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Learn Japanese: 30 Japanese Proverbs & Sayings. Part 2

Hello Junkie!

Read part 1 here.

Here’s Part two.

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

They’re famous, passed down from old times and inspirational… and you’re more than welcome to post them on your Facebook or Twitter. :)

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 2.

21. 知らぬが仏。Shiranu ga Hotoke.

  • Literal meaning: Not knowing is Buddha.

Meaning, ignorance is bliss. Buddha was pretty blissful and peaceful. Why? Because he didn’t need to know everything.


  • – Hotoke – Buddha


22. 出る杭は打たれる。 Deru kui wa utareru.

  • Literal meaning: The stake that stands out is struck.

You all know it as “the nail that sticks out gets hammered in.” True of Japanese culture to conform, but of course, intentions and thoughts may differ, despite the conforming looks.


  • 出る – Deru – To come out
  • – Kui – Stake
  • 打たれる – Utareru – To get beaten, struck (passive form)


23. 悪妻は百年の不作 Akusai ha hyaku-nen no fusaku.

  • Literal Meaning: A bad wife is 100 years of crop failure.

There’s more to this than a bad wife accidentally over-watering the crops and ruining a harvest for her husband. The “sai” in “akusai” is derived from 天災 (natural disaster), by its reading and not by it’s kanji character. So, aside from wives, this has a double-meaning and refers to all sorts of catastrophes, that Japan is prone to, that will mess up a hundred years of harvest.

After all, how much damage can a wife do?


  • 悪妻 – akusai – bad wife
  • 百  – hyaku – hundred
  • 年 – nen – year
  • 不作  – fusaku – poor crop / crop failure


24. 三日坊主。Mikka Bouzu.

  • Literal Meaning: 3 Day Monk.

What’s a 3 Day Monk? Well, it’s someone that wanted to be a monk, tried for 3 days, and gave up. Or, someone that tried learning Japanese… and then gave up. Or… someone that wanted to be this awesome, super talented person that at the end of the day, couldn’t leave their couch.

Know anyone like that?


  • 三日 – mikka – day 3 of a month, three days
  • 坊主 – bouzu – buddhist priest


25. 馬鹿は死ななきゃ治らない。 Baka wa shinanakya naoranai.

  • Literal Meaning: Unless an idiot dies, he won’t be cured.

Ouch. Well, in nicer English, this can also be translated as “once a fool, always a fool.” But yeah, pretty extreme from a polite culture.


  • 馬鹿 – Baka – Fool
  • 死ぬ – Shinu – To die
  • 治る – Naoru  – To be cured


26. 門前の小僧習わぬ経を読む。 Monzen no kozō narawanu kyō wo yomu.

  • Literal Meaning: A young priest will read scriptures before a gate.

Why is he reading the Buddhist scriptures before a gate? Well, he’s a Buddhist priest, at a Buddhist temple. What else is he to do, but practice Buddhism and learn about it? Why? It’s his environment, duh.

And that’s the full meaning of this proverb: The environment makes our characters.


  • 門前 – Monzen – Before a gate
  • 小僧 – Kozou – Young buddhist priest
  • 経 – Kyou – Buddhist scriptures
  • 読む – Yomu – to read


26. 沈む瀬あれば浮かぶ瀬あり。Shizumu se areba ukabu se ari.

  • Literal Meaning: If there’s a sinking current, it’ll get a chance.

Or in other words, any sinking current rise again. When life has its downs, there will be ups. Such is the nature of life. Accept it, and stop worrying about things.


  • 沈む – Shizumu – To sink
  • 瀬 – Se – Current or shallow
  • 浮かぶ瀬 – Ukabuse – Chance, opportunity, lucky break


27. 焼け石に水Yake ishi ni mizu.

  • Literal meaning: Water on a burning/hot rock

Ever tried putting out a burning rock with water? Yeah, I haven’t either.

But from I’m told, it won’t work. It’s useless. And such is the meaning of the proverb. Pouring water on a burning rock is inadequate. Or, something is bound to fail with inadequate effort.


  • 焼ける – Yakeru – To burn
  • 石 – Ishi – Rock
  • 水 – Mizu – Water


28. 十人十色 Juunin, toiro.

  • Literal Meaning: Ten men, ten colors.

Ten men and ten different colors. Every one is different. Oh! So despite stakes that stick out getting hammered down, there is indeed acknowledgement that we’re all different. And you thought you could judge a culture completely based on a proverb.


  • 十 – Juu – Ten
  • 人 – Nin – Person
  • 色 – Iro – Color


29. 押してもダメなら引いてみな。Oshite-mo dame-nara hiite mina.

  • Literal Meaning: If pushing doesn’t work, try pulling.

Oh, learning Japanese didn’t work with anime? Well then, try a textbook or a podcast. Or maybe even a tutor. Instead of quitting, it’s better to change up your methods and keep trying.


  • 押す – Osu – To push
  • ダメ – Dame – No good
  • 引く- Hiku – To pull


30.  能ある鷹は爪を隠す。No aru taka-wa tsume-wo kakusu.

  • Literal Meaning: A skilled falcon hides its talons.

Because, why show off your skills and talents?  Use them when to your advantage when no one expects it. BAM! In poker, you don’t show your hand and the wise don’t show off. There’s no need.


  • 能 – Nou – Talent
  • 鷹 – Taka – Falcon
  • 爪 – Tsume – Talons
  • 隠す – Kakusu – To hide


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.

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3 thoughts on “Learn Japanese: 30 Japanese Proverbs & Sayings. Part 2”

  1. Pingback: Learn Japanese: 50 Japanese Proverbs & Sayings. Part 4 | LinguaJunkie.com

  2. Pingback: Learn Japanese: 40 Japanese Proverbs & Sayings. Part 3 | LinguaJunkie

  3. Pingback: Learn Japanese: 20 Japanese Proverbs & Sayings Part 1 | LinguaJunkie

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