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.
Jigoku de hotoke ni atta yo u.
It is like coming across a Buddha in Hell.
You feel as if you met a Buddha in purgatory when a helping hand is lent you to save you from the great trouble you are in. “A friend in need is a friend indeed.”
Jigoku no sata mo kane shidai.
Trials in Hell, too, depend on money.
Even in the nether world where Emma (Sanskrit, Yama), or the King of Hell, is said to reign money seems powerful, for trials before Yama are said to be influenced by filthy lucre. Money is the open sesame with which to open the gates of Hades. “Money makes the mare go.”
Jiman, koman baka no uchi.
Self-praise and self-conceit fall under the category of folly.
“Self-praise is no recommendation.” “The first chapter of fools is to count themselves wise.” –
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.
Ju yoku go o seisu.
Pliancy (ju) effectively (yoku) controls stiffness (go).
Fig. 18. Even “Yama,” the King of Hell, is proverbially disposed to temper the severity of his judgment with mercy, when influenced by greed for gold.
In this expression of Chinese origin is couched, it may be said, the principle of judo or jujitsu, the art of self- defense, which is a contest in which the physically weaker may overcome the stronger not so much by his own strength as by pliancy; that is, by taking advantage of the strength of the opponent.
Jubako no sumi o (yoji de) hojikuru.
To pick the inside corners of a jubako (with a toothpick).
This is said of a person who is meticulous about details; that is to say, a person who is finically scrupulous. A jubako is a tier of wooden boxes of lacquer work, usually square, in which home-made dishes are put in times of celebration, for distribution among relatives and neighbors. In cleaning these square boxes, it is expedient, if not necessary, to use a toothpick or something of that sort.
Ten men, ten colors.
Just as different countries have different customs and different ways of doing things, so different individuals have different tastes. “So many men, so many minds.” “Everybody to his own taste.”
Kadomatsu wa meido no * tabi no ichiri-zuka.
New Year gate decoration pines are a milestone in life’s journey to Hades.
It has been the custom with the Japanese since olden days to decorate the gates with pine tree branches, although the custom does not prevail today so widely as it used to. This saying, attributed to Ikkyu (1394—1481), a noted priest of the Zen sect of Buddhism, reminds us that pine tree decorations at the beginning of the year mark another year added to one’s age.
Kaeru no tsura ni mizu.
Water (mizu) on a frog’s (kaeru no) face (tsura).
When advice, admonition, or argument, falls on deaf ears, the Japanese say “like water on a frog’s face,” instead of “on a duck’s back.” Another proverb of like import is: Uma no mimi ni kaze (sometimes baji-tofii), which means “Wind to a horse’s ears” (The east wind to a horse’s ear). The word, nembutsu (prayers), is often substituted for “kaze” (wind).
Benkei behind the screen.
Benkei was a twelfth-century warrior of great strength. He was a right-hand man to Yoshitsune, a Minamoto general sometimes styled the Japanese Richard the Lion- hearted. “Benkei at home” means a man who, when at
home, is a braggart like Captain Bobadil, but cannot speak up when out of his house. Cf. Wagaya no kampaku (a prime minister at home). “Every dog is a lion at home.” “A cock is bold on his own dunghill.”
Kaho wa nete mate.
Lie and wait for good fortune.
“Fortune favors the brave” says the English proverb, but in the minds of the Japanese fortune also favors those who can wait for it. For students of the Japanese language it may be added that the word, nete (from the verb, neru, to lie down, go to bed) is sometimes replaced by nette (from the verb, neru, to cultivate one’s skill). Surely it would seem more logical to say, “Fortune comes to those who wait for it after cultivating their skill and ability.”
Kai-inu ni te o kamareru.
To have one’s hand bitten by one’s own dog.
This is a happy expression denoting the bitter experience of a master or patron whose favorite pupil or protege has turned traitor or proved an ingrate. We mean such a person when we speak of a person nurturing a snake in his bosom. “A man may cause his own dog to bite him.”
Kame no ko yori toshi no ko.
Age’s (toshi no) efficacy (ko) rather than the shell (ko) of a tortoise.
This expression simply means that experience counts. Note the play on the word, ko (tortoise-shell and efficacy), and also the alliteration in the Japanese original. This saying is often quoted in reference to the importance to be attached to the long experience of the person involved. What carries weight is the sayings and doings of the experienced rather than those of the inexperienced. “Sense comes with age.”
Kane areba baka mo danna.
If possessed of money, even a fool will become a master.
The nearest English equivalent is perhaps, “Money makes the man,” or “He is a good man who is a man of goods.”
Kane no kireme ga en no kireme.
An end to money means an end to relationship.
When poverty comes in at the door, love goes out at the window. Money gone, friends gone. “Poverty parts good company.” “When good cheer is lacking, our friends will be packing.”
Kannan nanji o tama ni su.
Adversity (kannan) makes a jewel (tama) of you (nanji).
“Adversity makes a man wise, not rich.” “Affliction and adversity make men better.”
Kannin-bukuro no o ga kireru.
The cord of the bag of patience gets snapped.
This is a figurative way of saying that there is a limit to patience. One often quotes this expression when one’s stock of patience has been exhausted. The word, o, means a cord, as of a helmet, or thongs, as of clogs. Cf. Katte kabuto no o o shimeyo.
Kareki ni hana.
Flowers on a withered tree.
A: “I hear Mr. What’s-his-name has staged a comeback
as president of a big corporation.”
B: “Yes, he has. His is a case of a dead tree blossoming
again, as the proverb has it. I’m glad he has come back to active life again in his old age.” J
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”
“AO WA AI YORI IDETE AI YORI AOSHI” “ASAMESHI MAE NO SHIGOTO” “ASA OKI WA SAN MON NO TOKU”
“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..
“Hinsureba donsuru” “Hisashi o kashite omoya o torareru” “Hito no furi mite waga furi naose”
JAPANESE PROVERB, “HINSUREBA DONSURU” “HISASHI O KASHITE OMOYA O TORARERU.”ETC..
JAPANESE PROVERB, “Itsumo yanagi no shita ni dojo wa inai” “Iwa o mo tosu kuwa-no-yumi.” ETC..