Learning proverbs is a fun way to boost your enjoyment while practicing Japanese conversation. Learn a few of these food-related proverbs in Japanese and impress your friends at lunch!


hana yori dango
Food over Flowers

Literally, "Dango is better than flowers." This means the functional and practical is more important than appearances. 

  • 花 hana—flowers
  • より yori—less than (flowers are less important…)
  • 団子 dango—Japanese dumpling; boiled or steamed ball of rice flour (food)


e ni kaita mochi
Can't eat a painted cake

Literally, "Mochi that is painted on a picture." This refers to a "pie in the sky" (another food-related proverb!) dream. 

  • 絵 e—picture; drawing; painting; sketch
  • 描いた kaita—painted [from 描く egaku (to draw; to paint; to sketch)]
  • 餅 mochi—mochi; sticky rice cake


bushi wa kuwanedo taka youji
Even if a samurai hasn't eaten, he holds his toothpick high.

Literally, "Even if a warrior hasn't eaten, he still holds his toothpick high (as if he had a big meal)."

Take pride even if you situation is lowly.

  • 武士 bushi—warrior; samurai
  • くわねど kuwanedo—not eaten but... [from 食う kuu (to eat); this is probably a shortened form of 食わないけど don't eat but...]
  • 高楊枝 taka youji—toothpick held high [represents the leisurely, post-meal use of a toothpick]

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