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Japanese proverbs

Japanese proverbs include 四字熟語 (Yojijukugo Four-character idioms), ことわざ (Kotowaza proverbs) and 慣用句 (Kanyouku Common idioms[?]). Japanese love proverbs and use them in everyday life frequently.

Because traditional Japanese culture was tied to agriculture, many Japanese proverbs are derived from agricultural customs and practices. Many of them contain commentary on the behavior of women as well as natural phenomena. Some are from the Go game and Buddhism and many four-character phrases are from Chinese philosophy.

The heavy employment of proverbs enables Japanese language to be compact, quick and simple. Evidence might be found in Japanese animation and Japanese comics or manga. The huge popularity in instant messaging by cellular phones can be due to this.

Among them are:

  • 挨拶は時の氏神 (Aisatsu ha tokino ujigami) -- (lit. )
  • 秋茄子は嫁に食わすな (Akinasu ha yome ni kuwasuna) -- (lit. Don't get fall-harvest eggplant (nasu) to your son's wife)
  • 悪妻は百年の不作 (Akusai ha hyaku-nen no fusaku) -- (lit. a bad wife is one hundred years of bad harvest)
  • あまり物には福がある (Amarimono niha fuku ga aru) -- (lit. fortunes exist among leftovers)
  • 案ずるより生むが易し (Anjiru yori umu ga yasushi) -- (lit. It's easier to make it than thinking about it)
  • 傍若無人 (Boujaku bujin) -- (lit. ) from 史記
  • 着眼大局 (Chakugan taikyoku) -- (lit. ) from Go game. Comment: Go proverbs seem to be a rich source of proverbs that don't have direct equivalents in English. Does the author have more? If so, at least literal translations would help
  • 智恵出でて大偽あり (Chie idete taigi ari)
  • 血も涙もない (Chi mo namida mo nai) -- (lit. He has neither blood or tears)
  • 長者にニ代なし (Choja-ni nidai nashi)
  • 知恵者一人馬鹿万人 (Chiesha hitori baka mannin) -- (lit. one wiseman and 10 thousands idiots)
  • 泥中の蓮 (Deichuu no hachisu) -- (lit. )
  • 海老で鯛を釣る (Ebi de tai wo tsuru) -- (lit. Fishing a sea beam by shrimp)
  • 江戸っ子は五月の鯉の吹き流し (Edokko ha gogatsu no koi no fukinagashi) -- (lit. )
  • 覆水盆にかえらず (Fukusui bon ni kaerazu) -- (lit. )
  • 風前のともし火 (Fuuzen no tomoshibi) -- (lit. )
  • 風樹の歎 (Fuuju no tan) -- (lit. )
  • 芸が身を助ける (Gei ga mi wo tasukeru) -- (lit. Your skills help you)
  • 芸が身を助けるほどの不仕合せ (Gei ga mi wo tasukeru hodo no fushiawase) -- (lit. )
  • 下衆の後知恵 (Gesu no atojie) -- (lit. )
  • 義を見てせざるは勇無きなり (Gi wo mite sezaru ha yuu naki nari) -- (lit. )
  • 肺肝を披く (Haikan wo hiraku) -- (lit. ) from 杜甫
  • 肺肝を砕く (Haikan wo kudaku) -- (lit. )
  • 八方塞がり (Happou fusagari) -- (lit. )
  • 盲蛇に怖じず (Mekura hebi ni ojizu) -- (lit. ) from 世話尽
  • へそで茶を沸かす (Heso de cha wo wakasu) -- (lit. Making tea on the navel)
  • 日暮れて道遠し (Higurete michi tooshi) -- (lit. It's a long way after dark) from 史記
  • 人の振り見て我が振りなおせ (Hito no furimite wagafuri naose) -- Instead of accusing others of bad manners, learn from it and behave yourself. (lit. Correct your own behavior by looking at others')
  • 冷や飯を食わせる (Hiyameshi wo kuwaseru) -- (lit. Letting him eat cold meal)
  • 臍を固める (Hozo wo katameru) -- (lit. )
  • 言いたい事は明日言え (Iitai koto ha ashita ie) -- (lit. Say it tomorrow if you have something to say)
  • 犬も歩けば棒に当たる (Inu mo arukeba bou ni ataru) -- things happen when you do something (lit. even walking dogs hit a bar)
  • 入り鉄砲に出女 (Iri deppou ni deonna) -- (lit. guns enter and women leave)
  • 医者の不養生 (Isha no fuyoujou) -- A doctor may be careless about his/her own health (lit. A doctor's carelessness about his/her own health)
  • 石の上にも三年 (Ishi no ue nimo sannen) -- (lit. Sitting on a stone for three years)
  • 一石二鳥 (Isseki nicho) -- conveniently or smartly achieving two goals by making just one move (lit. two birds with one stone) English: Killing two birds with one stone
  • 言わぬが花 (Iwanu ga hana) -- When kept secret, people tend to imagine it is a very good thing (lit. not speaking is a flower) English equivalent: silence is golden.
  • 地獄耳 (Jigoku mimi) -- Ability to catch rumor, gossip, or anything of his/her benefit, or the person who has that ability (lit. Hell ear)
  • 壁に耳あり、障子に目あり (Kabe ni mimi ari, shoji ni me ari) -- one may not be fully aware of how closely one is being monitored by others (lit. the walls have ears, the doors have eyes) The English equivalent is just the walls have ears.
  • 飼い犬に手をかまれる (Kaiinu ni te wo kamareru) -- (lit. Your own dog bites your hand)
  • 金持ち喧嘩せず (Kanemochi kenka sezu) -- (lit. The rich don't fight)
  • 堪忍袋の緒が切れる (Kanninbukuro no o ga kireru) -- (lit. )
  • 河童の川流れ (Kappa no kawa nagare) -- Even professionals fails sometimes (lit. )
  • 彼も人なりわれも人なり (Kare mo hito nari ware mo hito nari) -- (lit. He is a person and I am a person too)
  • 風吹けば桶屋が儲かる (Kaze fukeba okeya ga moukaku) -- The world is interconnected even though it doesn't seem to be (lit. A bucket shop profits when wind blows)
  • 風の中で育った木は根が強い (Kaze no naka de sodatta ki ha ne ga tsuyoi) -- (lit. The root of a tree that grew up in wind is strong)
  • 風と女は閉じ込められない (Kaze to onna ha tojikome rarenai) -- (lit. You can't lock in wind or woman)
  • 聞くは一時の恥 聞かぬは一生の恥 (Kiku ha ittoki no haji kikanu ha isshô no haji) -- (lit. Shame when you ask is less than when you didn't)
  • 恋に師匠無し (Koi ni shishou nashi) -- (lit. There is no teacher for love)
  • 国士無双 (Kokushi musou) -- (lit. No one else in the nation)
  • 紺屋の白袴 (Kouya no shiro bakama) -- (lit. )
  • 食うだけなら犬でも食う (Kuu dakenara inu demo kuu) -- (lit. Even dogs eat)
  • まかぬ種は生えぬ (Makanu tane ha haenu) -- (lit. It doesn't bud if you don't seed)
  • 枕を高くして寝る (Makura wo takakushite neru) -- (lit. sleeping with tall pillow)
  • 待てば甘露の日和有り (Mateba kanro no hiyori ari) -- (lit. )
  • 芽が出る (Me ga deru) -- (lit. It buds)
  • 明鏡も裏を照らさず (Meikyou mo ura wo terasazu) -- (lit. )
  • 名物に美味いものなし (Meibutsu ni umaimono nashi) -- (lit. No famous food is delicious)
  • 明鏡止水 (Meikyou shisui) -- (lit. ) from 荘子
  • 餅は餅屋 (Mochi ha mochiya) -- Let a professional do it (lit. Mochi is mochi store)
  • ミイラとりがミイラになる (Miiratori ga miira ni naru) -- (lit. A mummy hunter becomes a mummy)
  • 三日坊主 (Mikka bouzu) -- A person getting bored in three days (lit. A three-day monk)
  • 無理は三度 (Muri ha sando) -- (lit. impossible is three times)
  • 水の泡となる (Mizuno awato naru) -- (lit. it becomes a bubble of water)
  • 桃栗三年柿八年 (Momokuri sannen kaki hachinenn) -- (lit. You can harvest peaches and chestnuts in three years and persimmons in eight years)
  • 物は試し (Monowa tameshi) -- give it a try (lit. things are to be tried) Just do it in English
  • 門前市を成す (Monzen ichi wo nasu) -- (lit. )
  • 求めよさらば与えられん (Motomeyo sareba ataeraren) -- (lit. Want then you can get it)
  • 昔取った杵柄 (Mukashi totta kinezuka) -- Experiences from the past (lit. )
  • 無い袖は振れぬ (Naisode ha furenu) -- You can't do anything with it if you don't have it (lit. ) from 世話尽
  • 七転び八起き (Nanakorobi yaoki) -- (lit. You roll seven times and wake up eight times)
  • ならぬ堪忍するが堪忍 (Naranu kannin suru ga kannin) -- (lit. )
  • 夏の雨は、馬の背を分ける (Natsu no ame ha, uma no se wo wakeru) -- (lit. Summer rain separates the top of horse)
  • 猫も杓子も (Neko mo shakushi mo) -- Everybody (lit. )
  • 猫に小判 (Neko ni koban) -- It's not worth for him (lit. Money for cats)
  • 猫を被る (Neko wo kaburu) -- (lit. You wear a cat)
  • 煮え湯に水を差す (Nieyu ni mizu wo sasu) -- (lit. )
  • 能ある鷹は爪を隠す (Nou aru taka ha tsume wo kakusu) -- Talented hawks hide their nails (lit. )
  • 糠に釘 (Nuka ni kugi) -- (lit. )
  • 老い木に花 (Oiki ni hana) -- An old person behaving like young (lit. Flowers on a old tree)
  • 女心と秋の空 (Onnagokoro to aki no sora) -- (lit. The mind of a woman in fall sky)
  • 押してもだめなら引いてみな (Oshitemo dame nara hiite mina) -- (lit. Pull if it does not work when you push)
  • 男心と秋の空 (Otokogogoro to aki no sora) -- (lit. The mind of a man and the fall sky)
  • 楽は苦の種 苦は楽の種 (Raku ha ku no tane ku ha raku no tane) -- (lit. )
  • 礼も過ぎれば無礼 (Rei mo sugireba burei) -- (lit. More than polite is rude.)
  • 李下に冠を正さず (Rika ni kanmuri wo tadasazu) -- (lit. )
  • 老少不定 (Roushou fujou) -- (lit. ) From French
  • 類は友を呼ぶ (Rui ha tomowo yobu) -- Like-minded tend to befriend with each other. (lit. Similarities call friends) from 易経 Birds of a feather flock together, or perhaps, 'Great minds think alike in English.
  • 瑠璃も玻璃も照らせば光る (Ruri mo hari mo teraseba hikaru) -- (lit. )
  • 瑠璃も玻璃も照らせばかわる (Ruri mo hari mo teraseba wakaru) -- (lit. )
  • 塞翁が馬 (Saiou ga uma) -- (lit. )
  • 才子才に倒れる (Saishi sai ni taoreru) -- (lit. Talented person fails because of the talent)
  • 策士、策におぼれる (Sakushi, sakushi ni oboreru) -- (lit. )
  • 猿も木から落ちる (Saru mo ki kara ochiru) -- even experts make mistakes (lit. Even monkeys drop from a tree)
  • 青雲の志 (Seiun no kokorozashi) -- (lit. ambitious of blue sky)
  • 切磋琢磨 (Sessa takuma) -- (lit. )
  • 四海波静か (Shikai nami shizuka) -- (lit. )
  • 神出鬼没 (Shin shutsu ki botsu) -- unexpectedness of a person's behavior, indicating the person is clever (lit. to appear like a god and disappear like a phantom)
  • 疾風に勁草を知る (Shippuu ni keisou wo shiru) -- (lit. )
  • 袖すり合うも他生の縁 (Sode suriau mo tasyou no en) -- (lit. )
  • 滄海の一粟 (Soukai no ichizoku) -- (lit. )
  • 水火も辞せず (Suika mo jisezu) -- (lit. )
  • するのは失敗何もしないのは大失敗 (Suru noha shippai nanimo shinai noha daishippai) -- (lit. Doing is a mistake, not doing is a huge mistake)
  • 旅の恥はかきすて (Tabi no haji ha kakisute) -- (lit. )
  • 大海の一滴 (Taikai no itteki) -- (lit. One drop in the big ocean)
  • 他人は時の花 (Tanin ha tokino hana) -- (lit. Others are flower of time)
  • 楽しみは憂いに生ず (Tanoshimi ha ureini shouzu)
  • 立て板に水 (Tateita ni mizu) -- (lit. Water running on a vertical board)
  • 手を拱く (Te wo komaneku) -- (lit. )
  • 天長地久 (Tenchou chikyuu) -- (lit. ) from 老子
  • 亭主の好きな赤烏帽子 (Teishu no sukina akaeboshi)
  • 唐人の寝言 (Tojin no negoto) -- (lit. Sleepy words by Tang China)
  • 燈台下暗し (Todai moto kurashi)
  • 年寄の冷水 (Toshiyori no hiyamizu) -- (lit. An old man's chilly water)
  • 捕らぬ狸の皮算用 (Toranu tanuki no kawazan'you) -- (lit. )
  • 取り付く島も無い (Toritsuku shima mo nai) -- (lit. )
  • 頭角を表す (Toukaku wo arawasu) -- (lit. ) from 韓愈
  • ついた餅より心持ち (Tsuita mochi yori kokoro mochi) -- (lit. )
  • 月夜に釜を抜かれる (Tsukiya ni kama wo nukareru) -- (lit. )
  • 爪の垢を煎じて飲む (Tsume no aka wo senjite nomu) -- (lit. )
  • うどの大木 (Udo no taiboku) -- Just big man with nothing (lit. A huge udo tree) All bark and no bite or All hat and no cattle in English.
  • 烏合の衆 (Ugou no shu) -- (lit. People like cloud of birds) the unwahsed masses, or an unruly mob in English, perhaps.
  • 兎の角 (Usagi no tsuno) -- (lit. The horns of rabbits)
  • ワインを損なう器は悪い器 (Wain wo sokonau utsuwa ha warui utsuwa) -- (lit. )
  • アワビの貝の片想い (Warabi no kai no kataomoi) -- (lit. )
  • 笑う門には福来る (Warau kado niha fuku kitaru) -- Laughter/smile brings happiness and fortune (lit. fortune comes to a street corner of someone smiling)
  • わわしい女は夫を食う (Wawashii onna ha otto wo kuu) -- (lit. )
  • 災い転じて福となす (Wazawai tenjite fuku to nasu) -- (lit. )
  • 薮から棒 (Yabu kara bou) -- (lit. A bar from bushes)
  • 焼け石に水 (Yakeishi ni muzu) -- Your effort is too little to affect something (lit. Putting water on hot stones)
  • 焼き餅焼くとて手を焼くな (Yakimochi yakutote te wo yakuna) -- (lit. )
  • 病膏肓に入る (Yamai koukou ni iru) -- (lit. )
  • 柳の下にいつも泥鰌はおらぬ (Yanagi no shita ni itsumo dojou ha oranu) -- (lit. )
  • 宵越しの金は持たぬ (Yoigoshi no kane ha motanu) -- (lit. )
  • 横槍を入れる (Yokoyari wo ireru) -- (lit. )
  • 唯我独尊 (Yuiga dokuson) -- (lit. )
  • 前人の植えた樹 (Zennin no ueta ki) -- You benefit from predecessors' hardships (lit. Trees planed by predecessors)
  • 自画自賛 (jiga jisan) -- You praise yourself (lit. Praise one's own work, maybe shamelessly) Every potter praises his own pot in English
  • 十人十色 (junin toiro) -- Different people have different preferences (lit. ) Different strokes for different folks, or one man's trash is another's treasure, or even it takes all sorts to make a world? in English
  • 朝の蜘蛛は福が来る、夜の蜘蛛は盗人が来る (asa no kumo ha fuku ga kuru, yoru no kumo ha nusutto ga kuru) -- (lit. )
  • 八細工七貧乏 (hachi saiku shichi binbou) -- (lit. )
  • 水は方円の器に随う (mizu ha hou en no utsuwa ni shitagau) -- (lit. )
  • 本木(幹木)に勝るうら木無し (motoki ni masaru uraki nashi) -- (lit. )
  • 焼木杙に火がつく (yake bokkui ni hi ga tsuku) -- (lit. )

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