Japanese Kotowaza, Sayings, and Four Letter Words

Japanese proverbs

Animal Proverbs

Japanese proverbs

A list of proverbs involving animals.

一石二鳥 Killing two Birds with one Stone

Japanese proverbs



Kill Two Birds with One Stone

いっ せき に ちょう isseki ni chou
One stone; two birds
English Equivalent
Killing two birds with one stone.

This is one of the few proverbs that is almost exactly the same as a famous English proverb.

一石 isseki - One stone [The ichi adds a small っ; another common pronunciation for stone is ishi]
二鳥 ni chou - Two birds [an on reading for bird is chou]

Example Sentence

enka o kiku to, nihon no bunka ni furenagara nihongo no benkyou ga dekiru node, isseki nichou.
Listening to enka, I learn about Japanese culture and I am able to study Japanese at the same time. I kill two birds with one stone.


Vocabulary image

演歌 enka - traditional Japanese popular music style
聞くと kiku to - when listening...
日本の文化 nihon no bunka - Japanese culture
触れながら furenagara - while experiencing; ながら means 'while'
日本語 nihongo - Japanese language
勉強 benkyou - study
日本語の勉強 nihongo no benkyou - studying Japanese
できる dekiru - can; able
ので node - therefore
da - plain form of です; copula

猫に小判 Give a Cat a Gold Coin

Japanese proverbs



Cast Pearls to a Swine


ねこ に こばん neko ni koban
Give money to a cat
English Equivalent
To cast pearls before swine
猫に neko ni (give) to a cat [に shows direction]; A 小判 koban was an oval gold coin used during the Edo period; 豚に真珠 buta ni shinju Pearls to a pig, from the Bible, is also used often and means basically the same thing.


Example Sentence

houseki ni kyoumi no nai hito ni daiyamondo o agetemo, neko ni koban da.
For someone who has no interest in precious stones, even giving him a diamond would be casting pearls before swine.


Vocabulary image

宝石 houseki—precious stones, gems
興味のない人 kyoumi no nai hito—a person not interested in...
ダイヤモンド daiyamondo—diamond
上げても agete mo—even if (you give him a diamond)

猿も木から落ちる Even Monkeys Fall from Trees

Japanese proverbs



Even Monkeys fall from Trees

さるも き から おちる saru mo ki kara ochiru
Even monkeys fall from trees.
English Equivalent
Everyone makes mistakes.

One of the most famous Japanese proverbs out there!

猿も saru mo - Even a Monkey
木から ki kara - from a tree
落ちる ochiru - to fall

The example sentence (not to be taken too seriously), is more for intermediates:

Example Sentence

猿も木から落ちるというけど、あんなに賢い国語の先生が、「一」という字を間違えたな んて信じられない。
saru mo ki kara ochiru to iu kedo, anna ni kashikoi kokugo no sensei ga, ichi to iu ji o machigaeta nante shijirarenai
As they say, "Even monkeys fall from trees," but for such a brilliant Japanese teacher to mess up such a character is hard to believe.


Vocabulary image

猿も saru mo - Even a Monkey
木から ki kara - from a tree
落ちる ochiru - to fall
という to iu - is like a quotation marker
けど kedo - but
あんなに annani- for such a
賢い kashikoi - wise; bright; clever
国語の先生 kokugo no sensei - teacher of Japanese
ichi - one; indisputably the easiest of all kanji
という to iu - is like a quotation marker
ji - character; here meaning Chinese characters
間違えた machigaeta - made a mistake
なんて nante - such as but with a negative emphasis
信じられない shinjirarenai - I can't believe it

Body Part Idioms

Hand Idioms Part I


This is the first in a series of Body Part Idioms. Listen to the idiom and then study the example sentence.

Two idoms using the hand


use one's discretion; pull one’s punches; take it easy on someone


aitsu ga sotsugyoushiken ni goukaku suru nante, sensei ga tegokoro o kuwaeta ni chigainai.
For that bonehead to have passed his graduation exam, the teachers must have looked the other way.

あいつ aitsu—that guy (slang)
卒業試験 sotsugyou shiken—graduation test
合格 goukaku—passing (a test); success
なんて nante—such as… (exclamation)
先生 sensei—teacher
手心 tegokoro—discretion; consideration
加える kuwaeru—to append; to add; to increase
~に違いない ~ni chigainai—without doubt


even if it means living in poverty


tenabe sagetemo, anata to kekkon shitai
Even if it means living in the humblest of cottages (with only a pot and a pan), I want to marry you.

手鍋 te nabe—a pan with a handle
さげても sagetemo—even if (we are) reduced to… [下げる]
あなたと anata to—with you
結婚 kekkon—marry
したい shitai—want to (marry)

Hand Idioms Part II


Japanese is a language full of fun idioms. Let's explore a few Body Part Idioms using the Hand.

These two idioms are perhaps the most useful 'hand' idioms in Japanese.

Listen to the idiom and then study the example sentence.


to have one's hands full; be up to here (with something); busy


te ga ippai de, ima wa nani mo dekimasen.
My hands are full; I can’t do anything right now.

いっぱい ippai—full; lots
なにも nani mo—nothing [ends with negative verb (dekimasen)]
できません dekimasen—can’t do (anything)


to obtain; get; come by...


naganen hoshikatta anti-ku hin o te ni ireta.
I got my hands on an antique that I’ve wanted for years.

長年 naganen—a long time; many years
ほしかった hoshikatta—wanted
アンティーク品 anti-ku hin—an antique object
入れた ireta—put something into something

Japanese Idiom 木で鼻をくくる Give a Blunt Answer


  • ki de hana wo kukuru
  • tie your nose with a tree; to give a blunt answer
Have you ever received a curt reply from someone? Did you feel blown off or even hurt by the rudeness?

Then you can say you were given “ki de hana wo kukutta youna kotae.

This idiom is not widely used in Japan anymore, however it is a fun body-part idiom with an interesting history.

  • 彼は上司に相談してみたが、木で鼻をくくったような返事だった。
  • kare wa joushi ni soudan shite mita ga, ki de hana wo kukutta youna henji data.
  • He reported to his boss but the boss only gave him a blunt answer.
  • 彼はkare wa -- he
  • 上司に joushi ni -- to his boss
  • 相談してみたが soudan shite mita ga -- reported but
  • 木で ki de -- by tree
  • hana -- nose
  • wo -- [object marker]
  • くくった kukutta -- tied
  • ような youna -- like, as
  • 返事 henji -- reply, answer
  • だった datta -- was, were

Other info (etymology 語源, more examples, usage notes)

Tie your nose with a tree... 

This is used when someone's curt reply was very cold to you. You've already learned that's what it means, but how can a tree tie your nose? A tree is way too hard... Maybe with softer wood, but it still does not make sense.

This idiom originally was "kokuru the nose with a tree." kokuru means to "to rub." Another rarely used word in modern Japanese. This was misused and changed to kukuru. That corruption of kokuru started the drift from the original meaning.

It seems when Japanese blew their nose long time ago, because the paper was very expensive, they rubbed their noses with wood. The facial expression looked very blunt from the rough wood fibers. Hence, this idiom came about..

Masaya Nagayasu is an accomplished businessman from Osaka. Having moved to California when he was only eleven, he can relate to the struggles of learners of Japanese. That experience led to other overseas opportunities and his current entrepreneurial activities.

After working in Melbourne, Australia for more than 7 years as a Business Planning Manager for a Japanese manufacturer, Mr. Nagayasu moved back to Osaka and began his own businesses helping the Japanese business world interact with the English speaking world.

Mr. Nagayasu is now a marketing consultant for traditional Japanese craft makers (Excellent Products in Kansai: http://www.epik-mci.com/ ) and a business development manager for overseas businesses (Osaka Business Partner http://osakarep.com/).

Japanese Idiom 足が棒になる My Dogs are Barking


  • ashi ga bou ni naru
  • to walk one's legs off; have very sore legs; my dogs are barking
  • Have you ever walked so much your legs feel like boards? Next time that happens, say, "ashi ga bou ni natta."
  • Literally, "legs become staffs." This comes from tired legs getting as stiff as a board.
  • 一日中歩いたので、足が棒になった。
  • ichinichi juu aruita node, ashi ga bou ni natta.
  • I walked all day, and now my legs are as stiff as a board.
  • 一日 ichi nichi -- one day
  • 一日中 ichinichi juu -- throughout the day [adding 中 chuu or juu adds the meaning of "throughout" or "in the course of...": 一年中 ichinenjuu throughout the year (every day of the year); a common sign on stores that are open throughout the year is: 年中無休 nenjuumukyuu open throughout the year [literally, throughout the year, no resting]; this can be used for space too: 日本中 nihonjuu throughout Japan; 町中 machijuu throughout the town; 学校中 gakkoujuu throughout the school]
  • 歩いた aruita -- walked [past of 歩く aruku to walk]
  • ので node -- because; therefore
  • ashi -- leg
  • ga -- [subject marker]
  • bou -- pole; rod; stick
  • になった ni natta -- became
For more on this idiom, checkout Chiyon's Nihongo no Tamatebako which includes a few more example sentences of this useful idiom.

口が堅い tight-lipped; able to keep a secret


  • kuchi ga katai
  • tight-lipped; able to keep a secret; lips are sealed
  • 彼は、口が堅いので、秘密を話しても大丈夫だ。
  • kare wa, kuchi ga katai node, himitsu wo hanashitemo daijoubu da.
  • He is pretty tight-lipped, so even telling him secrets is fine.
  • kare -- he
  • wa -- (the topic marker--sets "he" as the main topic of the sentence.)
  • ので node -- therefore; because
  • 秘密 himitsu -- secret
  • 話しても hanashitemo -- even if (you) speak
  • 大丈夫 daijoubu -- OK; fine

口が重い be slow to speak; tongue-tied


  • kuchi ga omoi
  • to be slow to speak; tongue-tied
  • 佐藤さんは、口が重いので、デート中なにも話しませんでした。
  • satou san wa, kuchi ga omoi node, de-to chuu nani mo hanashimasen deshita.
  • Because Satou is naturally quiet, she didn't say anything during her date.
  • 佐藤さん satou san - Satou (a common Japanese family name)
  • wa - (the topic marker--sets "Satou" as the main topic of the sentence.)
  • ので node - therefore; because
  • デート中 de-to chuu - during a date
  • なにも nanimo - nothing; not at all
  • 話しませんでした hanashimasen deshita - didn't speak

口を割る to spill the beans


  • kuchi wo waru
  • confess; spill the beans; tell all
  • 犯人は、ようやく口を割った。
  • hannin wa, youyaku kuchi wo watta.
  • The criminal finally spilled the beans.
  • 犯人 hannin - criminal; bad guy
  • wa - (the topic marker--sets "Satou" as the main topic of the sentence.)
  • ようやく youyaku - finally; at last

揚げ足を取る to find fault with someone


  • ageashi o toru
  • to find fault with someone
  • 原田さんは人の揚げ足ばかり取るので、楽しい会話ができない。
  • harada san wa hito no ageashi bakari toru node, tanoshii kaiwa ga dekinai.
  • Since Harada is always making fun of the mistakes of others, it is hard to have a pleasant conversation.
  • 原田さん harada san - Harada (a common Japanese family name)
  • wa - (the topic marker--sets "Harada" as the main topic of the sentence.)
  • 人の hito no - people's [here it means "other people's"]
  • ばかり bakari - nothing but; always (picking on others)
  • ので node - that being the case; because of
  • 楽しい tanoshii - fun; enjoyable
  • 会話 kaiwa - conversation
  • ga - (the subject marker--sets "an enjoyable conversation" as what can't be done.)
  • できない dekinai - can't; can't be done

腹を割る a heart-to-heart (talk); be frank; tell all [Japanese Idiom]


  • hara wo waru
  • a heart-to-heart (talk); be frank; tell all
  • 今日は、お互いに腹を割って話そう。
  • kyou wa, otagai ni hara wo watte hanasou.
  • Let's sit down for a heart-to-heart today.
  • 今日 kyou - today
  • wa - (the topic marker--sets "today" as the main topic of the sentence.)
  • お互いに o tagai ni - together; with each other; mutually
  • 腹 hara - belly; stomach
  • 割って watte - cut; cut open
  • 話そう hanasou - let's talk

顎で人を使う To Use People (in an arrogant way) with One's Chin

顎で人を使う To Push Someone Around Literally, "to use people with your chin." Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin. That would just be rude!

Chiyon's nihongo no tamatebako

Lessons by Chiyon

Body Idioms Part I



There are many expressions which use body parts in Japanese. Let's take a look at a few of them.

Bulletin 鼻が高い



This literally means “one’s nose is high”.


But this isn't Pinocchio in the fairy tale. ^^; When you are proud of something, you raise your head, you think “ahem!,” and your nose goes up. In English you say "hold your head up high", or if you think someone is overproud, you say they are "snooty". This is the origin of 鼻が高い.


鼻が高い means “to be proud of”


For example, when you get a good grade on your test:



My grade on the test was excellent and I’m proud of myself.


And even if it isn't about yourself, you can feel pride. Like, if you have a younger brother who is good at sports:

My brother is an all-around sports player and I’m proud of him.



This literally means “one’s face is large”.


But it doesn't actually mean having a big face.

If you know many people, or you have many relationships in many kinds of fields, you can use this expression.


顔が広い means “to know many people”


Tanaka san knows a lot of people and he is always being greeted everywhere he goes.

This may seem to mean he is a very sociable person, but 顔が広い and 社交的(しゃこうてき sociable) are not  equal.


Some people may be sociable, but they may not have many friends or acquaintances. People who are 顔が広い should know many people, but some might be 顔が広い in that they just have many people whom they know casually from work. Even if acquaintances aren't very close, if there are many, you say 顔が広い.


If you have many おともだち on social networks on the internet, you could say you are 顔が広い.

Body Idioms Part II



There are many expressions which use body parts in Japanese. Let's take a look at a few of them.


This literally means “spread ~ under one’s seat and sit on it.”


I think “to henpeck” or “to rule” are appropriate translations for 尻に敷く.


She henpecks her boyfriend.  Or  She rules her boyfriend.



He is controlled by his wife..

This expression is used from women to men. I’ve never heard it used for a man ruling a woman. It happens to couples who are already married or who have a strong relationship between them.

Maybe men are more easily ruled by women? :p

Or are men simply pretending to lose to women~?

Bulletin 腕が鳴る

This literally means “one’s arms make sound.”

When you do something requiring physical strength, and you are ready to do it, you might stretch your muscles to warm up your body. That sometimes make sounds and is the situation when you would use this 腕が鳴る.


Even if you don’t use your body, if you have something requiring mental ability to do, you are confident you can do it, and you can’t wait to tackle it, you can say 腕が鳴る, too.


腕が鳴る means “can’t wait to show one’s skill”



I can’t wait to face the best team in town.



When he was invited to the potluck party, since he was good at cooking, he was looking forward to showing off his skill.

Body Idioms Part III



Continuing from last time, let's look at a few more body idioms in Japanese.



This literally means to “pull (someone’s) leg(s)”.


I’ve heard that "to pull one's leg" means “to tease” in English, but that's not the Japanese meaning for this idiom.

When you do something or you don’t do something that slows someone or drags someone down, you say

watashi wa, rire- de hashiru noga osokatta node, chi-mu no ashi o hippatta.

Because I was a slow runner, I caused my team trouble.   


watashi ga yasumu koto ni yotte, shokuba no hito tachi no ashi o hipparitakunai.

I don’t want to drag down the people at work by being absent.

I always feel like I’m dragging someone down (誰かの足を引っ張っている ), because I’m always a goof. ^^;




This literally means to “sandwich something between your small ears”. (like other idioms, you can’t do that actually ^^)

When you happen to overhear something and that information may or may not be accurate, you say 小耳に挟む.



kanojo ga nihon he iku toiu uwasa o komimi ni hasanda.

I happened to overhear the rumor that she is going to Japan.



anata ga komimi ni hasanda hanashi wa, hontou dewa nai.

The story you overheard isn’t true.

I’ve heard (小耳に挟んだことがある) that the chairman of Toyota, Okuda says "変わろうとしている人の足を引っ張るな。" (Don’t drag someone down who is trying to make changes (for the better)).

Body Idioms Part IV



And a few more body idioms in Japanese from Chiyon:



This literally means to “have sore ears.”



I think it is common for parents to have to tell children many, many, many times to clean up their stuff.   Just think of your own childhood--or, maybe I was just an unusual child… ^^;


And when these children hear the same thing over and over from their parents, especially when they are being scolded or receiving a lecture, they get an earful and are tired of it. In such a situation, you use this expression.



sono hanashi wa, mimi ni tako ga dekiru hodo nandomo kikasareta

I heard that for the umpteenth time. 


sensei ga, urusaku nando mo onaji koto o chuui suru node, mimi ni tako ga dekita.

I'm sick and tired of my teacher lecturing me over and over.






This literally means “one’s legs change to sticks.”


If you are not used to walking a lot, and suddenly walk for a long time one day, your legs get sore and you feel like you can't take another step. If your legs feel like they are not your own legs anymore, you can say “足が棒になる.”



machi o ichinichijuu sansaku shite ashi ga bou ni natta.

I strolled around town all day long and I walked my legs off. 



ashi ga bou ni naru hodo, aruki mawaru.

I walk and walk till my legs become like a sticks.

Body Idioms Part V





This literally means “Clear the inside of your hands.”


When you have a secret, it is a secret, so, you don’t want to tell that secret. But you might tell it to a person whom you really trust.  It is in this context we use “手の内を明かす.” It is like opening your hands to show someone something important.



shinhannin wa, dorama no kuraimakkusu de, satsujin keikaku no te no uchi o akashita.

The real culprit, at the climax of the drama, gave away his murderous scheme.


te no uchi o akaseba, kare mo rikai shite kureru hazu da.

If you tell him everything, he should also understand.






This literally means “stroke one’s chest from top down.”


I think when you have something heavy on your mind, your heart beats fast. And when the problem settles, you feel relieved. You may put your hand on your chest where your heart is and take a deep breath thinking “よかった!” In such a case, you say 「胸をなでおろす」 



yatto no koto de densha ni ma ni atta watashi wa, mune o nade oroshita.

I was so relieved to finally make it in time for the train.



taishita jiko mo naku, minna, mune o nade oroshita ni chigainai.

Everybody must have been relieved that it wasn't a big accident.

Body Idioms Part VI





This literally means “Even if stuck in my eye, it won't hurt.”


When you put something in your eye, it hurts--bad. But if something is cute enough, you wouldn't mind even putting it in your eye to get a closer look.


kare wa, me ni iretemo itakunai hodo magomusume o kawaigatteiru.

He spoils his granddaughter as if she is the center of the world. 


kanojo wa, sono neko o, me no naka ni iretemo itakunai hodo no aijou de sodatetekita.

She’s brought up that cat with love as if it was the apple of her eye.






This literally means “turn one’s eyes into plates.


I think when you look at something carefully, you furrow your brow and your eyes look narrow like plates. In such a situation, you can say “目を皿にする” or “ 目を皿のようにする.”


The "no you" adds a "seems like" or "almost as if" meaning.



me o sara no you ni shite sagashita ga, wo-ri- o mitsukerarenakatta.

I looked for Wally with my eyes wide open, but I couldn’t find him.


目を皿にして見てみたら、キリンビールの缶の麒麟の絵の中には、「キリン」 の文字が隠されていることがわかった。

me o sara ni shite mite mitara, kirin bi-ru no kan no kirin no e no naka ni wa, "kirin" no moji ga kakusareteiru koto ga wakatta.

I opened my eyes wide and looked at it, and I found that the letters ” キリン “ are hidden in the picture of the kylin* on a can of Kirin beer.


* kylin (noun) a mythical composite animal, often figured on Chinese and Japanese ceramics.

Iroha Uta いろは歌

About いろはうた


Bulletin いろは歌


An Order of Kana


いろは歌 is an old poem said to have been written by 空海(くうかい 774~835)who was a famous Japanese monk in the early 平安時代(Heian Era 794~1185).

It uses each kana only once just like あいうえお, but it is a poem with meaning.


In Kana: In Kanji:

ゑひもせす 京(ん)

わが世 誰ぞ
酔いもせず 京(ん)


Because it is an old poem, the way to use the かな is different from now. There are also many rules that are different from modern grammar. 

  • Some don’t have 濁点(゛ - the voiced consonant mark)
  • 匂えど is written as 匂へど
  • ん is written as む
  • きょう is written as けふ
  • 酔いis written as 酔ひ
  • Some old letters are used (like ゐ, ゑ), etc.


A breakdown of each sentence, how to read it, and the meaning of it in Japanese and English:


Original 「色は匂へど散りぬるを」
いろはにおえど ちりぬるを)
Modern Japanese



The colors of the flowers are so beautiful and fragrant--like a person's beauty or the interesting things in this world.

(いろ) here is the color of flowers, but it has also the meaning of the affairs of men and women, or the many events of this world.  These flowers despite their beauty today will disappear. My life is also ephemeral just like these flowers. There are many things I enjoy in my life, but they all have an end.




「わが世 誰ぞ常ならむ」

(わがよ だれぞ つねならん)

Modern Japanese



My life is like that. Who can say it won’t long last forever without change? No, nobody can. It ends at last.

Some says わが世 is "I rule my world" and the author is the one who ruled that era.





(ういのおくやま きょうこえて)

Modern Japanese



I pass over the deep mountain called 宇井(うい)in 京都(Kyoto today.


He was a 武士(ぶし samurai warrior) and he decided to leave his life as a 武士 to become a monk to go to the temple in 高野山(こうやさん Mt. Koya in Wakayama prefecture). He travels by foot passing over the mountain in Kyoto. He leaves behind the 武士 life because he has an unendurable angst in his life. I don’t know what it was, but I imagine it may have arisen from too much killing, or his love affairs, or the struggle for power within the 武士 system, etc.


有為(うい) is also the word which means to wake up to the true reality; to remove from being a slave of mutable matters in our daily life which he compared to flowers. That is to say, to attain enlightenment in Buddhism.


So, 'passing that mountain' means, he chose to become a pupil of Buddhism leaving his enjoyable life behind, but having sorrow, too.


今日 also rhymes with of 京都.




「浅き夢見し酔いもせず 京」

(あさきゆめみし よいもせず きょう)

Modern Japanese



No more shallow dreams; no more wanton drunkeness.


I passed over the mountain of life, but it was like having a shallow dream or being drunk. But now that dream no longer intoxicates me anymore. I've cleared up worldly desires, feel peace and the state of enlightenment. I don’t have any concerns about anything at all. I'm on the way from Kyoto toward the gate of the temple.



It is really difficult to stop being anxious about all desires and greedy feelings in our lives.  But I think he thought on how to accomplish that when making this poem.


It is a very short poem, but it contains many ideas. There are more allusions in this poem I found, but I think I’ll write about it next time…..

Inubou Karuta uses the Iroha order, see the Karuta page for translations and audio.

For more information and several more poetic English translations, see the Wikipedia entry.

Comparing 午前 and 午後 with A.M. and P.M.

Chiyon's Nihongo no Tamatebako


Comparing 午前 and 午後 with A.M. and P.M.


Quick: Is Noon 12 a.m. or 12 p.m.?


The 12-hour notation using A.M. and P.M. is common in many parts of the English speaking world.  One o’clock through eleven o’clock in the morning is written as 1 a.m., 2 a.m., etc.  And one o’clock through eleven o’clock in the evening is written as 1 p.m., 2 p.m., etc. 


But Midnight is 12 a.m. and Noon is 12 p.m.  Most English speakers simply have this memorized, but for those of us who have trouble keeping this straight, Wikipedia's entry on this subject has this bit of advice:


“In the United States, noon is often called ‘12:00 p.m.’ and midnight ‘12:00 a.m.’. With this convention, thinking of ‘12’ as ‘0’ makes the system completely logical.”


With that in mind (midnight=0 a.m.), the Japanese way of counting time is easier to understand. 


From zero o’clock (midnight) to eleven o’clock in the morning we write

  • Midnight is 午前0時 (ごぜんれいじ)
  • 午前1時(ごぜんいちじ)
  • 午前2時(ごぜんにじ)・・・・・・
  • 午前10時(ごぜんじゅうじ)
  • 午前11時(ごぜんじゅういちじ)
  • And Noon is 午前12時(ごぜんじゅうにじ). 

Government offices or insurance companies in Japan write time this way with Midnight being 午前0時 and noon being 午前12時.


However, the media (TV, radio, newspapers, etc) and most people in daily life call noon 午後0時. 


Japanese digital clocks show noon as 12:00 p.m.  Following the Japanese style, noon on the clocks really should be 12:00 a.m. or 0:00 p.m. (with 12:00 p.m. being midnight = 午後12時 or 午前0時)


We often use 午前・午後 in the same way as the English a.m. and p.m.  This makes our time system confusing.


At the moment, 午前12時 seems to be the correct way to indicate noon in Japanese law.


Of course it may be best to ignore the problem and cheat a little. In English ‘noon’ or ‘midnight’ makes the intended time clear.  Likewise in Japanese it is best to simply say お昼の12時 for noon and 夜中の12時 for midnight:


Let's meet at 12o'clock at noon.


Please call me at 12 o'clock midnight.

Giogo & Gitaigo

Words that are sounds

あつあつ Lovey-Dovey

Atsu Atsu あつあつ Lovey-Dovey

OK, so "passionate love" would sound better, but the video uses "Lovey-Dovey" and we're sticking with it!

You may want to pause during the breakdown since the video moves a little fast.


atsu atsu
lovey-dovey; head over heels in love

"hot hot" can also be used to describe hot food just out of the oven.

Here is our example sentence:


kekkon shita bakari no ano futari wa, itsumo atsu atsu da.
Those two newlyweds are always lovey-dovey.

Life Proverbs

Japanese proverbs

A list of proverbs on a way of life.

Clay's Proverbs

(which may or may not be applicable in the real world)

1. クレイの諺: 「僕の万年床は僕の自慢」
kurei no kotowaza: "boku no mannendoko wa boku no jiman"
Clay's proverb: My unmade bed is my pride.

2. クレイの諺: 「忍者走りをするとき、靴ひもがゆるんでいると悲惨なことを招く」
kurei no kotowaza: "ninjabashiri o suru toki, kutsuhimo ga yurundeiru to hisan na koto o maneku"
Clay's proverb: "When running ninja-style, having loose shoe strings invites misery"

3. クレイの諺: 「確かに刀ははしに勝る」
kurei no kotowaza: tashikani katana wa hashi ni masaru.
Clay's proverb: "Most assuredly, the sword is mightier than the chopsticks."

Japanese Idiom あけすけに言う say something frankly; openly; without reserve


  • akesuke ni iu
  • say something frankly; openly; without reserve
  • This idiom is used when someone says something in a blunt manner.
  • "ake" means to begin or dawn; "suke" means to be transpar-ent. Another, and probably the original, usage of "akesuke" is to mean that a gap has opened up, and the other side is visible.
  • あの人は、なんでもあけすけにいう。
  • ano hito wa, nandemo akesuke ni iu.
  • That person always says things frankly.
  • あの ano -- that... [ano is always followed by the noun it points to: that person]
  • hito -- person
  • wa -- (topic particle) [note: this is written with the hiragana は ha, but is pronounced "wa"]
  • なんでも nandemo -- anything; everything
  • あけすけにいう akesuke ni iu -- to speak frankly [Literally, "frankly speaking"; あけすけ means "honest," "frankly," and "outspoken"; the に indicates the manner of how someone speaks (iu)]

Japanese Idiom 味をしめる Develop a Taste For...


  • aji wo shimeru
  • to develop a taste for...; to be encouraged by initial success
  • A useful example one might hear in a potato chip ad is:
    ichido aji wo shimetara yamerarenai.
    If you try it once, you won't be able to stop.
  • The "aji" means "taste" and "shimeru" probably means, "experience" here. Having tasted something really good, a person comes back to it expecting the same tastiness.
  • 一度ついたうそがばれなかったので、味をしめた彼はうそばかりついている。
  • ichido tsuita uso ga barenakatta node, aji wo shimeta kare wa uso bakari tsuiteiru.
  • He told one lie and got away with it. Having developed a taste for it, he lies all the time now.
  • 一度 ichido - once
  • ついたうそ tsuita uso - a lie that was told
  • ばれなかった barenakatta - didn't get caught
  • ので node - therefore; that being the case; because of
  • kare - he
  • うそ uso - lie
  • ~ばかり ~bakari - only; always (lying)
  • ついている tsuiteiru - telling (lies)

Japanese Idiom 朝飯前 child's play; cinch; no sweat; piece of cake


  • asa meshi mae
  • child's play; cinch; no sweat; piece of cake
  • This is a fancy way to say, 簡単 kantan--easy.
  • Literally, "before breakfast." Because breakfast is usually one of the first activities of the day, the time before break-fast is short. Only easy things can be accomplished during that time.
  • 小学生の宿題を手伝うなんて、高校生の僕には朝飯前だ。
  • shougakusei no shukudai wo tetsudau nante, koukousei no boku niwa asameshimae da.
  • Helping an elementary school kid with his homework is no sweat for a high schooler like me.
  • 小学生 shougakusei -- elementary school student [小学校 shougakkou elementary school]
  • no -- (possessive marker)
  • 宿題 shukudai -- homework
  • wo -- (direct object marker)
  • 手伝う tetsudau -- to help
  • なんて nante -- such a thing as [used to emphasize how easy the speaker thinks it is; like an exclamation]
  • 高校生 koukousei -- high school student [高校 koukou high school]
  • no -- (possessive marker)
  • boku -- I; me
  • 高校生の僕 koukousei no boku -- a high school student such as I
  • には ni wa -- as for (a high school student such as I)
  • 朝飯前 asa meshi mae -- piece of cake
  • da -- plain form of desu

Japanese Idiom 穴があったら入りたい to be so ashamed, one wishes to crawl in a hole


  • ana ga attara hairitai
  • to be so ashamed, one wishes to crawl in a hole
  • This idiom is used whenever someone is extremely embarrassed.
  • Literally, "If there were a hole, I'd like to enter." Also see 顔から火が出る "kao kara hi ga deru" -- burn with shame; be embarrassed.
  • ズボンのおしりが破けていたなんて知らなかった。穴があったら入りたい。
  • zubon no oshiri ga yabuketeita nante shiranakatta. ana ga attara hairitai.
  • I didn't know my pants had a hole in the back; I feel so ashamed.
  • ズボン zubon -- pants
  • no -- (possessive marker)
  • おしり oshiri -- butt; backend
  • ga -- (subject marker)
  • やぶけていた yabukete ita -- was torn [from 破ける yabukeru to get torn; to wear out]
  • なんて nante -- such a thing as [used to emphasize the speaker didn't know; like an exclamation]
  • 知らなかった shiranakatta -- didn't know
  • ana -- hole
  • ga -- (subject marker)
  • あったら shiranakatta -- if there was...
  • 入りたい hairitai -- (I) want to enter

Japanese Idiom 赤子の手をひねるよう taking candy from a baby


  • akago no te o hineru you
  • something very easy; taking candy from a baby
  • This is used when someone from a position of strength does as he pleases with someone weaker. This is probably most often used with bad guys doing something bad to the weak and defenseless.
  • Literally, "like twisting a child's arm." This idiom seems to have an obvious origin: twisting a small child's arm is not difficult.
  • こんな計算問題を解くのは、赤子の手をひねるようだ。
  • konna keisan-mondai o toku nowa, akago no te o hineru you da.
  • Solving a math problem like this is child's play.
  • こんな konna -- such a; ...like this
  • 計算問題 keisan mondai -- numerical calculation [計算 = calculation; count + 問題 = problem; question]
  • wo -- (direct object marker)
  • 解く toku -- to solve; to answer
  • のは no wa -- it is ~ that... [this, ending with the copula, indicates some important information is coming. The "no" is an indefinite pronoun that replaces a person, place, or thing. In this case you can think of it as: as for this THING of solving this math problem...]
  • 赤子 akago -- baby
  • ~no -- (possessive)
  • te -- hand
  • ひねる hineru -- to twist; to turn
  • よう you -- just like; like
  • da -- plain form of desu

Kotowaza & Sayings


Today's focus will be on kotowaza (proverbs) and sayings.  There are tons of proverbs and set sayings in Japanese.  Knowing kotowaza will make your Japanese more natural and improve your understanding of the Japanese way of thinking. We will look at 6 sayings and break-them-down to try to understand where it came from. 

1. 神出鬼没 shin shutsu ki botsu - to appear & disappear
2. 自画自賛 ji ga ji san - self-praise
3. 猿も木から落ちる。 saru mo ki kara ochiru. - Even monkeys fall from a tree
4. 一石二鳥 isseki ni chou - to kill 2 birds with 1 stone
5. 十人十色 juu nin to iro - different strokes for different folks
6. 壁に耳あり、障子に目あ り kabe ni mimi ari shouji ni me ari - the walls have ears, the paper doors have eyes

MOOD SETTING: imagine a lonesome samurai reciting Shakespeare with a katana in one hand and a book of poetry in the other.

LET'S BEGIN with a difficult, but fun ninja phrase:

#1: 神出鬼没 shin shutsu ki botsu

MEANING: " To appear and disappear like a phantom (unexpected) "


神 shin
(Other readings:  KAMI, JIN)
"God, deity,  of the Supernatural..."
( OTHER: 神様 kami sama - God, 神学 shin gaku - theology

出 shutsu
(Other readings: SHUTSU, DEru, DAsu)
"to come out, to bring out, to go out, out"
( OTHER: 出口 de guchi - exit (door); 出発 shuppatsu - to depart, leave)

NOTE: Usually a 4 kanji combo is two pairs of kanji stuck together.  However,
in this case SHIN SHUTSU by itself isn't used as a word.  But taking the 2 kanji
individually we understand the meaning to be something along the lines of
the supernatural coming out.

鬼 ki
(Other readings: ONI)
"Oni, orge, or some evil creature from Japanese folk lore"
( OTHER: 鬼ごっこ oni gokko - tag game, "You are the Oni!")

没 botsu
"rejection, to sink, to die"



#2: 自画自賛 ji ga ji san

MEANING: " Every potter praises his own pot (To praise one's own work) "


自 ji
( Other readings: SHI, MIZUKAra)
"oneself, self"
( OTHER: 自分 ji bun - oneself; 自由 ji yuu - freedom, free)

画 ga
( Other readings: KAKU)
"a picture"
( OTHER: 映画 ei ga - movie; 漫画 man ga - manga)

賛 san
"to praise, agree"
( OTHER: 賛美 san bi - praise, adoration)



#3: 猿も木から落ちる。 saru mo ki kara ochiru.

MEANING: " Even monkeys fall from trees. (Even experts mess up once in a while.) "


猿 saru
( Other readings: en )

も mo = "also, too"

木 ki
( Other readings: MOKU, BOKU)
( OTHER: MOKU YOU BI - Thursday)

から kara = "from"

落ちる ochiru
"to fall, drop"



#4: 一石二鳥 isseki ni chou

MEANING: " to kill two birds with one stone " lit: " one stone; two birds "


一石 isseki
(This is ICHI with SEKI = ISSEKI (the ICHI is reduced to いっ))
" ichi - one; seki - stone, rock"

二 ni

鳥 chou

NOTE: this is the same as the English, to kill 2 birds with 1 stone.


#5 : 十人十色 juu nin to iro

MEANING: " different strokes for different folks " lit: " 10 people; 10 colors "


十 juu

人 nin
"people, person"
( OTHER READINGS: hito, jin )

色 iro

#6 : 壁に耳あり、障子に目あり kabe ni mimi ari shouji ni me ari

MEANING: " the walls have ears, the door have eyes "


壁 kabe

耳 mimi
"ear, ears"

障子 shouji
"Japanese paper door"

ni (に) is needed to show position (at the wall; on the door...) 
ari (あり) is a shortened version of arimasu (to exist, to be)


1. 神出鬼没 shin shutsu ki botsu - to appear & disappear
2. 自画自賛 ji ga ji san - self-praise
3. 猿も木から落ちる。 saru mo ki kara ochiru. - Even monkeys fall from a tree
4. 一石二鳥 isseki ni chou - to kill 2 birds with 1 stone
5. 十人十色 juu nin to iro - different strokes for different folks
6. 壁に耳あり、障子に目あり kabe ni mimi ari shouji ni me ari  - the walls have ears, the doors have eyes

Three Japanese Proverbs about Food

Three Japanese proverbs about food: 花より団子 Hana yori dango - Food over Flowers 絵に描いた餅 E ni Kaita Mochi - Can't eat a painted cake 武士はくわねど高楊枝 Bushi wa kuwanedo taka youji - Even if a samurai hasn't eaten he holds his toothpick high.

口は災いのもと The Mouth is the Origin of Disasters

Japanese proverbs



(or 口は禍のもと)
The mouth is the origin of disasters

くち は わざわい の もと kuchi wa wazawai no moto
The mouth is the origin of disasters.
English Equivalent
The mouth is the gate of misfortune.

A quick Google search seems to give 災い a lead over 禍, but it appears both are in usage with this proverb.

Example Sentence

kuchi wa wazawai no moto dakara uwasa banashi wa yameta hou ga ii.
The mouth is the origin of disasters, therefore you should stop gossiping.


Vocabulary image

kuchi - mouth
wa - (topic particle)
wazawai - calamity; disaster; catastrophe
だから dakara - so; therefore
噂話 uwasa banashi - gossip (噂 uwasa rumor; hearsay + 話 hanashi talk; story - the 'h' takes a harder 'b')
やめたほうがいい yameta hou ga ii - should (ought to) stop

塵も積もれば Even Dust when Piled...

Japanese proverbs



Even Dust, When Piled up, Will Become a Mountain. 


ちりもつもれば、やまとなる chiri mo tsumoreba, yama to naru
Even dust when pile up, becomes a mountain.
English Equivalent
Many a little makes a mickle.
[mickle (noun) a large amount]

塵も chiri mo Dust too
The も (also, too) is better expressed as 'even' in English

積もれば tsumoreba If piled up
Conditional (-eba) form of 積もる tsumoru accumulate; pile up


Example Sentence

mainichi, eitango o hitotsu zutsu oboeyou. chiri mo tsumoreba, yama to naru to iu kara ne.
Learn one English word each day. As they say, even dust when piled up becomes a mountain.


Vocabulary image

毎日 mainichi—every day
英単語 eitango—English word
o—direct object marker
ひとつずつ hitotsu zutsu—one by one
おぼえよう oboeyou—Volitional form of 覚える oboeru meaning "Let's learn"; memorize, learn
というからね to iu kara ne—'As they say'

必要は発明の母 Necessity is the Mother of Invention

Necessity is the Mother of Invention More...

Japanese proverbs



Necessity is the Mother of Invention

ひつよう は はつめい の はは
hitsuyou wa hatsumei no haha
Necessity is the mother of invention.
English Equivalent
Necessity is the mother of invention.

This quote is from Plato's Republic (Book II). Creative juices are unleashed when people are forced to come up with a solution.


Example Sentence

hitsuyou wa hatsumei no haha kamoshirenai, dakedo, guuzen wa hatsumei no chichi nan da.
Necessity may be the mother of invention, but pure chance is invention's father.


Vocabulary image

必要 hitsuyou—necessity; need; requirement
発明 hatsumei—invention [発明家 hatsumei ka inventor]
発明の母 hatsumei no haha—the mother of invention
かもしれない kamoshirenai—may be; it may be that; perhaps; maybe
だけど dakedo—but; however
偶然 guuzen—chance; coincidence
なんだ nanda—(used when explaining something)

頭隠して、尻隠さず Hide Head, Don't Hide Butt

Japanese proverbs



Cover your head, but Expose your Butt

atama kakushite, shiri kakusazu
Hide head, don't hide butt
English Equivalent
Hiding your head in the sand (like an Ostrich)
[Not a very similar meaning, but both are used for ridicule when someone does something foolish]

隠して kakushite hiding
The て form of 隠す kakusu to hide; conceal

隠さず kakusazu not hide
The ず is a negative ending


Example Sentence

shinnosuke wa, kakurenbou suru toki, itsumo oshiri ga mieteiru. masa ni, atama kakushite shiri kakusazu da..
Shinnosuke when playing hide-and-go-seek, always (hides somewhere that) exposes his backend. Truly, this is hiding his head but not his butt.


Vocabulary image

しんのすけ shinnosuke—a boy's name
かくれんぼう kakurenbou—hide-and-go-seek (children's game)
するとき suru toki—when doing...
いつも itsumo—always
おしり oshiri—butt; backend
見えている miete iru—able to be seen
まさに masa ni—surely; certainly; truly

名言・名句 Famous Sayings

Toil is the Father of Fame

Famous Japanese Sayings image
Toil is the Father of Fame


Today's famous saying is from the Greek tragedian Euripides (Εὐριπίδης and in Japanese, エウリピデス). Euripides was one of the three famous writers of Greek tragedies in ancient Greece. He is so famous, in fact, he now has his own page at Wikipedia. Here it is.

Πόνος γὰρ ὡς λέγουσιν, εὐκλεϊης, πατὴρ.
For Toil, as they say, is the father of fame.

And here is a Japanese translation:


roudou wa meisei no chichi to iwarete iru.



Break it down:

star労働 roudou (manual) labor; toil
meisei fame; renown; reputation
chichi father
meisei no chichi the 'father' of fame
to iwarete iru it is said...

四字熟語 4 Character Words

四字熟語 yoji jukugo 4 Character Sayings

以心伝心 Telepathy

Japanese proverbs




右往左往 Run about in Confusion

Japanese proverbs



Running around like a chicken with its head cut off


うおうさおう u ou sa ou
go right and left
English Equivalent
Running around like a chicken with its head cut off; go in all directions

Learning this 四字熟語 is a great way to remember the on readings of right and left. I don't know about you, but learning みぎ and ひだり seemed easy compared to remembering which was う and which was さ.

If you can remember 'right' goes first, saying this fun word will help clear up the confusion. u (right) ou sa (left) ou

右折 u setsu--a right turn (often heard by car navigation systems)
左折 sa setsu--a left turn


Example Sentence

totsuzen no jishin de hitobito wa uousaou shita.
A sudden earthquake caused the people to go in all directions.


Vocabulary image

突然の totsuzen no—sudden; unexpected
地震 jishin—earthquake
人々hito bito—people [The 々shows repetition of the previous kanji: 人人; Note the sound change on the second 'hito']
した shita—Use する with 右往左往

有頂天 Ecstasy

Japanese proverbs





うちょうてん u chou ten
Have (reached) the highest heaven
English Equivalent
On cloud nine; ecstasy; in raptures; be elated 

有頂天 is a translation of the sanskrit word for the highest heaven in Buddhism.

A 2005 star-studded comedy movie directed by 三谷幸喜 Mitani Koki was titled THE有頂天ホテル.

OK, it isn't a FOUR character 四字熟語! But it is still useful!


Example Sentence

ichi oku en no takarakuji o ateta hito wa uchouten ni natta.
The person who won the hundred million yen lottery was in ecstasy.


Vocabulary image

一億 ichi oku—100,000,000
宝くじ takara kuji—lottery
あてた ateta—hit the mark (for the lotter) [当ててみて atete mite Take a guess]
あてた人 ateta hito—the person who won (the lottery)
になった ni natta—になる

私利私欲 Greed

Japanese proverbs



Greed; Self-Interest


しりしよく shi ri shi yoku
Self-interest and selfish desire
English Equivalent
Motivated by greed

私 is the "I, me" pronoun watashi. Other common examples of using the し reading are:

私立学校 shiritsu gakkou Private school
私有 shi yuu Private ownership
私有地 shi yuu chi Private land
私的感情 shi teki kan jou Personal feelings


Example Sentence

shirishiyoku ni karareru.
To be driven by greed.


Vocabulary image

駆られる karareru—be driven by...; be carried away by (one's feelings); succumb to (curiosity); be assailed by (fears) [ from Kodansha's 新和英大辞典]

自画自賛 Singing one's own Praises

Japanese proverbs



Singing One's Own Praises 

じがじさん ji ga ji san
One's own picture; praising oneself
English Equivalent
Singing one's own Praises
Tooting one's own Horn

The 自 as you may guess adds the meaning of 'oneself.' You may know it from the common 自分 jibun 'oneself' and 自由 jiyuu 'freedom'


Example Sentence

jigajisan ni kikoeru kamoshiremasen ga, boku wa hontou ni uta ga umai yo
It may sound like I'm bragging, but I'm really good at singing.


Vocabulary image

に聞こえる ni kikoeru—sounds like... [太くに見える futoku ni mieru - to look (appear) fat]
かもしれません kamoshiremasen—may; might; possibly
ぼく boku—I (usually used with males)
本当に hontou ni—really; truly (adv)
uta—song [in this case singing in general]
うまい umai—good at; skillful; clever [can also be used with food or drink to mean 'delicious']

豪華絢爛 magnificent; luxurious and splendid

Japanese proverbs



Magnificent; Luxurious and Splendid