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Japanese proverbs

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Japanese old sayings and proverbs

There are countless Japanese proverbs. Some come originally from Chinese ancient texts, and others are translations of universal proverbs that have origins in Europe or Shakesperean wisdom.

Yet, some other Japanese proverbs are derived from the unique Japanese culture, Zen Buddhism and just old adages that ring true even over the stretch of time.

Many Japanese people can recite their favorite proverbs and it is always an interesting conversation topic to ask people about their favorites.

Yet in this free Japanese learning blog by the JOI teachers, Takase sensei one of our veteran Japanese teachers, introduces an interesting way of thinking about proverbs.

Read the blog to learn new Japanese vocabulary and listen to the spoken Japanese in the video too.

Japanese proverbs


By TAKASE Chiharu



「二兎を 追う者は 一兎も 得ず」



To listen to this blog, please watch our Youtube video.


「二兎(にと)を 追(お)う者(もの)は 一兎(いっと)も 得(え)ず」



Japanese proverbs

What are your favorite Japanese proverbs?
As you accumulate life experiences, your way of thinking changes, so I think that your proverbs do too. In this time's blog, I am not going to introduce my favorite proverbs, but instead some proverbs which, as the way that I feel about things and my understanding have changed, are no longer my favorite proverbs.

“Nito o ou mono wa itto mo ezu” (If you run after two hares you will catch neither)
It means that if you try to catch two rabbits at the same time, then you will not be able to catch one rabbit. It is a metaphor that means that if you lust for two things at the same time, neither will go well. When I was little, my mother often used to tell me this, and I obediently thought “I will do as mother says and focus on just one thing.” But when it comes to now, I come to think that it is efficient to go after the things I want to do and the things I want at the same time, and that I do not have the time to conscientiously go after things one at a time until each one has been achieved. I now feel, “Isn't it better to try to do the things that you want to do at the same time?”.. take work and hobbies for instance...

Ishi no ue ni mo san nen (3 years on top of the stone)
It means that if you sit for three years on a cold stone, it will eventually make the stone warm. There are many difficult and bitter things in this world, but for anything patience and perseverance is important. In my student days, and when I had just started working, I thought that this was correct and so I clenched my teeth and pushed on, but I now wonder whether it was necessary to persevere for 3 years. I think now though that, “If something isn't unpleasant you can still work at it, but if you continue to do something that you find unpleasant and bitter, won't you just get sick? In this age of many choices, you can probably get away with saying such selfish thoughts, and besides, isn't three years is too much of an endurance?”

I'm sure that due to your life experiences and to the changes in your way of feeling about things and your understanding, your favorite proverbs have changed too. Please let us know about these by making a comment below.

一兎 【いっと】 (n) (arch) one rabbit

欲を張る 【よくをはる】 (exp,v5r) to lust for

効率的 【こうりつてき】 (adj-na) efficient;

辛抱【しんぼう】 (n,vs) patience; endurance

根気 【こんき】 (n) patience; perseverance

Konnichi-wa, everybody. Hajimemashite. My name is Chiharu Takase.
I was born in the spring, that's why my parents decided to include the the Kanji for spring (haru) in my name. My hometown is in Yamaguchi prefecture on the western coast of Honshu, but now I live in Kyoto, one of Japan's early capital cities. I'm married with one son, and my hobby is the Japanese tea ceremony.

Learning a new language, including Japanese, can be tough at first, but once you start comprehending the patterns and rhythm, you'll find that there is nothing more interesting. Do what you can, when you can, and enjoy the challenge. I'm really looking forward to meeting you in our online Japanese classroom. Let's spend an enjoyable 50 minutes together. Dozo yoroshiku onegai-shimasu.

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