Life Proverbs

Japanese proverbs

A list of proverbs on a way of life.

Clay's Proverbs

CLAY'S PROVERBS
WORDS OF WISDOM
(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

あけすけに言う

  • 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.
Vocabulary
  • 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...

味をしめる

  • 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:
    一度味をしめたらやめられない。
    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.
Vocabulary
  • 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

朝飯前

  • 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.
Vocabulary
  • 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

穴があったら入りたい

  • 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.
Vocabulary
  • 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

赤子の手をひねるよう

  • 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.
Vocabulary
  • 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

KOTOWAZA (proverbs) & SAYINGS IN JAPANESE

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. 

CONTENTS:
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) "

BREAK IT DOWN:

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"

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YOU ARE DOING WELL! NEXT...

#2: 自画自賛 ji ga ji san

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

BREAK IT DOWN:

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)

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AND NOW:

#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.) "

BREAK IT DOWN:

猿 saru
( Other readings: en )
"monkey"

も mo = "also, too"

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

から kara = "from"

落ちる ochiru
"to fall, drop"

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JUST A LITTLE MORE:

#4: 一石二鳥 isseki ni chou

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

BREAK IT DOWN:

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

二 ni
"two"

鳥 chou
"bird"
( OTHER READINGS: tori )

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

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#5 : 十人十色 juu nin to iro

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

BREAK IT DOWN:

十 juu
"ten"
( OTHER READINGS: to )

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

色 iro
"color"
( OTHER READINGS: shoku )

#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 "

BREAK IT DOWN:

壁 kabe
"wall"

耳 mimi
"ear, ears"

障子 shouji
"Japanese paper door"

NOTES:
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)

RECAP:

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

Transparent

 

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

口は禍のもと
Japanese
くち は わざわい の もと kuchi wa wazawai no moto
Literal
The mouth is the origin of disasters.
English Equivalent
The mouth is the gate of misfortune.
Notes

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


口は禍のもとだから、噂話はやめたほうがいい。
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

Transparent

 

塵も積もれば、山となる
Even Dust, When Piled up, Will Become a Mountain. 

 

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

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


毎日、英単語をひとつずつおぼえよう。ちりも積もれば、山となるというからね。
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

日本の諺:
必要は発明の母
Necessity is the Mother of Invention More...

Japanese proverbs

Transparent

 

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

必要は発明の母
Japanese
ひつよう は はつめい の はは
hitsuyou wa hatsumei no haha
Literal
Necessity is the mother of invention.
English Equivalent
Necessity is the mother of invention.
Notes

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


必要は発明の母かもしれない、だけど、偶然は発明の父なんだ
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]
haha—mother
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
chichi—father
なんだ nanda—(used when explaining something)

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