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Japanese Proverbs Posted by on Mar 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

The tsunami and earthquake of Japan caused a tremendous amount of devastation that is still wreaking havoc on the country. In situations like this, a few Japanese proverbs come to mind.

泣き面に蜂 = Nakitsura ni hachi

This proverb is very apt in this situation because it means that misfortune rarely comes in a single blow. If it wasn’t bad enough for the tsunami and earthquake alone, the worry over nuclear contamination is another setback that the Japanese people have to deal with. In English, this proverb is similar to the saying  “when it rains, it pours”. 泣き面 means “tearful face”while means “bee”. So this proverb literally means “sorrow in addition to pain”. The sorrow refers to the “tearful face” and the “bee” refers to the sting or the pain of the sting. It”s similar to the English saying “adding insult to injury.”

Another Japanese proverb that comes to mind is:

あさのこうがん、ゆうべのはっこ = asa no kougan, yūbe no hakkou

あさのこうがんmeans “rosy cheeks of the morning” while ゆうべのはっこ literally means “skeletons of the evening”. In other words, this proverb is describing the fragility of life by showing that even a youth (rosy cheeks) who was healthy and in his/her prime can end up as a skeleton within a single day. This proverb applies to the situation in Japan as well. Before the tsunami and earthquake hit, people were going on with their daily lives, but now there are some people in Japan who find themselves without housing, food and their loved ones.

This is a proverb that applies especially to Japanese people:

雨降って地固まる = Ame futte ji katamaru

雨降 means “rainfall” and地固 means “foundation”. So literally this proverb means that constant rainfall strengthens the foundation. In other words, adversity (rainfall) will strenthen one’s character (foundation). Although Japan is one of the world’s most advanced nations, it wasn’t always like that in the past. After World War II and after the bombs were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Japan was a struggling nation dealing with poverty and famine. However seventy years after WWII, Japan has rose to become one of the leading nations in the world. It’s true that this recent disaster has temporarily damaged Japan, but because Japanese people have a strong work ethic, this tragedy will be overcome; much like the aftermath of WWII.

This next proverb applies not just to the recent disaster in Japan, but in life in general:

七転八起 = Nanakorobi yaoki

七転 means to “fall seven times” and八起means to “stand up eight times”. This proverb is used in times of difficulty as a way to encourage someone to never give up. It’s like saying “Even if you fall, do your best to try again”. This proverb can be used in the current situation that Japan is facing. You can use this proverb to tell someone that there may be vast amount of destruction, but keep trying and never lose hope.

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  1. BK201:

    How gr8 proverbs! We all can relate to it in our lives…thanx a lot!