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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.



臍を噛むとも及ばぬ
[へそをかむともおよばぬ, heso o kamu tomo oyobanu] it is too late to repent (lit.: biting your navel just won't do)

下手があるので上手が知る
[へたがあるのでじょうずがしる, heta ga aru node jouzu ga shiru] we recognize skill because there are people who lack skill (i.e.: the work of skillful people is noteworthy because of the basis for comparison with unskillful people)

下手鉄砲も数内矢当たる
[へたてっぽうもかずうちやあたる, heta teppou mo kazu uchi ya ataru] even a poor gunner will eventually hit something by sheer numbers

下手の道具調べ
[へたのどうぐしらべ, heta no dougy shirabe] a bad workman quarrels with his tools (lit.: an unskilled person inspects the tools; i.e.: the less skill, the greater the dependence on the quality of the tools)

下手の長談義
[へたのながだんぎ, heta no nagadangi] the unskilled talk at length; brevity is the soul of wit

下手の横好き
[へたのよこずき, heta no yokozuki] fond of something but not good at it (lit.: the partial feelings of an unskilled person)

蛇を竹筒に入れても真っ直ぐにならぬ
[へびをたけづつにいれてもまっすぐにならぬ, hebi o takezutsu ni iretemo massugu ni naranu] you cannot straighten what is not inherently straight (lit.: a snake put into a bamboo tube will not become perfectly straight; i.e.: a morally deficient person cannot be entirely reformed purely through discipline)


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