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.
When in poverty, one becomes dull-witted.
When money goes, wits may follow suit. With an empty purse, one may lose the power to exercise one’s wit. Poverty turns the edge of wit. “Poverty makes men poor-spirited.” “Poverty takes away pith.” Compare this with another proverb which has a similar turn of expression; namely, Koisureba donsuru (When in love, one becomes stupid). The meaning is that love dulls the edge of reason.
Hisashi o kashite omoya o torareru.
Lending the eaves, one loses the house.
This is said of a man who, like the camel-driver of the fable, loses the whole by letting another have the use of a part. When a person you have taken care of, or otherwise assisted, turns out to be an ingrate, you may quote this proverb.
Hito no furi mite waga furi naose.
Look at others’ manners and correct your own.
It is wise of us to learn by the folly of others. Maybe one man’s meat is another man’s poison, but there is no reason why one man’s mistake should not be another man’s lesson.
Hito no kuchi ni wa to wa taterarenu.
You cannot put doors (to) to others’ mouths (kuchi).
This world is alive with gossips. Mrs. Grundy will say anything. You cannot possibly prevent a secret from leaking out or prevent someone else from making a comment or criticism, or for that matter from starting a rumor. But this expression is not necessarily applied to women, who are proverbially long-tongued. “Gossips are frogs, they drink and talk,” but rumor has, according to Virgil, a hundred tongues and a hundred mouths. But there is another Japanese proverb which says: “Hito no uwasa mo shichijugo-nichi” (Even rumor lasts no more than seventy-five days). Rumor, if a great traveler, is only short-lived. “A wonder lasts but nine days.”
Hito o mitara dorobo to omoe.
When you see a stranger, suspect him to be a thief.
This may give one the impression that the Japanese people as a whole have a suspicious nature, but it ought to be taken merely as a warning against being too ready to trust others, for contrasted to this there is another which says: Wataru seken ni oni wa nai (There is no devil in the world we go through). “Trust not a new friend nor an old enemy.”
Hito o norowaba ana futatsu.
If you curse a man, you had better have two graves ready.
If a man compasses the death of another, he will incur the wrath of God. “Curses, like chickens, come home to roost.” “Harm watch, harm catch.” “He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it.” —Old Testament.
Hito wa ichidai, na wa matsudai.
Man for one generation, his name for ever.
Man is mortal, fame immortal. Another proverb of like import says: Tora wa shishite kawa o todome, hito wa shishite na o nokosu (A tiger leaves his skin after his death, and a man his name).
Hiza tomo dango.
To take counsel even of one’s knees.
A: “What’s the use of fretting like that? You should get somebody’s advice.”
B: “I will. For the proverb says there is something in consulting with one’s own knees.”
“To take counsel of one’s pillow.”
Honeori-zon no kutabire-moke.
Labor lost, fatigue earned.
“I’m afraid you are making efforts for nothing. It will get you nowhere. You’ll earn nothing but fatigue, as the proverb has it. You might as well ‘look for a needle in a bundle of hay.’ ”
Hotoke no kao mo sando.
Even the face of Buddha must not be rubbed a third time.
The most gentle of men may be provoked by a downright insult. There is a limit to endurance. “Enough to make a saint swear.”
Painted or sculptured Buddhas often look somewhat like this.
[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” “ATSUMONO NI KORITE NAMASU O FUKU”
“BORO KITE MO KOKORO WA NISHIKI.” “DERU KUGI WA UTARERU.”
’’DOBYO AI AWAREMU’’ ’’DOKU O MOTTE DOKU O SEISURU’’ ’’FUKURO-NO-NEZUMI’’
“GADEN-INSUI’’ ’’GEI WA MI O TASUKERU’’ ETC..
“HARA HACHI-BUNME NI ISHA IRAZU” “HARE MONO NI SAWARU YOU” “HARI HODO NO MONO O BO HODO NI IU”