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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.



朋友をしばしばすればうとんぜらる
[ほうゆうをしばひばすればうとんぜらる, houyuu o shiba-shiba surreba utonzeraru] go often to a friend and you will be treated coldly (i.e.: don't overstay your welcome, don't impose beyond other's limits)

法律は人を選ばず
[ほうりつはひとをえらばず, houritsu wa hito o erabazu] law is no respecter of persons (taken from this English proverb)

吠える犬は噛まぬ
[ほえるいぬはかまぬ, hoeru inu wa kamanu] barking dogs do not bite

吠える犬は弱い
[ほえるいぬはよわい, hoeru inu wa yowai] all bark and no bite (lit.: a barking dog is weak; i.e.: people who vent their feelings through words alone are not to be feared)

細く長く
[ほそくながく, hosoku nagaku] slender and long (describes a long and frugal life)

仏の顔も三度
[ほとけのかおもさんど, hotoke no kao mo sando] too much familiarity breeds contempt (lit.: the third time for the Buddha's face; i.e.: even a person with the patience of the Buddha will only tolerate so much)

仏の光より金の光
[ほとけのひかりよりかねのひかり, hotoke no hikari yori kane no hikari] money is the god of the world (lit.: the shine of gold coins over the shine of Buddha)

仏の真似はすれども、長者の真似はならぬ
[ほとけのまねはすれども、ちょうじゃのまねはならぬ, hotoke no mane wa suredomo, chouja no mane wa naranu] though you may imitate the Buddha, do not imitate the wealthy (i.e.: good may come from trying to be like the Buddha, no such results come from trying to be like the rich)

仏を作って眼を入れず
[ほとけをつくってまなこをいれず, hotoke o tsukutte manako o irezu] to lack the finishing touches; not to have dotted the "i's" and crossed the "t's" (lit.: the Buddha's image has been made but the eyes have not been placed)

骨折り損のくたびれ儲け
[ほねおりぞんのくたびれもうけ, hone-ori-son no kutabire mouke] lots of pain and no gain (lit.: bone-breaking and lost, with exhaustion earned)

誉高くして謗りおこる
[ほまれたかくしてそしりおこる, homare-takaku shite soshiri okoru] the brighter the moon, the more the dog howls (lit.: as one's reputation rises, more censure will occur)

誉められるより謗られるな
[ほめられるよりそしられるな, homerareru yori soshirareru] rather than being praised, avoid being slandered (i.e.: maintain your reputation; in Japan people are both very critical and sensitive to criticism)

惚れた病に薬なし
[ほれたやまいにくすりなし, horeta yamai ni kusuri nashi] no herb will cure love (lit.: for love sickness there is no medicine)

惚れて通えば千里も一里
[ほれてかよえばせんりもいちり, horete kayoeba sen-ri mo ichi-ri] he that hath love in his breast hath spurs at his heels; Baghdad is not remote to a lover (lit.: 1000 ri and 1 ri are the same to a lover traveling back and forth to his beloved)

盆と正月とが一緒に来たよう
[ぼんとしょうがつとがいっしょにきたよう, bon to shougatsu to ga issho ni kita you] be extremely busy, to (lit.: as if the Festival of the Dead and New Year’s arrived at the same time)


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