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Japanese Proverbs

The Japanese language is filled with proverbs of all sorts, many from classical references from ancient Chinese to modern versions of English proverbs, all used in every aspect of the language. Whether you are traveling to Japan for fun or on business, or are living there, you'll find proverbs indispensible to understanding and using the daily language. Browse below to find the ones you want or simply explore the many possible ways to express yourself in Japanese.

[ちいさくともはりはのまれぬ, chiisaku tomo hari wa nomarenu] use even the smallest things with care and caution (lit.: though small a needle should not be swallowed)

[ちかくてみえぬはまつげ, chikakute mienu wa matsuge] we see not what sits on our own shoulders; we can eassily find others' faults but not our own (lit.: eyelashes though close are not visible)

[ちからはせいぎ, chikara wa seigi] might makes right (from the English proverb; the nature of politics and power are the same the world over, it seems)

[ちしきはちからなり, chishiki wa chikara nari] knowledge is power

[ちしきはとみのえいきゅうのいずみ, chishiki wa tomi no eikyuu no izumi] knowledge is the perennial spring of wealth (from the English proverb)

[ちでちをあらう, chi de chi o arau] wash blood with blood, to (i.e.: a terrible fight or quarrel between warriors or family members, often over status or resources)

[ちとくはくるまのりょうりんのごとし, chitoku wa kuruma no ryourin no gotoshi] wisdom and virtue are like the two wheels of a cart (i.e.: they are inextricably linked and cannot be separated)

[ちにいてらんをわすれず, chi ni ite ran o wasurezu] in fair weather prepare for foul (lit.: in peace do not forget war; in other words, the best defense is preparedness)

[ちはちだけ, chi wa chi dake] blood is only blood (i.e.: family can be helpful but not always reliable)

[ちはみずよりこし, chi wa mizu yori koshi] blood is thicker than water (taken from English and accepted as a Japanese proverb)

[ちゃじんのものずき, chajin no mono zuki] a very curious, interested person (lit.: the curiosity of a tea devotee; that is to say that people who participate in a tea ceremony are supposed to express interest in all the details, from teh age, maker, and cost of the materials, to the style or the rite itself)

[ちゃばらもいっとき, chabara mo ittoki] when hungry any food is fit for a while (lit.: even a cup of tea [will calm hunger] for a little while)

[ちゃわんをわたでうける, chawan o wata de ukeru] a soft answer turns away wrath; be oblivious to a slight or insult, to; ignore or dismiss a slight or insult, to (lit.: accept a teacup with cotton)

[ちゃをのむといろがくろくなる, cha o nomu to iro ga kuroku naru] drinking tea leads to a dark complexion (n.b.: this is why, at least traditionally, women tended to avoid drinking tea, since a fair if not white complexion was, and still is in some areas, highly prized)

[ちゅうしんはにくんにつかえず, chushin wa nikun ni tsukaezu] no man can serve two masters (lit.: a loyal retainer does not serve two lords. This was often quoted during the feudal period, and is taken from the writings of the ancient Chinese historian Ssu-ma Ch'ien)

[ちょうさんぼし, chousanboshi] humbug; six of one or half a dozen of the other (lit.: morning three, evening four)

[ちょうちんにつりがね, chouchin ni tsurigane] an ill-suited match [between a man and a woman] (lit.: a paper lantern with a hanging temple bell, two common items in ancient and modern Japan that simply do not go together at all)

[ちょうちんもちあしもとくらい, chouchin-mochi ashimoto kurai] news at home is best gotten from afar (lit.: it is dark at the feet of the lantern bearer)

[ちょうちんもちはさきにたて, chouchin-mochi ha saki ni tate] the candle that goes before gives the best light (lit.: the person with the lantern should go first; that is to say, whoever has the requisite knowledge or tool should lead the way)

[ちょうないでしらぬものはていしゅばかりなり, chounai de shiranu mono wa teishu bakari nari] the good man is the last to know what is amiss at home (lit.: only the husband knows not what is happening in the neighborhood; this expression is often applied to a cuckold who is unaware of his wife's infidelity)

[ちりもつもればやまとなる, chiri mo tsumoreba yama to naru] little and often makes a heap in time (lit.: even dust will accumulate into a mountain)

[ちんきゃくもみっかめにはいそうろう, chinkyaku mo mikkame niwa isourou] the first day a guest, the third day a pest (lit.: even a valued guest becomes a parasite on the third day)

[ちんもくはきんなり, chinmoku wa kin nari] silence is gold (probably a direct translation of the English proverb; n.b.: the character for "kin" [also read "kane"] can mean gold, money, or metal)

[ちんもくはきん、ゆうべんはぎん, chinmoku wa kin, yuuben wa gin] silence is golden, eloquence is silver

[ちんもくはしょうだくのうち, chinmoku wa shoudaku no uchi] silence is part of consent (from the English “silence gives consent”)

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