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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.



東西家庭に勝る所なし
[とうざいかていにまさるところなし, touzai katei ni masaru tokoro nashi] there is no place like home (lit.: no place is better than home, neither to the east nor to the west)

東西もわきまえず
[とうざいもわきまえず, touzai mo wakimaezu] complete ignorance (lit.: cannot tell east from west)

豆腐に鎹、糠に釘
[とうふにかすがい、ぬかにくぎ, toufu ni kasugai, nuka ni kugi] try to do the impossible, to (lit.: a clamp into tofu and a nail into rice bran)

遠い親類より近くの他人
[とおいしんるいよりちかくのたにん, tooi shinrui yori chikaku no tanin] better a nearby stranger than distant relatives

トカゲを指差すと指が腐る
[とかげをゆびさすとゆびがくさる, tokage o yubisasu to yubi ga kusaru] if you point at a lizard, your finger will rot

時に合えば鼠も虎となる
[ときにあえばねずみもとらとなる, toki ni aeba nezumi mo tora to naru] at the right time a mouse can become a tiger

時は金なり
[ときはかねなり, toki wa kane nari] time is money (taken from the English)

時人を待たず
[ときひとをまたず, toki hito o matazu)] time and tide wait for no one

徳子ならず、必ず隣あり
[とくこならず、かならずとなりあり, toku ko narazu, kanarazu tonari ari] virtue is not an orphan; it will always have neighbors

徳は知るによらず行おうにあり
[とくはしるによらずおこなおうにあり, toku wa shiru ni yorazu, okonaou ni ari] virtue is not in the knowing but in the doing

徳はそれ自身において報いあり
[とくはそれじしんにおいてむくいあり, toku wa sore jishin ni oite mukui ari] virtue is a reward unto itself, virtue is its own reward

年を取ると子供にかえる
[としをとるとこどもにかえる, toshi o toru to kodomo ni kaeru] old age is a second childhood

隣の女房は美しい
[となりのにょうぼうはうつくしい, tonari no nyoubou wa utsukushii] better is the neighbor’s hen than mine (lit.: the neighbor’s wife is beautiful)

隣の芝生は青い
[となりのしばふはあおい, tonari no shibafu wa aoi] the grass is always greener (on the other side).

隣の花は赤い
[となりのはなはあかい, tonari no hana wa akai] the neighbor’s flowers (wife) are red (beautiful)

友と酒は古いほど良し
[ともとさけはふるいほどよし, tomo to sake wa furui hodo yoshi] old friends and old wine are best
虎を描いて猫に類す
[とらをえがいてねこにるいす, tora o egaite, neko ni ruisu] an attempt ending in failure (lit.: drawing a tiger and ending up with something like a cat)

取らんとせばまず与えよ
[とらんとせばまずあたえよ, toran to seba mazu ataeyo] he who would take must first give

鳥を泣かずば撃たれまじ
[とりをなかずばうたれまじ, tori o nakazuba uraremaji] there is safety in silence

同気合いもとむ
[どうきあいもとむ, douki aimotomu] like draws like; birds of a feather flock together

同病相憐れむ
[どうびょうあいあわれむ, doubyou aiawaremu] sorrow loves the society of sorrow; misery loves company

道理に向こう刃なし
[どうりにむこうやいばなし, douri ni mukou yaiba nashi] reason conquers all; against reason no sword can prevail

毒をもって毒を制す
[どくをもってどくをせいす, doku o motte doku o seisu] control poison with poison, poison drives out poison

どこの烏も黒い
[どこのからすもくろい, doko no karasu mo kuroi] crows are black everywhere (i.e.: since poeple are the same all over, we should act honorably)

泥棒に鍵は預ける
[どろぼうにかぎはあずける, dorobou ni kagi o azukeru] court disaster, to (lit.: entrust a key to a thief)

泥棒も十年
[どろぼうもじゅうねん, dorobou mo juunen] even a thief takes ten years (i.e.: practice and patience are needed to become skilled)

泥棒を見て縄を綯う
[どろぼうをみてなわをなう, dorobou o mite nawa o nau] precautions after the fact (lit.: make rope after seeing the thief)


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