Like the famous English proverbs “Don’t cry over spilled milk”, there are a lot of proverbs used in Japanese conversation, books and newspapers. It is very important to know them in order to fully understand Japanese conversation and readings. They’re wisdom words from the old time but they are still expressing general truth. I am sure these Japanese proverbs will give you some help to live better and make you think deeper or make you laugh. This time, let me introduce several popular Japanese proverbs.
#1. Ame futte chi katamaru
Japanese: 雨降って地固まる (あめふってじかたまる)
Literal translation: After the rain falls, earth hardens
Usually people don’t like rainy weather and also the muddy soil made by the rain. However, when the rain stops and the sunshine dries the muddy soil, the ground becomes harder and easier to walk than its original status. Like this, sometimes problems annoy you when they are happening but after they are gone, the situation becomes better than the time before the problem happens. Therefore, the saying is giving you an advice that you should accept problems or hardness as factors which can change the situation better.
#2. Me wa kuchi hodo ni mono wo iu
Japanese: 目は口ほどに物を言う (めはくちほどにものをいう)
Literal translation: The eyes are as eloquent as the mouth.
We can not always trust what the other people say. They may tell a lie. However you can read their actual feelings or thoughts if you watch their eyes carefully since the eyes represent the most remarkable feelings of emotion. Therefore, don’t forget to bring ark sunglasses with you when you will go to a meeting where you may have to tell a lie.
#3. Nanakorobi yaoki
Japanese: 七転び八起き (ななころびやおき)
Literal translation: stumbling seven times but recovering at eighth trial.
In Japan, the number eight has been considered as a lucky number since the Kanji character of eight (八) looks like a mountain and it looks very stable. Life is not always easy and there must be many problems and failures in each people’s life. This proverb tells that nobody can avoid failures but if we will not give up and keep trying there must be a chance to recover and make a success.
#4. Ni usagi wo ou mono wa ichi usagi wo mo ezu
Japanese: 二兎を追う者は一兎をも得ず (にとをおうものはいっとをもえず)
Literal translation: One who chases after two rabbits won’t catch even one.
If you are hunting and two rabbits show up at the same time in front of you, what do you do? I guess many people would like to get both. However, if you do so, your concentration may be split and eventually you can not get any of them. So this proverb tells you “Don’t be greedy and try to get multiple things at the same time. It makes you fail in all.”
#5. Shiranu ga hotoke
Japanese: 知らぬが仏 (しらぬがほとけ)
Literal translation: Not knowing is Buddha.
There is a similar proverb in English which is “Ignorance is a bliss”. If a person hears and knows a bad rumor about the person, she/he must be upset and stand. But if the person doesn’t know about it he/she can smile like a Buddha with calm mind. So this proverb tells, in a certain case, it’s better to not let someone know the truth. This proverb is also used to mock a carefree and happy guy in the shade.
#6. Saru mo ki kara ochiru
Japanese: 猿も木から落ちる (さるもきからおちる)
Literal translation: Even monkeys fall from trees.
As you know monkeys are very good at climbing trees but even monkeys could make mistake and fall from trees. So this proverb is used when someone makes an easy mistake in the area where she/he usually does well. If you are good at baseball and fails to catch an easy fly ball, you must be shocked and become depressed mood. At such situation, if you are told this proverb by your friend, you could be diverted.
#7. Jūnin toiro
Literal translation: ten men, ten colors
In this proverb, “color” means character. Nobody has exactly same character as the others. If there are ten men, there must be ten different characters. This proverb tells that we must accept the differences of other people’s tastes. The English proverb of “So many men, so many minds” is similar as this proverb.