Category Archives: Japanese

Much travel makes the boatman hoarse

The American version: 車車車車 南船北馬 nan.sen.hoku.ba Literally: south – boat – north – horse Alternately: Going from one place to the next without stop or rest. Always on the go. Wandering restlessly, or traveling busily. Notes: This compound comes to … Continue reading

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Making light of parental influence

親の光は七光 (Oya no hikari wa nanahikari; “A parent’s light is seven lights”) Definition: Children benefit from their parents’ fame, fortune, and status. This is less about hereditary succession to a position, or straight-up nepotism, than it is about the fact … Continue reading

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Poetry. Poetry never changes.

What falls away is always? 不易流行 fu.eki.ryuu.kou Literally: not – simple / divination / change – flow – go Alternately: One of Bashō’s principles for writing haiku: that the essence of haiku lies in both the unchanging (不易) and in … Continue reading

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Bear little; bee large

小さく生んで大きく育てる (Chiisaku unde ookiku sodateru; “Birth small; raise large”) Definition: It’s wise to bear a small child and then raise it large. A small baby tends to mean an easier birth, and a child who grows well tends to be … Continue reading

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Three men CAN keep a secret

…if they’re tzaddikim and the secret is hidden helpfulness 陰徳陽報 in.toku.you.hou Literally: yin/negative/shadow/secret – virtue – yang/positive/sunlight – reward Alternately: Performing acts of benevolence and charity in secret will nonetheless benefit the doer. It’s tempting to publicize one’s good deeds … Continue reading

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Like chopping radishes with Excalibur

大根を正宗で切る (Daikon wo Masamune de kiru; “To cut a daikon with a Masamune”) Definition: Overkill. Bringing force, talent, or material to a job or problem far in excess of what is actually needed; often, assigning a task to someone who … Continue reading

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A real eye-opener

開眼供養 kai.gen.ku.you Literally: open – eyeball – offer – nurture Alternately: This is the name of a Buddhist ceremony in which the eyes are added to a Buddhist sculpture or image, completing it and investing it with a soul. By … Continue reading

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