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.
Drawing water into one’s own rice-fields.
This refers to selfishness on the part of a person who has an eye to the main chance, a person who consults his own convenience. “Waga ta ni mizu o hiku” is another way of expressing this same proverb. “Every miller draws water to his own mill.”
Gei wa mi o tasukeru.
An accomplishment is a help to its possessor.
It is common knowledge that proficiency in, if not complete mastery of, some art or other often proves a useful asset in earning a living. A striking contrast to this idea is expressed in another proverb: “Gei wa mi no ada” (An accomplishment spells ruin to its possessor). Sometimes, by a strange irony of fate, an accomplished married woman has the fortune, or rather misfortune, to have to earn her living by one of her accomplishments in order to support her bedridden husband. (Gei ga mi o tasukeru hodo no fushiawase.)
Geko no tateru kura wa nai.
There is no godown built by a teetotaller.
The word, kura, means “a storehouse.” “Godown” (pronounced go-down) is a word current in Asiatic English, meaning a storehouse, and is widely used in Japan. The proverb is a scornful remark about teetotallers by lovers of alcoholic drinks.
Gesu no atojie.
A churl’s after-wit.
This is said of a person who is “wise after the event.” “A word before is worth two behind.” “After-counsel is fool’s counsel.” —German.
“Every ditch is full of your after-wits.” —Italian.
“I thought afterwards, but it was the spirit of the staircase, what a pity it was that I did not stand at the door with a hat . . . ” —Morley.
(The italicized expression in this quotation is the literal translation of the French phrase, esprit de Vescalier, the word, esprit, here meaning “wit,” and not “spirit”).
Fifty paces of one and a hundred paces of the other.
This is a quotation from the teachings from Mencius, a famous Chinese sage. Giving an illustration from war, Mencius said that one who would run 50 paces and stop had no right to laugh at another who would run 100 paces and stop, because they both would turn their backs
on the foe. This is a case of “the pot calling the kettle black.” “Six of one and half a dozen of the other.”
Go ni itte wa go ni shitagae.
When you go to a village, do as the villagers do.
This proverb of Chinese origin will put you in mind of “When at Rome, do as the Romans do.”
Gummo zo o saguru.
A group of blind men feeling an elephant.
The allusion is to the blind men of the story who each felt an elephant (zo) and made their several judgments accordingly. This is usually applied to a case where different people looking at a problem from different angles fail to have a comprehensive picture of it.
Hachiju no tenarai.
Taking lessons in penmanship at the age of eighty.
This is an expression susceptible of two interpretations: one is that “it is hard to teach an old dog tricks,” and the other is that “it is never too late to learn.” Some people say rokuju (sixty), instead of eighty.
[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”
“AO WA AI YORI IDETE AI YORI AOSHI” “ASAMESHI MAE NO SHIGOTO” “ASA OKI WA SAN MON NO TOKU”
TOURIST LIBRARY 20 Japanese Proverbs And Proverbial Phrases
Written by Rokuo Okada
Published by JAPAN TRAVEL BUREAU 1955