぬが仏
    • Translation: “Not knowing is Buddha.”
      Meaning: A more mystical way of saying “Ignorance is bliss.” Bust this one out on the beach or at a party, trust me.
  • 猫に小判
    • Translation: “Gold coins to a cat.”
      Meaning: Same as “pearls before swine,” meaning to give a gift to someone who can’t appreciate it.
  • 井の中の蛙大海を知らず。
    • Translation: “A frog in a well does not know the great sea.”
      Meaning: People make judgments based on their own limited experiences with no knowledge of the world outside of those experiences.
  • 二兎を追う者は一兎をも得ず。
    • Translation: “One who chases after two hares won’t catch even one.”
      Meaning: If you try to do two things at once, you will fail at both. Or, in the words of Ron Swanson, “Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.”
  • 門前の小僧習わぬ経を読む。
    • Translation: “An apprentice near a temple will recite the scriptures untaught.”
      Meaning: Like saying, “People are a product of their environment.”
  • 七転び八起き
    • Translation: “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.”
      Meaning: This one rolls “if at first you don’t succeed” and “perseverance is better than defeat” into one idiom.
  • 案ずるより産むが易し。
    • Translation: “Giving birth to a baby is easier than worrying about it.”
      Meaning: Stressing out about something is usually worse than the thing you’re stressing out about. And it certainly doesn’t help.
  • 馬鹿は死ななきゃ治らない。
    • Translation: “Unless an idiot dies, he won’t be cured.”
      Meaning: A harsh way of saying, “Only death will cure a fool.” Or maybe, “You can’t fix stupid.”
  • 秋茄子は嫁に食わすな。
    • Translation: “Don’t let your daughter-in-law eat your autumn eggplants.”
      Meaning: Don’t let yourself be taken advantage of.
  • 花より団子
    • Translation: “Dumplings rather than flowers.”
      Meaning: This one is used to refer to someone who prefers substance over style, a practical person. There’s that use of “flower” again.

Japanese Proverbs

  • 雨降って地固まる (あめふってじかたまる) – AME FUTTE CHI KATAMARU
    • Literal translation: After the rain falls, earth hardens
      Usually people don’t like rainy weather and also the muddy soil made by the rain. However, when the rain stops and the sunshine dries the muddy soil, the ground becomes harder and easier to walk than its original status. Like this, sometimes problems annoy you when they are happening but after they are gone, the situation becomes better than the time before the problem happens. Therefore, the saying is giving you an advice that you should accept problems or hardness as factors which can change the situation better.
  • 目は口ほどに物を言う (めはくちほどにものをいう) – ME WA KUCHI HODO NI MONO WO IU
    • Literal translation: The eyes are as eloquent as the mouth.
      We can not always trust what the other people say. They may tell a lie. However you can read their actual feelings or thoughts if you watch their eyes carefully since the eyes represent the most remarkable feelings of emotion. Therefore, don’t forget to bring ark sunglasses with you when you will go to a meeting where you may have to tell a lie.
  • 七転び八起き (ななころびやおき) – NANAKOROBI YAOKI
    • Literal translation: stumbling seven times but recovering at eighth trial.
      In Japan, the number eight has been considered as a lucky number since the Kanji character of eight (八) looks like a mountain and it looks very stable. Life is not always easy and there must be many problems and failures in each people’s life. This proverb tells that nobody can avoid failures but if we will not give up and keep trying there must be a chance to recover and make a success.
  • 二兎を追う者は一兎をも得ず (にとをおうものはいっとをもえず) – NI USAGI WO OU MONO WA ICHI USAGI WO MO EZU
    • Literal translation: One who chases after two rabbits won’t catch even one.
      If you are hunting and two rabbits show up at the same time in front of you, what do you do?  I guess many people would like to get both. However, if you do so, your concentration may be split and eventually you can not get any of them. So this proverb tells you “Don’t be greedy and try to get multiple things at the same time. It makes you fail in all.”
  • 猿も木から落ちる (さるもきからおちる) – SARU MO KI KARA OCHIRU
    • Literal translation: Even monkeys fall from trees.
      As you know monkeys are very good at climbing trees but even monkeys could make mistake and fall from trees. So this proverb is used when someone makes an easy mistake in the area where she/he usually does well. If you are good at baseball and fails to catch an easy fly ball, you must be shocked and become depressed mood. At such situation, if you are told this proverb by your friend, you could be diverted.
  • 十人十色 (じゅうにんといろ) – JŪNIN TOIRO
    • Literal translation: ten men, ten colors
      In this proverb, “color” means character. Nobody has exactly same character as the others. If there are ten men, there must be ten different characters. This proverb tells that we must accept the differences of other people’s tastes. The English proverb of “So many men, so many minds” is similar as this proverb
  • 泣き面に蜂 = Nakitsura ni hachi
    • Literally: A bee to a crying face
      Meaning: Misfortunes seldom come alone; “When it rains, it pours”
    • This proverb is very apt in this situation because it means that misfortune rarely comes in a single blow. If it wasn’t bad enough for the tsunami and earthquake alone, the worry over nuclear contamination is another setback that the Japanese people have to deal with. In English, this proverb is similar to the saying  “when it rains, it pours”. 泣き面 means “tearful face”whilemeans “bee”. So this proverb literally means “sorrow in addition to pain”. The sorrow refers to the “tearful face” and the “bee” refers to the sting or the pain of the sting. It”s similar to the English saying “adding insult to injury.”
  • あさのこうがん、ゆうべのはっこつ = asa no kougan, yūbe no hakkou
    • あさのこうがんmeans “rosy cheeks of the morning” while ゆうべのはっこ literally means “skeletons of the evening”. In other words, this proverb is describing the fragility of life by showing that even a youth (rosy cheeks) who was healthy and in his/her prime can end up as a skeleton within a single day. This proverb applies to the situation in Japan as well. Before the tsunami and earthquake hit, people were going on with their daily lives, but now there are some people in Japan who find themselves without housing, food and their loved ones.
  • 雨降って地固まる = Ame futte ji katamaru
    • 雨降 means “rainfall” and地固 means “foundation”. So literally this proverb means that constant rainfall strengthens the foundation. In other words, adversity (rainfall) will strengthen one’s character (foundation). Although Japan is one of the world’s most advanced nations, it wasn’t always like that in the past. After World War II and after the bombs were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Japan was a struggling nation dealing with poverty and famine. However seventy years after WWII, Japan has rose to become one of the leading nations in the world. It’s true that this recent disaster has temporarily damaged Japan, but because Japanese people have a strong work ethic, this tragedy will be overcome; much like the aftermath of WWII.
  • 七転び八起き = Nanakorobi yaoki
    • 七転 means to “fall seven times” and八起means to “stand up eight times”. This proverb is used in times of difficulty as a way to encourage someone to never give up. It’s like saying “Even if you fall, do your best to try again”. This proverb can be used in the current situation that Japan is facing. You can use this proverb to tell someone that there may be vast amount of destruction, but keep trying and never lose hope.
  • 秋茄子は嫁に食わすな
    • Don’t feed the bride/daughter-in-law autumn eggplants
      There are many interpretations to this proverb. The word “yome” means both bride and daughter-in-law, so that helps create the different interpretations. One is that this proverb shows the inevitable feud between the husband’s mother and the daughter-in-law, since autumn eggplants are said to be delicious. Another says that eating too many eggplants can cause illness, so the mother shows wisdom and prevents the daughter-in-law (new bride) from eating it to protect her.
  • 頭隠して尻隠さず
    • Hide your head but fail to hide your butt
      This proverb means that you think you’ve hidden all of your flaws, but you’ve just hidden part of them and pretend that everything is fine but everyone else can see the problems.
  • 後の祭り
    • The festival afterwards
      This proverb literally means “too late!” Even if you regret something, it’s too late, and it’s just a waste of time moping about it. Matsuri are festivals done at Shinto shrines or Buddhist temples, and are often associated with fun.
  • 石の上にも三年
    • 3 years sitting on a rock
      What happens when you sit on a rock for 3 years? It eventually gets warm. This proverb means that even though you may seem to be going through hard times, something will change, and things will get better.
  • 石橋を叩いて渡る
    • Walk across a stone bridge after hitting it.
      Stone bridges are literally very hard. However, like any kind of bridge, stone bridges can collapse at any time if their structure has weakened. This proverb shows the necessity of taking precautions even though it may seem safe at first.
  • 一期一会 – Ichigo ichie
    • Once-in-a-lifetime meeting
      This proverb is to remind that the encounters in life are temporary and therefore you must keep in mind to treat people with an attitude that will leave no regrets.
  • 鰯の頭も信心から
    • Even the head of a sardine can become holy with devotion.
      The origin of this proverb comes from the Edo period. During then, there was a custom of hanging the head of the sardine at entrance of the house to ward off the evil spirits during Setsubun (the day before Risshun, the first day of spring according to the old calendar). This proverb means that with belief, anything can become holy because faith is mysterious.
  • 馬の耳に念仏
    • Chanting a prayer to Buddha into a horse’s ear
      This proverb means lecturing idealistic or magnificent things to a person or a thing that doesn’t or doesn’t try to understand is a waste of time. Similar Japanese proverbs are “reading the Discourses of Confucius to a dog,” “giving money to a cat,” and “giving a pearl to a pig.”
  • 海老で鯛を釣る
    • Fishing bream with shrimp as bait
      Breams are high-class fish in Japan, and are usually eaten during festivals or at a celebration meal. Shrimp is fairly common seafood. The meaning of this proverb is gaining great profit with a small amount of funds or work.
  • 縁の下の力持ち
    • The powerful person that holds up the house.
      The en (縁) is the long and thin wooden porch on Japanese-style houses, such as in the bottom right side of the image above. The en isn’t the highlight of the design of the house. This proverb points to the situation where people work hard for others but aren’t recognized for it, like unsung heroes or people who do thankless tasks.
  • 帯に短くたすきに長し
    • Too long for an obi, too short for a tasuki.
      Obi is a decorative piece of cloth tied around the waist over a kimono, shown in the image above. Tasuki is a piece of fabric used to tie up clothing to get it out of the way. The image below shows how to use a tasuki to do so. This way of holding up clothing is called tasuki-gake (たすき掛け).
  • 同じ釜の飯を食う.
    • Eating meals from the same iron pot.
      A kama is an iron pot, shown in the image above, which was commonly used in formal settings. This proverb means strengthening the sense of belonging to a community or a group by eating the same meals; it also refers to a situation where people share the same home and their lives together.
  • 河童の川流れ.
    • Kappa being washed away by the river
      The kappa is a Japanese mythical creature. It’s said to live inside clear river streams, is great at swimming, and loves cucumbers. This proverb means that even a person who is a master at something can make mistakes too. Similar Japanese proverbs are “even monkeys fall from trees,” and “even Koubou (a famous Buddhist priest) makes mistakes in writing”.
  • 清水の舞台から飛び降りる.
    • Jumping off from the Kiyomizu-no-Butai.
      Kiyomizu-no-Butai is the observation deck at Kiyomizudera in Kyoto, as shown in the image above. There was a legend that if you jump off this place without being injured, your wishes will come true. If you jump off and die, you will go to Nirvana. This proverbs means to take a risky plunge and hope for the best in a situation.
  • 知らぬが仏
    • Without knowing, you can be at peace like Buddha.
      This proverb means that your mind and heart can be undisturbed like the state of Buddha without knowing the truth. It also means you can be carefree and happier if you didn’t know the truth. A similar English proverb is “ignorance is bliss.”
  • 三人寄れば文殊の知恵
    • Three people gathering can create wisdom.
      This proverb means that even if each of the three people aren’t especially clever individually, by gathering together they can think up something clever; two heads are better than one.
  • 立てば芍薬座れば牡丹歩く姿は百合の花
    • Her standing figure looks like a Chinese peony, her sitting figure looks like a tree peony, and her walking figure looks like a lily.
      This proverb describes the ideal looks and behavior of a woman by using flower metaphors. Shakuyaku and botan, shown in the image above, are in the same peony family but are slightly different. Shakuyaku looks like the image below.
  • 月と鼈
    • The moon and the Chinese soft-shelled turtle
      The moon is round. The Chinese soft-shelled turtle, as shown in the image above, is also round. They are both similar being round, but their worth is different. On one hand the moon is the symbol of beauty, while the soft-shelled turtle lives in the dirt. From this reason, this proverb is the simile of things being so different beyond comparison.
  • 爪の垢を煎じて飲む
    • To boil and drink the dirt underneath fingernails.
      This proverb refers to trying to become a great person by drinking the dirt from beneath a master’s fingernails. Senjiru (煎じる) means to extract ingredients from herbs and things by boiling them. It can also mean that great people have greatness even in the dirt under their nails
  • 捕らぬ狸の皮算用
    • Counting raccoon dog skins before they’ve been caught
      This proverb means to calculate or expect your rewards before it’s possible, similar to “counting one’s chickens before they’ve hatched.” It’s often shortened to “kawazanyou.”

Asameshi mae no shigoto.

A job before breakfast (asameshi).
The phrase “asameshi mae” is generally used by itself. The usual word for “breakfast” is “asagohan.” Such expressions as “it’s child’s play” and “that’s a cinch” are the equivalents.

Au wa wakare no hajimari.

Meeting is the beginning of parting.
This is a saying of Buddhist origin. When we meet, we must part. “To meet, to know, to love—and then to part, is the sad tale of many a human heart.” —Coleridge.

Cho chin ni tsurigane.

A temple bell contrasted with a paper lantern. The bronze bell drawn here is a sort prized as a national treasure. The egg-shaped lantern is called gifujochin (Gifu lantern), because it is a noted product of Gifu prefecture.

A paper lantern matched with a temple bell.
A huge bronze bell hangs from the beam of the belfry of a Japanese Buddhist temple. Paper lanterns are also often seen hanging. In other words, a paper lantern resembles a temple bell in the sense that they both can be seen hanging. But that is about the only point of similarity between them. In all other points the one can hardly bear comparison with the other. Hence, the proverb is often used as a metaphor for an unequal match, especially for a morganatic marriage, that is, a marriage between a man of high rank and a woman of lower rank. There is another proverb Tsuri awanu wa fuen no moto, of which the meaning is: “An ill-matched marriage spells discord.”

Deru kugi wa utareru.

A nail (kugi) that sticks out is hammered.
What is implied by this proverb is that there is unwisdom in being too forward, and wisdom in lying low. Impudence courts disaster. A tall tree catches much wind.

E ni kaita mo chi.

A mochi (rice-cake) drawn in a picture (e).
A: “How do you like my plan?”
B: “It sounds all right, but I’m afraid it’s little better
than “a painted rice-cake” as the Japanese proverb has it; it is unrealistic and of little use. ‘The wine in the bottle does not quench thirst,’ you know.”

Ebi de tai o tsuru.

To catch a sea-bream with a shrimp.
Japanese fishermen know that there is no bait like shrimps for fishing for red bream. Upon obtaining something more valuable in return for a small thing, a Japanese would say, “I’ve caught a bream with a shrimp.” The English equivalents of this expression are “to throw a sprat to catch a whale,” “to bait with a sprat to catch a mackerel,” and “to give an egg to gain an ox.”

Fugu wa kuitashi, inochi wa oshishi.

I would like to taste a swellfish, but I would not like to lose my life.
To eat or not to eat fugu is the question over which many a Japanese vacillates. The swellfish, or puffer (fugu), is a poisonous fish, but when gutted and cleaned carefully, it is eatable and delicious. Many careless people cleaning fugu for themselves have lost their lives by swellfish poisoning. So when a person is tempted to launch a venture but cannot make up his mind to run the risk, we often quote this proverb. By extension this expression is often applied to a clash between emotion and reason, between heart and head. “Honey is sweet, but the bee stings.”

Fuku wa uchi, oni wa soto.

In with luck! Out with the demon!
In Japan there is a time-honored institution known as the bean-scattering ceremony, performed on the last day of winter, according to the old (lunar) calendar. On the night of setsubun (the parting of the seasons), as this day is called in Japanese, parched beans are scattered at some temples, as well as in homes. The incantation with which beans are scattered to drive out imaginary devils and keep potential evils out has gained currency as a proverb.

Hana wa sakuragi, hito wa bushi.

Among blossoms, the cherry; among men, the warrior.
In Japan most cherry trees are grown not so much for their fruit as for their blossoms. The charm of the cherry blossom, though ephemeral, is too famous to need more than a mere reminder. Just as it had, and still has, pride of place among the flowers of this country, so the two-sworded samurai was highly esteemed in feudal Japan for his character. Hence this parallelism.

Hana yori dan go.

Dumplings (dango) rather than blossoms (hana).
From of old it has been, and still is, the custom with the Japanese to go out in the cherry season to enjoy drinking and eating under the canopy of blossoms. Such a picnic gives one the impression that eating is the chief object of the pleasure seekers. This proverb is often quoted when one wants to express preference for utility to beauty. “Bread is better than the song of birds.” Another proverb of the same import is: Hana no shita yori, hana no shita. Below the nose (hana) rather than below the blossoms (hana). Note the play on the word, hana. By “below the nose” is meant “that which is under the nose; namely, the mouth.”

Happo-bijin wa hakujo.

Charming women who have a smile for everybody are cold-hearted.
By “happo-bijin” is meant a person who is affable to everybody; a person who is “all things to all men,” as the biblical expression has it. A politician who is out to be in the good books of members of other parties, as well as of his own, is also referred to as such.
“Everybody’s friend is nobody’s friend.”
The word, happo-bijin, literally means “an eight-side belle,” that is to say, a woman who looks beautiful, no matter from which side she may be looked at. The expression, happo, “eight sides” is, of course, synonymous with “many sides.” Combined with a similar expression, shiho, “four sides,” the word, happo, is used adverbially. Thus by shiho happo ni is meant “every which way.” The word, hattoshin, (lit., eight-head body), which has come to gain currency in recent years, is often applied to a fair girl, tall and well-balanced. (Cf. eight-head figure.)

Hara hachi-gd ni isha irazu.

If your inside (hara) is eight-tenths full, you will need no doctor (isha).
The phrase “filling eight-tenths of one’s inside” means “moderation in eating.” We are healthy through temperance, and temperance is the best physic. Another proverb says, “Hara mo mi no uchi” (The abdomen is also part of the body). “Surfeits slay more than swords.”

Heta no yokozuki.

To be crazy about a game is to be a poor hand at it.
A poor hand at a game is as often as not very fond of it. Say to a Japanese “You are very fond of tennis, aren’t you?” or something of that sort, and in all probability he will admit it quoting this proverb.

Hyotan kara koma ga deru.

Out of a gourd comes a pony.
The hard-shelled fruit of a plant called bottle gourd are dried, varnished, and used as bottles for sake, rice wine. Such bottles, as well as the fruit themselves, are called hyotan in Japanese. This proverb is often quoted when a most unexpected thing happens, or when a truth comes out of what has been said in jest. “There’s many a true word said in jest.” Another “hyotan” proverb is: Hyotan namazu (It’s like trying to catch a namazu, or catfish, with a gourd). This is an expression meaning (1) “as slippery as an eel” and (2) vague, non-committal.

Iwashi no atama mo shinjin kara.

Even a sardine’s head may become an object of worship through faith.
The pious and credulous may pin their faith even to such a seemingly worthless thing as a sardine’s head, which, in their minds, will work wonders. “Faith moves a mountain.”

Jishin, kaminari, kaji, oyaji.

Earthquake, thunder, fire, and father.
These were the things dreaded by the Japanese of old, as arranged in order of intensity. Typhoons and floods are, of course, among other acts of God which devastate this island country almost every year. In feudal Japan the father, the head of the house, was proverbially dreaded.

Uma no mimi ni nembutsu.

Prayers to a horse’s ears.
When a person turns a deaf ear to a piece of good advice, Japanese say that it is no more effective than are prayers offered to the ears of a horse. Substitute the word, kaze, (wind) for nembutsu (prayers), and you will have another proverb of the same import: Uma no mimi ni kaze (Wind in a horse’s ears).

Waga mono to omoeba karoshi kasa no yuki.

As I think it is mine, I find that the snow weighs lightly on my umbrella.
This is a modified form of “Waga yuki to omoeba karoshi kasa no ue” (When I think it is my snow on my hat, it seems light), a haiku, or 17-syllable verse, by Kikaku, one of the master hands in this particular branch of literature. Think you are doing your own job, and you will be sure to find the task you are tackling is interesting.

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