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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.



光るもの必ずしも黄金ならず
[ひかるものかならずしもおうごんならず, hikaru mono kanarazu shimo ougon narazu] all that glitters is not gold (taken from English)

引かれ者の小唄
[ひかれもののこうた, hikaremono no kouta] a false show of courage (lit.: the small song of a person being dragged off)

日暮れて道遠し
[ひくれてみちとおし, hi kurete michi tooshi] the days are short and the way is long (lit.: the sun has set but the road is long)

額の広い者は運がいい
[ひたいのひろいものはうんがいい, hitai no hiroi mono wa un ga ii] good luck awaits a man with a broad forehead
必要は発明の母
[ひつようははつめいのはは, hitsuyou wa hatsumei no haha] necessity is the mother of invention (taken from the English)

必要は法を知らず
[ひつようはほうをしらず, hitsuyou wa hou o shirazu] necessity knows no law (taken from the English)

人各々長短あり
[ひとおのおのちょうたんあり, hito ono-ono choutan ari] people have their strengths and weaknesses

一つ鍋のものを食う
[ひとつなべのものをくう, hitotsu no nabe no mono o kuu] be accomplices, to (lit.: to eat from the same pot)

人に一癖
[ひとにひとくせ, hito ni hitokuse] everyone has at least one fault

人の噂も七十五日
[ひとのうわさもしちじゅうごにち, hito no uwasa shichijuugo nichi] even gossip about someone lasts only seventy-five days; a wonder lasts but nine days

人の噂も七十五日
[ひとのうわさもななじゅうごにち, hito no uwasa mo nanajuugo-nichi] a wonder lasts but nine days

人の口には戸は立てられぬ
[ひとのくちにはとはたてられぬ, hito no kuchi ni to wa taterarenu] you cannot stop people from talking (lit.: you cannot put doors on people’s mouths)

人の七難は身揺れども、我が十難は見えず
[ひとのしちなんはみゆれども、わがじゅうなんはみえず, hito no shichinan wa miyuredomo, waga juunan wa miezu] though you see seven defects in others, you do not see the ten in yourself

人の背中は見えても自分の背中は目えぬ
[ひとのせなかはみえてもじぶんのせなかはめえぬ, hito no senaka wa mietemo, jibun no senaka wa mienu] you may see others’ backs, you cannot see your own

人のふり見て我がふり直せ
[ひとのふりみてわがふりなおせ, hito no furi o mite wagafuri o naose] by other’s faults wise men correct their own, one man’s fault is another’s lesson (lit.: look at the manners of others and mend your own)

人は一代、名は末代
[ひとはいちだい、なはまつだい, hito wa ichidai, na wa matsudai] man is for one generation, his name is for all time

人は人、我は我
[ひとはひと、われはわれ, hito wa hito, ware wa ware] people are people, and I am I; live and let live

人は古きにしかず、衣は新しきにしかず
[ひとはふるきにしかず、ころもはあたらしきにしかず, hito wa furuki ni shikazu, koromo wa atarashiki ni shikazu] old friends are better than new ones, but new clothes are better than old ones

人を就こうは苦を就こう
[ひとをつこうはくをつこう, hito o tsukou wa ku o tsukou] to employ people is to employ trouble

人を呪わば穴二つ
[ひとをのろわばあなふたつ, hito o norowaba ana futatsu] curses like chickens come home to roost

ひもじい時まずいものなし
[ひもじいときまずいものなし, himojii toki mazui mono nashi] hunger is the best sauce (lit.: when hungry, nothing tastes bad)

昼には目あり、夜には耳あり
[ひるにはめあり、よるにはみみあり, hiru niwa me ari, yori niwa mimi ari] the day has eyes, the night has ears (i.e.: be careful at all times)

火を避けて水に落ちる
[ひをさけてみずにおちる, hi o sakete, mizu ni ochiru] out of the frying pan and into the fire (lit.: ahe avoids the fire and falls into water)

美人というも皮一重
[びじんというもかわひとえ, bijin to iu mo kawa hitoe] though speaking of a beautiful woman, it is only one layer of skin

美人は言わねど、隠れなし
[びじんはいわねど、かくれなし, bijin wa iwanedo, kakurenashi] a fair face will be praised though the owner keeps silent

美人薄命
[びじんはくめい, bijin hakumei] beautiful women are unfortunate

美人は生をたつ斧
[びじんはせいをたつおの, bijin ha sei o tatsu ono] a beautiful woman is an axe that cuts off life

美は皮相のみ
[びはひそうのみ, bi wa hisou nomi] beauty is only superficial; beauty is but skin deep

貧乏怖いものはし
[びんぼうこわいものはし, binbou kowai mono nashi] the poor have nothing to fear

貧乏高枕
[びんぼうたかまくら, binbou takamakura] the poor sleep soundly (lit.: the poor have a high, i.e. comfortable, pillow)

貧乏暇なし
[びんぼうひまなし, binbou hima nashi] the poor have no leisure


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