Japanese Proverb, “Haisui no jin” “Hakoiri-musume ni mushi ga tsuku” “Hana wa sakuragi, hito wa bushi”

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.


Haisui no jin.
Deployment with a stretch of water at the back.

This suggests the sort of grim determination to die in the last ditch when it is as dangerous to retreat as it is to advance. To draw up an army in this kind of battle array (jin) is to “burn one’s boats (or the bridges).”


Hakoiri-musume ni mushi ga tsuku.
A worm will eat one’s pet daughter.

The word, hakoiri, means literally “cased; kept in a case.” Daughters kept jealously, as if they were fragile ware, in boxes, may be wooed and won before their parents are aware of it. It is commonly said in Japan that pet daughters had better be given in marriage before they get to know too much. “Daughters are fragile ware.” “Daughters and dead fish are no keeping wares.”


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 sajnurai was highly esteemed in feudal Japan for his character. Hence this parallelism.

Hana wa sakuragi, hito wa bushi.
Hana wa sakuragi, hito wa bushi.

Hana wa sakuragi, hito wa bushi. A warrior at desk. Mental cultiva­tion, as well as martial training, was essential to the warrior class. Outside the round window is shown a cherry tree to suggest the proverbial comparison.


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.”



Hanashi hambun ni kike.
Believe only half what you hear.

This proverbial expression is a piece of advice to a person who is too ready to swallow whole what others say. It is wise to “take things with a grain of salt.”


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.)

[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”

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