Japanese Proverbs

Enjoy dozens of witty and insightful Japanese proverbs and idioms that have been passed down from one generation to the next for hundreds of years!

  • Virtue is not knowing but doing.
  • Old people are everyone’s treasures.
  • Don’t hide your head and fail to hide your rear.
  • Better to be a crystal and to be broken, than to be a tile upon the housetop.
  • The inarticulate speak longest.
  • Darkness reigns at the foot of the lighthouse.
  • Some people like to make of life a garden, and to walk only within its paths.
  • Ten men, ten minds.
  • The person who admits ignorance shows it once; the one who tries to hide it shows it often.
  • Control your emotion or it will control you.
  • A sutra in a horse’s ear.
  • Let what is past flow away downstream.
  • There’s always a way out of difficulty.
  • Time spent laughing is time spent with the Gods.
  • You can’t see the whole sky through a bamboo tube.
  • When you’re dying of thirst, it’s too late to think about digging a well.
  • If you make a mistake, don’t hesitate to correct it.
  • Getting money is like digging with a needle; spending it is like water soaking into sand.
  • Poor is the person who does not know when he has had enough.
  • Even a kappa (“water imp”) can get carried away by the river.
  • A good husband is healthy and absent.
  • Even a fool has one talent.
  • Idiots don’t catch colds.
  • Money grows on the tree of persistence.
  • Ignorance is bliss.
  • Always rise after a fall.
  • The reverse side also has a reverse side.
  • It is better to travel hopefully than to arrive disenchanted.
  • Who travels for love finds a thousand miles not longer than one.
  • The ground hardens after rain.
  • A fox who borrows the skin of a tiger.
  • Where poverty comes in at the door, love flies out the window.
  • Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.
  • Everyone makes mistakes. That’s why there is an eraser on every pencil.
  • Instead of worrying, a strong man wears a smile.
  • A fallen blossom doesn’t return to the branch.
  • When someone is really hungry, then there is no such thing as bad food.
  • One kind word can warm three winter months.
  • The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.
  • Gossip about a person and his shadow will appear.
  • Wisdom and virtue are like the two wheels of a cart.
  • Fellow suffers pity each other.
  • Respect old people, and be gentle with children.
  • If you believe everything you read, better not read.
  • Too much is as bad as too little.
  • If you wait, there will come nectar—like fair weather.
  • Too many captains will steer the ship up a mountain.
  • One cannot quarrel without an opponent.
  • Prevention is better than a cure.
  • To endure what is unendurable is true endurance.

For thousands more proverbs and words of wisdom, collected from over 40 countries, check out Proverbs from Around the World!

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