JAPANESE PROVERB, “Itsumo yanagi no shita ni dojo wa inai” “Iwa o mo tosu kuwa-no-yumi.” ETC..

Here is some of popular proverbs people in Japan still use in daily conversations. If you know these proverbs, not only you can enjoy conversation but also you will be getting respect immediately. So, let’s learn Japanese Proverbs.

Itsumo yanagi no shita ni dojo wa inai.

Loaches are not always to be found under a willow.

In Japan loaches usually live in muddy water, as in the rice-fields. They are likely to be found also in the muddy waters of a stream, perhaps under the shadow of willow trees, but not always. You cannot always expect to find a good thing in the same place or circumstances; good luck does not always repeat itself.

Iwa o mo tosu kuwa-no-yumi.

An arrow from a mulberry bow pierces even through a rock.

The meaning is that nothing is impossible to a deter­mined mind. In days of yore it was the custom to celebrate the birth of a baby by shooting arrows with a bow (yumi) made of mulberry (kuwa) wood; the idea was to wish the boy every success and prosperity. Another proverb of the same import says: “Isshin (or Ichinen) iwa o mo tosu” (A concentrated mind pierces even through a rock). Cf. Seishin itto nanigoto ka narazaran (“Where there is a will, there is a way”).

Iwanu ga hana.

What is not said is flowers.

Many things are better left unsaid. The less said about it, the better. “Silence is golden.” Compare this with the well-known 17-syllable haiku verse which has become a proverb: Mono ieba kuchibiru samushi aki no kaze. q. v.

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.”

Iza Kamakura (to iu toki ni).

In case of emergency.

Kamakura, about 30 miles southwest of Tokyo, is a place of historic interest. From the 12th to the 14th century it was the seat of shogunal government. But what has this place name got to do with the proverbial phrase men­tioned here? The expression comes from a passage in the no play called Hachi-no-ki (The Potted Trees). One snowy night the retired Regent Ho jo Tokiyori, disguised as an itinerant priest, is given shelter under the hospitable roof of a poor but warm-hearted warrior named Gen- zaemon Sano. For lack of firewood, the host cuts his prized potted plants to feed the fire to warm the unexpected visitor touring the country incognito. He tells the guest that, though he is poor, the samurai spirit is alive within him, and that, if an emergency arises in Kamakura, he will not be behind anybody in hastening to the military capital to do his duty. The emergency did arise, and this Sano lived up to his pledge, winning the admiration of the distinguished guest he had entertained.

Iza Kamakura
Iza Kamakura

The sort of scene one might conjure up from the story of Hachi no Ki (The Potted Trees), a no play. Heating the room by burning his treasured potted trees in the sunken hearth, the erstwhile samurai host is entertaining the exalted guest disguised as an itinerant priest.

Ja ga ka o nonda yd.

It is like a serpent (ja) swallowing a mosquito (ka).

A large snake could not possibly make an adequate meal of a mosquito. This is said of a person who remains unsatisfied after having partaken of, say, a gallon of rice wine, or half a dozen helpings of boiled rice.

Ja no michi wa hebi.

A serpent’s way is a snake’s way.

People engaged in a trade can tell the dealings of those who are in the same trade or profession much better than

outsiders. It is often, but not always, said of people in a shady trade like black-marketeering. The wicked know the ways of their own kind. Like knows like. “A wool- seller knows a wool-buyer.”

Jibun no atama no hae o oe.

Brush away the fly (hae) from your own head (atama).

The English equivalent is, of course, “Mind your own business.” The Japanese for the word “annoying” is urusai, which, when written with Chinese characters, signifies literally “May flies” (May of the old calendar, of course).



[More Japanese Proverbs]
“Abata mo ekubo” “Aita kuchi ga fusagaranai” “Akete kuyashii tamate bako”
“Atarazu to iedomo tokarazu” “A to no matsuri” “Atsui samui mo higan made”
“Boro kite mo kokoro wa nishiki.” “Deru kugi wa utareru.”
“Hinsureba donsuru” “Hisashi o kashite omoya o torareru” “Hito no furi mite waga furi naose”

TOURIST LIBRARY 20 Japanese Proverbs And Proverbial Phrases
Written by Rokuo Okada
Published by JAPAN TRAVEL BUREAU 1955