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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.

[ふうきにはたにんもあつまりひんせんにはしんせきもはなる, fuuki niwa tanin mo atsumari hinsen niwa shinseki mo hanaru] in times of prosperity, friends will be plenty, in times of adversity not one in twenty (lit.: when you have fame and fortune, even strangers visit; when poor and unknown, even relatives avoid you)

[ふぎのふうきはふうんのごとし, fugi no fuuki wa fuun no gotoshi] ill-gotten gains are all too quickly lost (lit.: fame and fortune unjustly earned are like floating clouds [i..e: they dissipate quickly])

[ふくすいぼんにかえらず, fukusuibon ni kaerazu] what is done is done; done cannot be undone; things may be repented but not recalled (lit.: spilt water does not return do its tray)

[ふくはうち、おにはそと, fuku wa uchi, oni wa soto] in with fortune, out with demons (said on the festival Setsubun)

[ふたついいことはない, futatsu ii koto wa nai] good fortunes seldom come together (lit.: there are no two good things)

[ふちにのぞみてうおをうらやむはしりぞいてあみをむすびにしかず, fuchi o nozomite uo o urayamu ha shirizoite ami o musubi ni shikazu] prepare for success rather than dream of it (lit.: you should go home and make your net rather than just gaze longingly at a fish in a deep pool)

[ふつかよいにはむかえざけ, futsukayoi ni mukaezake] the hair of the dog (lit.: have another drink for a hangover)

[ふでにはけんにまさるちからあり, fude niwa ken ni masaru chikara ari] the pen is mightier than the sword (lit.: the brush pen has greater power than a sword)

[ふとくみじかく, futoku mijikaku] a short and reckless life (lit.: bold and short)

[ふふうげんかとにしかぜはゆうかたになるとやむ, fufuugenka ni shikaze wa yuukata ni naru to yamu] fighting between husband and wife and the west wind both stop at night (i.e.: marital strife, quarrels between husband and wife, have a way of cooling off as evening starts)

[ふふうげんかはいぬもくわぬ, fufuugenka wa inu mo kuwanu] dogs do not involve themselves in fights between husband and wife (lit.: even a dog will not bite at a quarrel between husband and wife; i.e.: though dogs are notoriously unselective about what they eat, they will not touch such a fight)

[ふぼいませばとおくあそばず, fubo imaseba tooku asobazu] do not travel far if your parents are still living (i.e.: this is a Confucian maxim that emphasizes the responsibility of children to their parents, particularly when old or infirmed)

[ふまれたくさにもはながさく, fumareta kusa nimo hana ga saku] flowers will bloom in even grass that has been stomped upon (i.e.: a downtrodden person may later rise to fame and fortune, so do not let current circumstances create pesssimism about the future)

[ふるかわにみずたえず, furukawa ni mizu taezu] an old establishment never lacks for customers (lit.: there is never a lack of water in an old river; i.e.: old beliefs and traditions persist in a nation or society)

[ふるきをたずねてあたらしきをしる, furuki o tazunete atarashiki o shiru] there is nothing new under the sun (lit.: we learn of new things by inquirinig into old things; this is a Confucian maxim which emphasizes the importance of mastering old knowledge as a means to uncovering new knowledge)

[ぶんはひとなり, bun wa hito nari] the style is the man (Japanese translation of the English proverb)

[ぶんはぶよりつよし, bun wa bu yori tsuyoshi] the pen is mightier than the sword (lit.: literature is stronger than military arts)

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