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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.



刃に強き者は礼にすぐる
[やいばにつよきものはれいにすぐる, yaiba ni tsukimono wa rei ni suguru] a skilled swordsman has superior manners (i.e.: politeness and decorum were considered as important as sword skills among men of good breeding in pre-modern Japan)

薬缶根性
[やかんこんじょう, yakan konjou] a changeable nature; moody; hot and cold (lit.: a tea-kettle disposition)

焼け石に水
[やけいしにみず, yake-ishi ni mizu] spitting in the ocean

焼けぼっくいに火がつきやすい
[やけぼっくいにひがつきやすい, yake-bokkui ni hi ga tsukiyasui] old pottery is sooner heated than made anew (lit.: a charred stake is easily set on fire; i.e.: old lovers may readily renew their relationship)

安受けあいの速忘れ
[やすうけあいのはやわすれ, yasu-ukeai no haya-wasure] a man apt to promise is apt to forget (lit.: readily promised, then quickly forgotten)

安かろう、悪かろう
[やすかろう、わるかろう, yasukarou, warukarou] what is cheap may also be bad; cheapest is dearest

安物買いの銭失い
[やすものかいのぜにうしない, yasumono kai no zeni ushinai] money is lost by buying cheap goods; buy cheap and waste your money

痩せ馬鞭を恐れず
[やせうまむちをおそれず, yaseuma muchi o osorezu] a hungry dog and a thirsty horse take no heed of blows (lit.: a skinny horse does not fear a whip; i.e.: starving people have little to lose and often do not fear violence)

藪から棒
[やぶからぼう, yabu kara bou] a sudden danger (lit.: a staff from the bushes; i.e.: a suprise attack)

藪蛇を出すな
[やぶへびをだすな, yabu hebi o dasu na] let sleeping dogs lie (lit.: do not drive a snake from the underbrush)

病は口から
[やまいはきちから, yamai wa kuchi kara] illness starts from the mouth (i.e.: eating too much of the wrong things, or eating improperly cleaned and prepared food leads to illness)

病を知れば治るに近し
[やまいをしればなおるにちかし, yamai o shireba naoru ni chikashi] a disease known is half cured (lit.: if the disease is known, the cure is close; i.e.: diagnosis is of the utmost importance in medicine, and by extension knowing your own weaknesses is the first step toward fixing them)

闇夜に鉄砲
[やみよにてっぽう, yami yo ni teppou] an aimless attempt; a shot in the dark (lit.: a gun in the darkness of night; n.b.: this implies that even blind luck will sometimes succeed, though it is not to be relied upon)


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