List of Japanese Proverbs – 40 Proverbs. Part 3

Hello Junkie!

Read part 1 here.

Read part 2 here.

What’s a language without some sexy, inspirational, motivational proverbs, quotes and sayings about life? Japanese is chock full of them and in this series, I’m breaking them down word by word. That way….

  • You learn more Japanese words
  • Master some proverbs, sayings
  • Gain insight into Japanese culture
  • And use them in your Japanese conversations

✅ And hey, if you want to learn & speak Japanese with a complete learning system, (2,000+ audio/video courses, apps, study tools and more) Sign up at JapanesePod101 (click here) and start learning! I recommend ’em as a teacher & learner.

Learn Japanese with Japanese Proverbs & Sayings. Part 3.

31. 下手があるので上手が知る – Heta ga aru node jouzu ga shiru.

  • Meaning: We recognize skill because there is lack of skill.

This is a Japanese variation of Sturgeons law (ninety percent of everything is crap) in proverb form. Because there’s a lack of skill all over the place, skill and talent are easy to see.


  • 下手 – Heta – Unskillful
  • 上手 – Jouzu – Skillful
  • 知る – Shiru – To know, to be aware of


32. 明日は明日、今日は今日 – Ashita wa ashita, kyo wa kyou.

  • Meaning: Tomorrow is tomorrow, today is today.

Worry about today, because tomorrow will come tomorrow. Priorities first. One day at a time. That type of thing.


  • 明日 – Ashita – Tomorrow
  • 今日 – Kyou – Today


33. 顔は心の鏡なり – Kao ha kokoro no kagami nari 

  • Meaning: The face becomes a mirror of the soul.

What? You can’t judge a book by its cover? Well, you’d be surprised, your face (a.k.a. your cover) reveals a lot about what’s going on inside.


  • 顔 – Kao – Face
  • 心 – Kokoro – Heart, spirit, mind
  • 鏡 – Kagami – Mirror


34. 隣の花は赤い – Tonari no hana wa akai

  • Meaning: The flowers next door are red.

In other worse, the grass is greener on the other side. But in this case, it’s flowers, and they’re red. You jelly?


  • 隣 – Tonari – Neighbor, next to
  • 花 – Hana – Flower
  • 赤い – Akai – Red


35. 上には上がある – Ue ni mo ue ga aru

  • Even the top has a top.

In other words, no matter how good you are, there’s always someone better than you. But, you shouldn’t be too worried about that.


  • 上 – Ue – Top, Above


36. 天は自ら助くるものを助く – Ten wa mizukara tasukuru mono o tasuku

  • Heaven helps those who help themselves.

If there is a heaven, that is. But, preparation is important, heaven or not.


37. 氏より育ち – Uji yori sodachi

  • Birth is much, but breeding is more.

This is the Japanese version of “nature vs. nurture” except it claims that nurture, growth, or how you’re raised has greater influence on your development rather than your nature – or birth, genetics, etc.


  • 氏 – Uji – Birth, Lineage
  • 育ち- Sodachi – Breeding, Growth

    • Good to know – 育つ – Sodatsu (verb) – means “to be raised”


38. 論より証拠 – ron yori shouko

  • Meaning: Proof over theory.

Well, more so, proof beats any argument, debate or discussion. There’s no point in arguing. Just present the proof and lets move on.


  • 論 – Ron – Discussion, Debate, Argument, Theory
  • 証拠 – Shouko – Evidence, Proof


39. 良薬は口に苦し – Ryouyaku wa kuchi ni nigashi 

  • Meaning: Good medicine tastes bitter.

Or, the best advice is the one you’re afraid of hearing. Tough love. And brutal honesty. And thus, effective/good medicine is bitter, if you wish to take it.


  • 良薬 – Ryouyaku – Good medicine
  • 口 – Kuchi – Mouth
  • 苦し – Nigashi – Bitter
    • Relevant: 苦い – Nigai (adjective) means bitter.


40. 縁側の下の力持ち – Engawa no shita no chikaramochi

  • There’s a powerful person underneath the porch/veranda

What’s this mean? It means there’s always a powerful person somewhere in the background, making the decisions and pulling the strings. In this case, he’s under the porch or deck. This refers to the old style traditional Japanese homes that have an elevated deck/porch (see here).


  • 縁側 – Engawa – Veranda, Porch, Balcony
  • 下 – Shita – Under
  • 力持ち – Chikaramochi – Muscleman, strong man


Now, you tell me.

What are your favorite Japanese proverbs, sayings, idioms, etc?

Leave me a comment, I’ll add more and be sure to share this article if you like it.

Read Part 4 here.

– The Main Junkie

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *