A bit of Japanese wisdom expressed in Japanese proverbs.
A Japanese proverb (諺, ことわざ, kotowaza) may take the form of:
Although "proverb" and "saying" are practically synonymous, the same cannot be said about "idiomatic phrase" and "four-character idiom". Not all kan'yōku and yojijukugo are proverbial. For instance, the kan'yōku kitsune no yomeiri (狐の嫁入り, literally 'a fox's wedding', meaning "a sunshower") and the yojijukugo koharubiyori (小春日和, literally 'small spring weather', meaning "Indian summer" – warm spring-like weather in early winter) are not proverbs. To be considered a proverb, a word or phrase must express a common truth or wisdom; it cannot be a mere noun.
港口で難船 — Shipwreck at the port entrance. = Don't say "hop" until you jump over.
金剛石も磨かずば玉の光は供はざらん — If you don't polish the Kongo stone (diamond), the light of the ball will not be added.
瓜の蔓に茄子はならぬ — Eggplant should not be on the vine of melon. = The apple never falls far from the tree.
一つ穴の狢 — One hole of Mujina (badger)
無くて七癖あって四十八癖 — There are seven habits without it (bad habits), and forty-eight habits (with it).
弱り目に祟り目 — Misfortunes never come singly.
色の白いは七難隠す — The white color hides the seven difficulties. = The whiteness of the skin hides the lack of beauty.
濡れぬ先の傘 — Umbrella that doesn't get wet. = Grab an umbrella before you get wet.
昼行灯 — (Useless as) Lantern at noonday.
正直の頭に神宿る — God dwells in the head of honesty.
金持ちと灰吹きは溜まるほど汚い — Rich and ashes are dirty enough to accumulate. = A rich man is like an ashtray: the fuller, the dirtier.
同病相憐れむ — Compassion for the same disease. = Patients with the same disease sympathize with each other.
三日坊主 — Unsteady worker. = About those who quickly abandon what they started.
人の褌で相撲を取る — Take a sumo wrestling with a loincloth. = To rake in the heat with the wrong hands.
提灯に釣鐘 — Bells on lanterns. = Things that cannot be balanced.
張子の虎 — Papier-mache tiger. = Showy, not real power.
石が流れて木の葉が沈む — Stones flow and leaves sink. = This happens too.
鶯鳴かしたこともある — I have also made a warbler. = There was a time when nightingales sang for me too.
飼い犬に手を噛まれる — My dog bites my hand. = Warm the snake on your chest.
鬼も十八番茶も出花 — Both demons and 18th tea come out. = At eighteen, even a giantess is attractive, and the first brew of even bad tea is fragrant.
十で神童十五で才子二十過ぎれば並の人 — Ten, child prodigy, fifteen, and a child prodigy, if you're over twenty, you're an average person.
薬も過ぎれば毒 — Poison if the medicine is too much.
浅瀬に仇浪 — Waves in shallow water. = Waves are louder in shallow waters. An empty barrel rattles louder.
闇がりの犬の糞 — Dark dog droppings. = In the dark, and dog droppings do not stain.
勝てば官軍、負ければ賊軍 — If you win, the government army, if you lose, the thief army. = The winner is always right. Winners are not judged.
声の高い者が勝つ — The one with the highest voice wins.
風は吹けども山は動ぜず — The wind blows but the mountains don't move.
一に看病二に薬 — One for nursing and two for medicine.
口に蜜腹に針 — Needle on the belly of the mouth. = There is honey on the lips, and ice on the heart.
屋下に屋を架す — Build a house under the roof. = Like a cart's fifth wheel. Like a dog's fifth leg.
雀百まで踊忘れぬ — Don't forget to dance sparrows up to 100. = Like in the cradle, like in the grave.
氏より育ち — Raised from Mr. = Education is more important than origin.
屁を放って尻窄め — Throw a flatulence and squeeze your hips. = They don't wave their fists after a fight. Vain efforts.
盛者必衰 — The prosperity must decline. = Everything that blooms will inevitably wither.
会うのは別れの始まり — Meeting is the beginning of farewell.
豆腐の角に頭をぶつけて死ね — Hit your head against the tofu horn and die. = To die in an impossible or ridiculous way.
易者身の上知らず — Fortune teller. = The fortuneteller does not know his fate. Before pointing out the faults of others, correct your own.
敗軍の将は兵を語らず — The defeated general does not talk about soldiers.
柳に風折れなし — There is no wind break in the willow.
深い川は静かに流れる — The deep river flows quietly.
怒りは敵と思え — Anger seems to be an enemy.
羊頭狗肉 — Sheep head - dog meat. = Crying wine and selling vinegar; Extravagant advertisement.
竜頭蛇尾 — The head of a dragon and the tail of a snake. = Loud beginning and inglorious end.
下種と鷹とに餌を飼え — Feed the сргаа and the hawk. = A brute, like a falcon, must be brought up.
上手の手から水が漏る — Water leaks from good hands. = A horse with four legs, but stumbles.
千里の道も一歩から — Even a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
鬼に金棒 — Gold stick to the demon. = About strengthening the power of someone who is already strong.
二度聞いて一度物言え — Listen twice and say once.
寺の門前に鬼が住む — A demon lives in front of the temple gate. = Good and evil are often side by side.
金が金を儲ける — Money makes money.
木仏金仏石仏 — Wooden Buddha Gold Buddha Stone Buddha. = Insensitive people; stones, not people.
蛙の子は蛙 — The frog child is a frog (like father). = An apple does not fall far from an apple tree.
馬鹿に付ける薬はない — There is no medicine for idiots.
論より証拠 — Evidence from theory. = Evidence is better than reasoning.
火で火は消えぬ — The fire does not go out. = Firewood does not extinguish fire.
惚れて通えば千里も一里 — If you fall in love with it, Chisato will be one ri.
魚心あれば水心 — If you have a fish heart, you have a water heart. = If the fish is willing, the water will yield.
急がば回れ — Hurry around, less haste
暑さ寒さも彼岸まで — The heat and cold are up to the other side. = After the equinox comes good weather.
女の一念岩をも透す — See through the woman's Ichineniwa. = A woman wants to go through the rock.
来る者は拒まず、行く者は追わず — Those who come will not refuse, those who go will not chase. = Learn to appreciate those who appreciate you.
暑さ忘れて陰忘れる — Forget the heat and forget the shade. = About those who quickly forget a favor.
明日は明日の風が吹く — Tomorrow the wind will blow tomorrow. = Tomorrow is another day.
窮鼠猫を嚙む — Squeeze a cat. = A driven mouse [itself] bites a cat - Courage of despair.
窮鳥懐に入る — Enter the bird's pocket. = A hunted bird will also clog up in the bosom [to a person]. A drowning man clutches at straws.
猫の手も借りたい — I also want to get the help of a cat. = Busy to the limit.
泣きっ面に蜂 — Bee on a crying face. = Trouble does not go alone.
孔子の倒れ — Confucius collapses. = Enough simplicity for every sage.
上手の手からも水がこぼれる — Water spills from good hands. = And an experienced person can fail.
河童の川流れ — Kappa river flow. = A horse with four legs, but stumbles.
一葉落ちて天下の秋を知る — One leaf falls and knows the autumn of the world.
千鈞の弓は麗鼠のために放たず — Chikuma's bow is not released for Rei. = Shoot from a cannon at sparrows.
逃げるが勝ち — Run away but win.
ならぬ堪忍するが堪忍 — Be patient but be patient. = True patience is such patience when it is impossible to endure.
水の泡となる — Become a bubble of water. = Go to dust. Go to the dogs. Run to seed.
三つ子の魂百まで — Up to 100 souls of triplets. = What a soul at three years old, so it is at a hundred.
鯉の滝登り — Climbing a carp waterfall. = A carp swimming against the current can become a dragon.
雁が飛べば石亀も地団駄 — If the geese fly, the stone turtle will also be a groundbreaker. = The example of talented people often awakens in simple people the desire for high things.
陰窮まって陽生ず — It ’s gloomy and it ’s not positive. = Any extreme turns into its opposite.
喉元過ぎれば熱さを忘れる — If you go too far in your throat, forget about the heat. = When the danger is over, you forget to learn from it; received from smb. help, forget about gratitude.
明日の事を言えば天井で鼠が笑う — Speaking of tomorrow, the mouse laughs on the ceiling. = It still won't go the way we planned.
雨霽れて傘を忘れる — Forget the umbrella in the rain.
油を以て油煙を落とす — Remove oil smoke with oil.
猫は三年飼っても三日で恩を忘れる — Cats forget their grace in three days even if they keep them for three years.
乞食を三日すれば忘れられぬ — I will never forget it if I eat a beggar for three days.
馬には乗ってみよ人には添うてみよ — Ride a horse, follow a person. = A horse is recognized by riding, a person by communication.
岩をも通す桑の弓 — A mulberry bow that also passes through rocks. = A man who can move mountains.
鯛の尾より鰯の頭 — The head of the sea bream from the tail of the sea bream. = It is better to be the first in the village than the last in the city.
鶏口となる牛後となる勿れ — After the cow that becomes the chicken mouth. = It is better to be the first in the village than the last in the city.
夜目遠目笠の内 — Inside of the hat. = Any woman seems beautiful in the dark, from afar or under a paper umbrella.
可愛い子に旅をさせよ — Let a cute girl travel.
井の中の蛙、大海を知らず — Frog in the well, not knowing the ocean.
門前の小僧習わぬ経を読む — Read the sutras that the kid in front of the gate does not learn.
言わぬが花 — Needless to say, flowers. = Silence is gold.
臭いものに蠅がたかる — Flies are struck by stinking things.
鳴く猫は鼠を捕らぬ — Crying cats don't catch mice.
喬木風強し — To tall trees wind strength. = To whom much is given, much will be required.
知恵者一人馬鹿万人 — One wise man, one stupid man.
虎穴に入らずんば虎子を得ず — If you do not enter the tiger's cave, you will not catch its cub. = To be afraid of wolves - do not go into the forest.
祈るより稼げ — Earn more than pray.
七人の子は生すとも女に心許すな — Even if the seven children are born, don't forgive the woman.
天に口無し人を以て言わしむ — Say to heaven with a mouthless person.
来年の事を言えば鬼が笑う — Speaking of next year, the demon will laugh.
雲は竜に従い虎は風に従う — Clouds follow dragons, Tigers follow wind.
捨てる神あれば拾う神あり — If there is a god to throw away, there is a god to pick up. = One god has forgotten you - another will help you.
一犬虚に吠え万犬これに和す — One dog will bark in vain - ten thousand will take it seriously.
一石二鳥 — One stone - two bird. = Killing two birds with one stone.
頭の上の蠅も追われぬ — The flies on my head are not chased.
猫に鰹節を預けるよう — Leave the dried bonito to the cat. = Let the goat into the kitchen-garden.
父母の恩は山よりも高く海よりも深し — Parents' grace is higher than the mountains and deeper than the sea.
安物買いの銭失い — Losing money to buy cheap goods.
唾も引っ掛けない — Don't even catch spit.
千丈の堤も蟻の穴から — A dam a thousand jo long is destroyed by an ant hole.
寺の隣りに鬼が棲む — A demon lives next to the temple.
灯台下暗し — It's always dark under the lighthouse.
提灯持ち足下暗し — Dark with lanterns. = More visible from the side; Face to face, no face to be seen.
触らぬ神に祟りなし — As long as you don't touch God, he doesn't curse. = It is better not to tease the geese.
勝って兜の緒を締めよ — Win and tighten the helmet.
尊い寺は門から — The precious temple is from the gate.
実のなる木は花から知れる — The fruit tree is known from the flowers. = У талантливых людей способности проявляют с детства.
形影相弔う — Shape Shadow Mourning. = Object and shadow sympathize with each other.
元の木阿弥 — Original tree Ami. = Stay with nothing.
負けるが勝ち — Lose but win. = To lose (often means) to win.
屁と火事はもとから騒ぐ — Flatulence and fire make noise from the beginning. = Usually the one who is to blame the most and resents.
針を以て地を刺す — Stick the ground with a needle. = Bite off more than one can chew.
明日の百より今日の五十 — A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
燕雀安んぞ鴻鵠の志を知らんや — How can swallows and sparrows know the thoughts of a swan? = How can an insignificant person comprehend great ideas?
堪忍袋の緒が切れる — The patience bag runs out. = Patience is running out.
蛇心仏口 — Snake Heart Buddha Mouth.
親は苦労、子は楽、孫は乞食 — Parents have a hard time, children are comfortable, grandchildren are beggars.
乗りかかった船で後へは引けぬ — I can't pull back with the ship I'm on. = Called himself a mushroom - climb into the basket.
武士は食わねど高揚枝 — A samurai picks his teeth with a toothpick even if he hasn't eaten.
自分の頭の蠅を追え — Follow the flies on your head. = Mind your own business and don't mess with others.
能ある鷹は爪を隠す — A strong hawk hides its claws (for the time being). = Wise man keeps some of his talents in reserve. Person who knows most often says least.
ごまめの歯軋り — Grinding teeth of a dried sardine. = Teeth creaking of sesame. About impotent malice.
盲蛇に怖じず — Don't be afraid of blind snakes. = Courage due to ignorance or ignorance.
毛を吹いて疵を求む — Blow hair and seek flaws.
人の噂も七十五日 — People's rumors are also 75 days.
聞くは一時の恥聞かぬは一生の恥 — Hearing is a temporary shame, not hearing is a lifetime shame.
鷸蚌の争いは漁夫の利 — The battle for sandpipers is a fisherman's interest.
疑心暗鬼を生ず — Fear breeds black devils. = Fear has big eyes.
強弩の末魯縞を穿つ能わず — An arrow at the end cannot pierce even thin silk.
笑う門には福来たる — Fortune comes to the laughing gate.
才人多病 — Talented illness.
虎は死して皮を留め、人は死して名を残す — Tigers die and skin, people die and leave their names. = The tiger takes care of his skin, the man takes care of his name.
知る者言わず、言う者知らず — Don't say who knows, don't know who says.
三日見ぬ間の桜 — Three days have not passed, and the cherry has faded. = All good things pass quickly.
娘三人持てば身代潰す — If you have three daughters, you will be broke.
笑みの中の刀 — Sword in a smile. = It is difficult to say what is in the soul of a constantly laughing person.
隣の花は赤い — The flower next door is red.
曲れる枝には曲れる影あり — There is a bendable shadow on the bendable branch. = A bad result is born from a bad start.
裏には裏がある — There is a back on the back. = Everything is more complicated than it seems at first glance.
一将功成って万骨枯る — One general is successful and all the bones die. = Glory to one commander - death to thousands of soldiers.
一斑を見て全豹を卜す — Look at one spot and squeeze all the panthers. = Judge the whole by the part.
逃がした魚は大きい — The missed fish is big. = Lost seems better than it really is.
勤勉は成功の母 — Diligence is the mother of success.
朝の紅顔、夕べの白骨 — Red face in the morning, white bones in the evening. = Life is unpredictable and very fragile.
河童に水練を教える — Teaching kappa water training. = Teach your grandmother to suck eggs.
我が身を抓って人の痛さを知れ — Pinch yourself and find out if it hurts another. = First check on yourself what you are going to do to another.
同じ釜の飯を食う — Eat rice in the same kettle. = Live under the same roof with someone.
良薬は口に苦し — Good medicine suffers from mouth.
泳ぎ上手は川で死ぬ — A good swimmer dies in the river.
高嶺の花 — A flower on top of a mountain. = The eye sees, but the tooth is numb. Lofty dream.
実るほど頭の下がる稲穂かな — Is it an ear of rice that goes down as it grows? = The smarter, the more humble.
口より出れば世間 — If it comes out of the mouth, the world. = The word is not a sparrow: if it flies out, you won't catch it.
人の痛いのは三年でも辛抱する — Someone else's suffering can be tolerated for at least three years.
中の米の飯より隣の麦飯 — Barley at a neighbor's is tastier than rice at home.
案ずるより産むが易しい — Giving birth to a baby is easier than worrying about it. = Fear is greater than the danger. / An attempt is sometimes easier than expected.
出る杭は打たれる — The stake that sticks up gets hammered down. = If you stand out, you will be subject to criticism.
知らぬが仏 — Not knowing is Buddha. = Ignorance is bliss. / What you don't know can't hurt you.
見ぬが花 — Not seeing is a flower. = Reality can't compete with imagination.
花は桜木人は武士 — Of flowers, the cherry blossom; of men, the warrior. = As the cherry blossom is considered foremost among flowers, so the warrior is foremost among men.
猫に小判 — Gold coins to a cat. = Casting pearls before swine / Giving something of value to a recipient that does not value it.
七転び八起き — Fall seven times and stand up eight. = When life knocks you down, stand back up; What matters is not the bad that happened, but what one does after.
猿も木から落ちる — Even monkeys fall from trees. = Anyone can make a mistake.
花より団子 — Dumplings rather than flowers. = To prefer substance over form, as in to prefer to be given functional, useful items (such as dumplings) instead of merely decorative items (such as flowers).
十人十色 — Ten persons, ten colors. = To each his own. / Different strokes for different folks. / So many people, so many minds.
因果応報 — Cause bring result / Bad causes bring bad results. = What goes around comes around. [This is a Buddhist sentiment that emphasizes the idea of karmic retribution.]
弱肉強食 — The weak are meat; the strong eat. = Survival of the fittest.
海千山千 — Ocean-thousand, mountain-thousand. = A sly old fox - someone who has had all sorts of experience in life so that they can handle, or wiggle out of, any difficult situations through cunning alone. This meaning derives from an old saying that a snake lives in the ocean for a thousand years and in the mountains for another thousand years before it turns into a dragon. Hence a sly, worldly-wise person is referred to as one who has spent `a thousand years in the ocean and another thousand in the mountains`.
合縁奇縁 — Uncanny relationship formed by a quirk of fate
一期一会 — One life - one encounter. = (Every encounter is a) Once-in-a-lifetime experience.
色恋沙汰 — Romantic entanglement; Love affair
傍目八目 — A bystander's vantage point.
手前味噌 — Singing one's own praises; Tooting one's own horn.
二股膏薬 — Double-dealer; Timeserver.
一攫千金 — One grasp - thousand gold. = Making a fortune at a stroke.
美人薄命 — Beauty person - thin life. = A beautiful woman is destined to die young. / Beauty and fortune seldom go together.
酔生夢死 — Drunken life - dreamy death. = Idling one's life away; Dreaming away one's life accomplishing nothing significant.
悪因悪果 — Bad/evil cause - bad/evil effect. = An evil cause produces an evil effect; Sow evil and reap evil.
会者定離 — Meeting person - always be separated. = Every meeting must involve a parting; Those who meet must part.
異体同心 — Different body - same mind. = Harmony of mind between two persons; Two persons acting in perfect accord.
順風満帆 — Gentle/favorable wind - full sails. = Smooth sailing with all sails set; Everything going smoothly.
自画自賛 — Own/self painting self/own praise / an inscription written on a painting. = A painting with an inscription or poem written by the artist themselves. OR: Singing one's own praises; Blowing one's own horn; self-admiration.
我田引水 — Own/self field draw water. = Self-seeking; Feathering one's own nest.
唯我独尊 — Only self - alone respect/honor. = I alone am honored; Holier-than-thou; Holy am I alone.
電光石火 — Electricity light - stone fire. = As fast as lightning.
一日一歩 — One day - one step. = One step each day.