Treating shallow as if it were deep

Good with rivers; bad with ideas

浅い川も深く渡れ
(Asai kawa mo fukaku watare; “Even in a shallow river, cross deep”)

Definition:

Take care even with things that seem easy, or trivial in scope. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Even if a river seems shallow, ford it as cautiously as if you knew it to be deep, just in case.

Breakdown:

We begin with adjective 浅い (asai), “shallow,” in prenominal form, attached to and modifying the noun 川 (kawa), “river.” This is given its function in the sentence by intensifier particle も (mo), which can be rendered here as “even.” The following independent clause begins with adjective 深い (fukai), “deep,” in conjunctive form and acting as an adverb. It precedes and modifies the verb 渡る (wataru), “to cross,” which appears in imperative form. The subject performing this verb is you, the listener, but as so often happens in Japanese it is elided.

Notes:

Caution should be a familiar theme for kotowaza to address, as we’ve already seen several times before.

Example sentence:

「正直、明日の期末テストは楽勝だろうと思ってる。でも、浅い川も深く渡れというし、やっぱり復習しとこうかな」

(“Shoujiki, ashita no kimatsu tesuto wa rakushou darou to omotteru. Demo, asai kawa mo fukaku watare to iu shi, yappari fukushuu shitokou ka na.”)

[“Honestly, I think tomorrow’s term test should be an easy A. But they do say to ford shallows as if they were deep, so yeah, I should probably review the material.”]

About Confanity

I love the written word more than anything else I've had the chance to work with. I'm back in the States from Japan for grad school, but still studying Japanese with the hope of becoming a translator -- or writer, or even teacher -- as long as it's something language-related.
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