What are some good Japanese phrases about life?
In this quick guide, you’ll learn 16 interesting Japanese phrases.
Yes, translations and romanizations are included so you can learn a bit of Japanese along the way. By the way, some of these make for great Japanese tattoo phrases.
Ready? Let’s go.
1) 人生に失敗がないと、人生に失敗する。If you don’t make mistakes in life, your life will be a mistake.
- Pronunciation: Jinsei ni shippai shinaito, jinsei ni shippai suru.
This was said by a famous Japanese psychologist named Shigeta Saito. These words reflect life in a way that makes you stay positive even in hardship. What may seem like a big mistake in life, could be what gives your life meaning. It is similar to the phrase “there’s no success without failure”.
- 人生 – jinsei – life
- 失敗 – shippai – failure, mistake
2) 一陽来復 Good things come after something bad
- Pronunciation: Ichiyou raifuku
Ichiyou raifuku means that the spring comes after the winter. It symbolizes the way that things that are bad don’t last forever. It is a positive message about life that there will be a brighter future.
- 来復 – raifuku – return/coming back
3) 未来とは今である。The future is now.
- Pronunciation: Mirai to wa ima de aru.
In life, we tend to wait for things to happen or to take action. This phrase is about how important it is to live life in the moment. Waiting for the future won’t change things and make a difference.
- 未来 – mirai – future
- 今 – ima – now
4) 自分の生きる人生を愛せ。Love the life you’re living.
- Pronunciation: Jibun no ikiru jinsei o aise.
Loving your own life can be tied to happiness. Even if things seem bad, it’s good to remember to be grateful for life itself. Loving each day will make everything more fulfilling.
- 自分 – jibun – yourself/your/myself/mine
- 生きる – ikiru – to live
- 人生 – jinsei – life
- 愛せ (verb in the imperative form) – aise
- dictionary form is 愛す – (aisu) – to love
5) 共存共栄 Help each other and prosper together
- Pronunciation: Kyouson kyouei
This is a phrase about life that reflects on how it is not possible to do things alone. In order to be prosperous, you need the help of others. If we all help each other out, we’ll also benefit from being successful.
- 共存 – kyouson – coexistence
- 共栄 – kyouei – mutual prosperity
6) いくつになってもわからないものが人生というものである。No matter your age, what you don’t know represents life.
- Pronunciation: Ikutsu ni natte mo wakaranai mono ga jinsei to iu mono dearu.
A famous Japanese inventor named Kounosuke Matsushita said these words. He believed that the meaning of life comes from the unknowns that life brings. If we continue to look for answers and stay curious we’ll always find motivation in life.
- いくつ – how many/how old
- なって – natte (verb in imperative form)
- なる – naru – to become
- もの – mono – thing
- わからない – wakaranai (verb in the negative form) – not understand
- わかる - wakaru – to understand
7) 行雲流水 Flow as the clouds and water
- Pronunciation: Kouun ryuusui
This is a Japanese saying that means that you shouldn’t fixate on things. It is about seeing where things take you instead of forcing a path in life. Just like the water and the clouds, it can also be good to let things flow in their own directions.
- 行雲 – Kouun – drifting clouds
- 流水 – ryuusui – stream/running water
8) 生々流転 The constant changing of states between life and death
- Pronunciation: Shoujou ruten
Shoujou ruten is a Buddhist phrase that represents the constant cycle of life. Death brings birth and birth brings death. It means that things never stay in the same state and things are constantly changing at any given time.
- 生々 – sei sei – lively
- 流転 – ruten – continual change
9) 苦しい時でも、とにかく笑っていろ。Even in hard times, keep laughing.
- Pronunciation: Kurushii toki demo, tonikaku waratte iro.
When things are bad, you might be tempted to drown in misery. However, this Japanese phrase is about trying to keep laughing even when you’re down. Finding lightness can help when things get tough. This was a quote by a leading Japanese entrepreneur named Masmichi Fujimori.
- 苦しい – kurushii – painful, difficult
- 時 – toki – time
- とにか – tonikaku – anyhow, anyway
- 笑っていろ (verb in present continuous form) – waratte iru
10) 万死一生 Having a near death experience
- Banshi isshou
This phrase means that you survived something that would have killed most people. Sometimes life can be interesting because there can be miracles. The phrase’s kanji characters translate to “ten thousand deaths, one life”.
- 万死 – banshi – certain death
- 一生 – isshou – one life
11) 無為徒食 Doing nothing in life and partying
- Pronunciation: Mui toshoku
Mui toshoku is a more negative phrase about life. It represents people who live life partying without doing anything productive. It can be a good reminder to try to find enjoyment in life without resorting to easy pleasures. This kind of lifestyle might make it difficult to find happiness in the long run.
- 無為 – mui – idleness
- 徒食 – toshoku – idle life
- 食 – shoku – food
- 徒 – to – party
12) 道に迷うことこそ、道を知ることだ。Getting lost, is how you learn the way.
- Pronunciation: Michi ni mayou koto koso, michi o shiru koto da.
Getting lost can be scary, but it is also the best way to learn the route. This also applies to the road of life. We shouldn’t fear not knowing the way, because this is how we’ll figure out the right path.
- 道に迷う – michi ni mayou – to lose your way
- 道 – michi – road/street/path/route
- 知る – shiru – to know
13) 人生は一度きり。You only live once
- Pronunciation: Jinsei wa ichi do kiri.
This phrase is also popular in English, but it can be a good phrase to remind yourself to make the most of your life. If you’ve held off on being adventurous or trying something new, remember that you might lose that opportunity.
- 一度 – ichido – one time
14) 人生は夢だらけ。Life is full of dreams
- Pronunciation: Jinsei wa yume darake
This Japanese phrase comes from the title of a popular song by Ringo Sheena. In life, we tend to always think about what we wish and want for the future. This is what keeps us motivated and moving forward. “Jinsei wa yume darake” sums up this feeling that all of us have.
- 夢 – yume – dream
15) 人生の転機 A turning point in life
- Pronunciation: Jinsei no tenki
Japanese people call the various turning points in life “jinsei no tenki”. It can indicate times in life when your whole course shifts. This can happen from promotions, being internationally recognized, getting laid off, or all kinds of life events. The unpredictability of life can be represented by this phrase.
- 転機 – tenki – turning point
16) 悲観的になるのは、自分の事ばかり考えているから。You become pessimistic because you’re thinking about yourself.
- Pronunciation: Hikanteki ni narunowa, jibun no koto bakari kangaeteiru kara.
Shigeta Saito, a Japanese psychologist, famously said these words. It means that when you’re becoming pessimistic, it’s because you’re not thinking outside of yourself. When you see how much hope there is around you, it’ll be easier to think positively about life.
- 悲観的 – hikanteki – pessimistic
- 事 – koto – thing
Now, you know some interesting Japanese phrases about life.
If you want to remember these phrases, print out this page.
If you have a favorite Japanese phrase, leave a comment.
Also, if you want Japanese phrases about love then click the link.
I read ’em all.
– The Main Lingua Junkie