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5 Must Know Japanese Proverbs Posted by on Oct 31, 2015 in Culture, Grammar

In Japanese, we have many proverbs that are well known, but below, I have collected major ones that are good to know. These are simple and easy to understand, so we often use in our daily conversations.  I have included the English translation or English proverbs where applicable, so you can relate to what you are used to hearing.

 

 

  1. 雨降って地固まる (Ame futte ji katamaru) -あめふって じ かたまる
  • Adversity strengthens the foundations
  • After a storm comes a calm
  • Good comes out of evil

Basically, meaning of this proverb is, after you experience something bad, there comes good things. Literal translation is  “After rain, comes fair weather.” This is one of my favorite proverbs.

 

 

  2.  花より団子(Hana yori dango) – はな より だんご

You might have heard the proverbs such as,

  • Dumplings rather than flowers
  • Pudding before praise
  • Better have meat than fine clothes

Basically, what it means is that, people are more interested in the practical over the aesthetic. This Japanese proverb is also used in an ironic way as well when we talk about people to criticize, for someone who does not understand the true meaning of something.

 

 

3. 一石二鳥 (Isseki ni cho) – いっせき にちょう

  • Kill two birds with one stone.

This is probably one of the easiest and most used proverbs in our house. I often talk to kids explaining things using this proverb.  Literal translation is exactly, “Kill two birds with one stone.”

 

 

  4. 縁の下の力持ち (En no shitano chikara mochi)-  えんの したの ちから もち

  • Person who does a thankless task
  • unsung hero

I was not able to find the exact match for this proverb in English.  Example: かれは えんの したの ちからもち だ。(Kare wa en no shita no chikara mochi da.) ===> He is a man of modest worth.

 

 

5. 郷に入っては郷に従え (Gou ni haitte wa gou ni shitagae) – ごうに はいっては ごうに したがえ

  • When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
  • You should conform to the custom of the country

This is the proverb I often tell the kids when we travel back and force between Japan and U.S. There are many cultural things they need to adjust while in Japan. If you are a traveler, you would know the true meaning of this.

 

There are many more useful proverbs in Japanese. Do you have anything particular that you like? If so, share with me in the comment section!

 

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About the Author:keiko

Born and raised in Japan. She currently lives in U.S. with her husband and two kids.


Comments:

  1. Brent Carver:

    Thank you for the Japanese proverbs!
    Brent

  2. radha rao:

    Even a monkey can fall.

    • keiko:

      @radha rao Hi Radha,

      That’s a good one! In Japanese would be, “Saru mo kikara ochiru (猿の木から落ちる)”

      Thanks for sharing!

      Keiko