47 Japanese Proverbs about Life, Love, and Knowledge to Encourage You (with English translations)

Japanese proverbs and idioms are crammed with historical knowledge. And a few of them you will have already heard and didn’t know they originated from Japan!

These Japanese proverbs are known as ことわざ (kotowaza). They’ll are available in straight-forward sayings or be as philosophical as one in all Uncle Iroh’s from Avatar: The Final Airbender.

It is sensible that everybody’s favourite Pai Sho participant likes to talk knowledge by outdated Japanese proverbs and Chinese language sayings. The truth is, Iroh and the Fireplace Nation are primarily based on Chinese language/Japanese traditions and historical past.

(Plus, he was voiced by Mako Iwamatsu, a superb Japanese-American actor.)

In the event you’d prefer to degree up your knowledge with Japanese quotes, you’ve come to the appropriate place.

Right here you’ll discover tons of Japanese proverbs with English translations, to assist convey out your inside thinker.

Now simply what number of Japanese proverbs are there? Quite a bit!

We’ll cowl:

  • Japanese Knowledge in Proverbs (The three Types of Japanese Knowledge Sayings)
  • Japanese Proverbs About Life
  • Japanese Proverbs About Love
  • Japanese Proverbs About Friendship
  • Japanese Proverbs About Perseverance
  • Japanese Proverbs About Battle and Anger
  • Japanese Proverbs About Loss of life

Japanese Knowledge in Proverbs (The three Types of Japanese Knowledge Sayings)

There are various outdated Japanese sayings steeped within the nation’s historical past, tradition, and innate knowledge.

These Japanese proverbs are available in three varieties: 言い習わし (iinarawashi), 四字熟語 (yojijukugo), and 慣用句 (kan’youku).

Iinarawashi are brief sayings and bits of knowledge.

Yojijukugo are four-character idioms. They include solely 4 kanji characters to create the saying. These could be the toughest to understand generally for learners.

(By the best way, for those who’re interested by mastering extra Japanese numbers, take a look at our article about counting in Japanese!)

Kan’youku are idiomatic phrases, however they’re longer than yojijukugo.

What’s the distinction? I like to check these kinds of Japanese proverbs to different proverbial-styles you could know.

They’re all very comparable, however with some nuanced variations.

Iinarawashi can be the proverbs most like one thing Iroh from Avatar would say.

Yojijukugo sound a bit extra like Grasp Yoda from Star Wars.

And final, kan’youku are those that appear most like Confuscious’ type.

However actually, it doesn’t matter a lot which type the proverbs are in. The vital half is knowing their which means, and studying from them!

  • Japanese proverbs could be fairly superior! Right here’s me difficult myself to degree up my Japanese, too.

Japanese Proverbs About Life

How do the Japanese view society and nature? You’ll get a sneak peek by these Japanese quotes about life!

井の中の蛙大海を知らず (i no naka no kawazu taikai wo shirazu) English Translation: “A frog in a nicely is aware of nothing of the ocean.”

This well-known Japanese quote means somebody sees the world by their restricted perspective. They’re fast to guage and suppose very huge of themselves. It’s used to remind somebody that there are issues greater than them on the planet.

水に流す (mizu ni nagasu) English Translation: “The water flows.”

This Japanese proverb is just like the English expression “water beneath the bridge.” It means to forgive and neglect, and let issues go.

口は災いの元 (kuchi wa wazawai no moto) English translation: “The mouth is the supply of catastrophe.”

Operating our mouths tends to get us into hassle, doesn’t it? The saying is a reminder to, kind of, shut your lure. As a result of generally, it’s higher to not say something in any respect.

自業自得 (jigoujitoku) English Translation: “Self-work, self-profit.”

Relying on how this phrase is used, it may imply one thing extra optimistic like “you get what you give” or “laborious work pays off.”

However more often than not, it’s used negatively to imply “what goes round comes round”. As a result of karma.

知らぬが仏 (shiranu ga hotoke) English Translation: “Not realizing is Buddha” or “ignorance is bliss”

I really like this Japanese idiom. It might sound complicated at first, however let me clarify. Buddha right here represents nirvana – the state of enlightenment. To be in a state of enlightenment, it’s a must to quit earthly considerations and be at peace.

So, not realizing is peaceable. Ignorance is bliss.

出る杭は打たれる (derukui wa utareru) English Translation: “The nail that stands out is struck.”

This one is so culturally distinctive to Japan.

Japanese society is a collectivist nation, which means individuals are anticipated to work collectively for the better good of all. Whereas that’s a great factor, it might probably additionally result in lots of conformity and resistance to vary.

This saying means “While you stick out, you’re prone to get criticized.” Those that attempt to be completely different in Japan typically meet with lots of resistance. So, this phrase is sort of frequent.

花より団子 (hana yori dango) English Translation: “Dumplings over flowers” or “substance over type”

That is the identify of one in all my FAVORITE Japanese dramas of all time, primarily based on the manga. It’s named that as a result of the entire premise facilities on a personality who doesn’t care in any respect about wealth and magnificence.

Mainly, it’s somebody who would favor a sensible reward over a stupendous one. Somebody who’s extra pragmatic than superficial.

As a result of you possibly can eat a dumpling and never be hungry anymore. Flowers are solely to take a look at.

案ずるより産むが易し (anzuru yori umu ga yasushi) English Translation: “It’s simpler to provide beginning than to consider it.”

Mainly, this implies “don’t fear about it.” It’s straightforward to emphasize over the longer term, however typically what we fear a lot about is simpler than we expect will probably be.

花鳥風月 (kachou fuugetsu) English Translation: “The beauties of nature.”

This one is admittedly fascinating. The kanji every characterize one stunning side of nature:

  • 花: “Flower”
  • 鳥: “Hen”
  • 風: “Wind”
  • 月: “Moon”

However collectively, it represents the fantastic thing about every little thing round us. It serves as a reminder to benefit from the nice outdoor.

二兎を追う者は一兎をも得ず。(nito wo oumono wa itto wo mo ezu.) English translation: “Those that chase two hares received’t even catch one.”

There’s an episode of Parks & Recreation (one in all my favourite reveals) the place Ron Swanson provides some recommendation to Lesley Knope. He says, “By no means half-ass two issues. Entire-ass one factor.”

Nice life recommendation from good life thinker, Swanson-sensei.

This proverb means the identical factor. When your focus is split, you’ll fail to succeed at both.

見ぬが花 (minu ga hana) English translation: “Not seeing is a flower,” “Actuality is rarely nearly as good as your creativeness”

That is a kind of Japanese proverbs that will be complicated to listen to with out context.

The thought is, you possibly can image how stunning the flower will likely be when it blooms… However typically your creativeness builds up the fantastic thing about this flower and the fact doesn’t examine.

猫に小判 (neko ni koban) English translation: “Gold cash to a cat.”

This saying refers to giving one thing of worth to somebody who doesn’t respect it. The English equal can be “casting pearls earlier than swine.” I favor the picture of giving gold to a cat. No animal appears extra detached than a cat.

Even for those who’re a newbie in Japanese, you may already discover some acquainted phrases, like “cat” and “flower”! Some phrases in Japanese proverbs are literally the commonest ones – take a look at extra at our article in regards to the commonest Japanese phrases!

Japanese Proverbs About Love

The Japanese aren’t considered essentially the most romantic cultures right this moment, however don’t get them fallacious – they’ve recognized the right way to do romance since occasions of yore! Try these Japanese love proverbs to be taught extra knowledge from their 1000’s of years of romance.

酒は本心を表す (sake wa honshin wo arawasu) English Translation: “Sake reveals true emotions.”

The phrase 本心 (honshin) means “true coronary heart” or “true emotions.” So this phrase implies that what’s mentioned whereas consuming is usually how an individual actually feels.

A mumbled 大好き (daisuki, “I really like you”) whereas consuming isn’t simply the sake speaking!

異体同心 (itai doushin) English Translation: “Two our bodies, similar coronary heart.”

When a pair will get married, it’s typically mentioned that “two grow to be one.” That’s the identical thought right here!

It could possibly be used to say somebody is your soulmate or to explain the union of affection.

以心伝心 (ishindenshin) English Translation: “Coronary heart to coronary heart.”

This yojijukugo phrase means “coronary heart to coronary heart” or to share your true coronary heart’s feelings to attach with another person.

磯 の アワビ (iso no awabi) English Translation: “An abalone on the shore” or “unrequited love”

Abalone is a kind of marine snail, and so they’re extraordinarily uncommon. There’s a Japanese music a couple of man who dives within the sea on the lookout for abalone is in a one-sided romance.

So, this phrase got here to imply “unrequited love.”

恋とせきとは隠されぬ。(koi to seki to wa kakusarenu) English Translation: “Love and a cough can’t be hidden.”

Like while you’re sick and you may’t suppress a cough, love can’t be hidden. It’s all the time apparent when somebody’s in love!

惚れた病に薬なし (horeta yamai ni kusuri nashi) English Translation: “There’s no medication for falling in love.”

Horeta means “to fall in love”. Yamai means “illness.” And kusuri nashi means “there’s no medication” or “there’s no remedy.”

Collectively, it means there’s nothing that may repair love-sickness.

Japanese Proverbs About Friendship

What does fish need to do with friendship? Properly, the Japanese have them related!

鯛も一人はうまからず (taimo hitori wa umakarazu) English Translation: “Even a sea bream loses its taste when eaten alone.”

Sea bream is taken into account to be one of many tastiest fish, and it’s typically eaten entire with others as a shared household dish.

So despite the fact that sea bream is scrumptious, consuming it alone isn’t good.

This saying reveals Japan’s emphasis on shared meals with family and friends, and the way it’s all the time higher to eat meals with these you care about.

八方美人 (happou bijin) English Translation: “All people’s pal.”

This isn’t a optimistic idiom, however somewhat, to explain somebody who tries to please everybody. They attempt to be everybody’s pal, and they also’re not loyal to anybody.

Japanese Proverbs About Perseverance

Studying Japanese takes perseverance – as do many different issues in life. Right here you could find some nice proverbs to maintain you motivated!

継続は力なり。 (keizoku wa chikara nari) English Translation: “Persevering with on is energy,” or “don’t quit.”

Even when issues get laborious, pushing by results in energy and energy. That’s why this Japanese proverb means, “There’s energy in persevering with on. Don’t quit.”

七転び八起き (nana korobi ya oki) English Translation: “Fall seven occasions, rise up eight.”

That is positively one of the vital well-known Japanese sayings. You’ve in all probability heard the English model: “If at first you don’t succeed, attempt to attempt once more.” It’s one other phrase meaning “don’t quit!”

猿も木から落ちる (saru mo ki kara ochiru) English Translation: “Even monkeys fall from bushes.”

If monkeys can fall from bushes, even the nice can fail. This phrase means, “no one’s excellent, however hold making an attempt anyway.”

It’s excellent to inform a pal in the event that they’re combating failure to encourage them to maintain making an attempt.

明日は明日の風が吹く (ashita wa ashita no kaze ga fuku) English translations: “Tomorrow’s winds will blow tomorrow.”

This Japanese saying means, “tomorrow’s one other day” and to not fear in regards to the future. I really like this stunning proverb – it’s a lot extra elegant than the English model!

三日坊主 (mikka bouzu) English Translation: “A monk for 3 days.”

This expression describes somebody who’s an inconsistent employee or lacks the willpower to see one thing by. They’re like the one who chooses to be a monk and offers up after solely 3 days.

石の上にも三年 (ishi no ue nimo san’nen) English Translation: “3 years on a stone.”

In the event you keep constant and keep it up by laborious occasions, finally issues will change. That’s the which means behind this Japanese proverb.

Consider the stone as your energy and perseverance basis. In the event you proceed to take a seat there and keep it up, issues will slowly get higher.

雨降って地固まる (ame futte chikatamaru) English Translation: “When it rains, earth hardens” or “Adversity builds character”

This one particularly feels like a proverb you’d discover in Avatar: The Final Airbender. In English, we’ve got a few comparable proverbs: “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and “the calm after the storm.”

This has an analogous vibe. While you climate the storm, you grow to be stronger for it. The earth hardens after a rain, and so you’ll develop stronger by a troublesome state of affairs.

By the best way, these proverbs about perseverance will you’ll want to turn out to be useful when you be taught Japanese!

If you wish to get nearer to fluency, take a look at Grasp Japanese by John Fotheringham, featured on our podcast episode above!

Japanese Proverbs About Battle and Anger

What are some Japanese proverbs about powerful occasions? A protracted historical past of samurai tradition implies that Japanese has some nice proverbs about anger and conflict! Right here’s the right way to take care of enemies in fools, in keeping with the Japanese.

四面楚歌 (shimensoka) English Translation: “Surrounded by enemies.”

yojijukugo section, which may even have a nuance of “being betrayed by everybody round you.” Discuss being in enemy territory!

あほに取り合うばか (aho ni toriau naka) English Translation: “Solely a idiot offers with a idiot.”

Have you ever heard the English saying, “Idiot me as soon as, disgrace on you. Idiot me twice, disgrace on me”? Properly, this Japanese saying has a little bit of nuance like that.

The phrase aho in Japanese is stronger than the phrase for baka, however they each imply “fool.” So it’s saying you’re a better idiot for making an attempt to battle with a idiot.

相手のない喧嘩はできない (aite no nai kenka wa dekinai) English Translation: “You may’t battle with out an opponent.”

This proverb means mainly the identical factor as “it takes two to tango.” There can’t be a battle with out each events, so neither occasion is harmless.

悪戦苦闘 (akusenkutou) English Translation: “An uphill battle.”

This idiom can even imply “a tough battle” or “wrestle” – something the place the percentages are towards you, and it’ll be troublesome to beat!

猪突猛進 (chototsumoushin) English Translation: “Cost headlong.”

It’s humorous as a result of this saying is asking somebody a “wild boar”. However that’s how boars act, isn’t it? They’re cussed and cost head-first.

You might hear this one, too: 猪突猛進ガール (chototsumoushin ga-ru), or “headstrong woman.”

因果応報 (inga ouhou) English Translation: “Unhealthy causes, dangerous outcome”, “karma” or “what goes round comes round”

The which means of this Japanese proverb is actually “trigger and impact retribution.” So, while you do one thing dangerous, dangerous issues will occur. You already know what they are saying about karma.

負けるが勝ち (makeru ga kachi) English Translation: “To lose is to win.”

Ever really feel prefer it’s a lose-lose state of affairs? Properly, that’s the place this proverb is available in. The knowledge it shares says that it’s generally higher to lose and keep away from worse battle than to proceed foolishly preventing.

弱肉強食 (jakuniku kyoushoku) English Translation: “The weak are meat” or “survival of the fittest”

Hardcore! This one means the identical because the English saying “survival of the fittest”, however it sounds far more diabolical.

Talking of diabolical…

極悪非道 (gokuaku hidou) English Translation: “Villany” or “diabolical”

In the event you break down the kanji, it actually means “very evil and outrageous.” And so, you get… Diabolical! I can hear the evil chuckle now. Mwahaha…

一刀両断 (ittouryoudan) English Translation: “One stroke, two halves.”

A extra pure translation can be “reduce in two with one stroke”. As an idiom, it’s used to explain somebody who takes decisive motion.

And talking of decisive motion, for those who haven’t already, take a look at Japanese language studying programs from our associates at LingQ and Clozemaster! They’re nice for all ranges, together with intermediate and superior!

Japanese Proverbs About Loss of life

A ridiculous loss of life or a peaceable one? The Japanese have sayings for all kinds of conditions associated to loss of life, too.

馬鹿は死ななきゃ治らない (baka wa shinanakya naoranai) English Translation: “An fool can’t be cured of idiocy except they die.”

Discuss harsh! This saying kind of means “you possibly can’t repair silly” however… extra intense.

自ら墓穴を掘る (mizukara boketsu wo horu) English Translation: “Dig your personal grave.”

There aren’t many idioms that each Japanese and English have that translate completely collectively. However I’m positive this one nicely. Just like the English saying, “to place your foot in your mouth,” or to say one thing silly that will get you in hassle. “Dig your personal grave” is identical approach and Japanese has an actual equal.

安心して死ねる (anshin shite shineru) English Translation: “Die in peace.”

This could possibly be used to speak about somebody who handed away comfortable. Or it may describe a launch of fear, just like the English phrase. When a lifelong want comes true or a giant fear is solved and places you comfortable, you say “Properly, now I can die in peace.”

死人に口なし (shinin ni kuchinashi) English Translation: “Useless males inform no tales.”

Somebody who’s been killed can’t reveal huge secrets and techniques, in order that’s the place this phrase is available in. Feels like one thing the yakuza (Japanese mafia) may say, huh?

危機一髪 (kiki ippatsu) English Translation: “An in depth name” or “within the nick of time”

Nearly bought in an accident? Phew! “危機一髪!” That was an in depth name.

This has the nuance of “an in depth name with loss of life” or “an in depth shave” however it’s additionally used like “simply within the nick of time,” too.

疑心暗鬼 (gishin’angi) English Translation: “Suspicion will elevate bogies.”

Really feel like somebody’s watching you? Are you “leaping at shadows”? That’s the place this Japanese saying is available in. In the event you’re on the lookout for demons at the hours of darkness, you’ll discover them.

九死一生 (kyuushin iishou) English Translation: “9 deaths, one life” or “near-death expertise”

Like “an in depth name” above, this one is the place you see your life flash earlier than your eyes.

Stunning Japanese Proverbs

I hope you’ve channeled your inside Iroh, Yoda, or different inside philosophical spirit now.

These Japanese quotes and idioms will degree up your Japanese and allow you to perceive extra nuanced elements of the language. However moreover that, I hope you found some inspiring knowledge from these outdated Japanese sayings.

For much more inspiration, you possibly can take a look at Benny’s Japanese language journey. See how a lot he realized after simply two months of finding out!

If you wish to deep dive into the Japanese tradition, or for those who’re on the lookout for extra magnificence and knowledge within the Japanese language, take a look at these must-read articles:

Authentic article by Caitlin Sacasas. Reviewed and up to date by the Fluent in 3 Months staff on [publish date].

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