Category Archives: Japanese

It didn’t work for stoicism

一子相伝 i-.sshi.sou.den Literally: one – child – mutual – transmit Alternately: A traditional system where the inner, secret, or ultimate teachings of an art, craft, school of thought, etc. are passed on to exactly one heir (usually from a father … Continue reading

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The disaster’s antecedent

蟻の穴から堤も崩れる (Ari no ana kara tsutsumi mo kuzureru; “Even a dike crumbles due to an ant’s burrow”) Definition: Big events can arise from small causes. Specifically, even errors, negligence, or lack of attention or preparation that didn’t seem important at … Continue reading

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Look at me, look at me, LOOK AT ME NOW!

(And pay no attention to the man behind the curtain) 自己顕示 ji.ko.ken.ji Literally: self – self – appear – indicate Alternately: Making oneself apparent. Speaking up, standing out, catching attention; making oneself conspicuous or unignorable; working to advance one’s own … Continue reading

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Forget little spoon; do you want to be the lid?

割れ鍋に綴じ蓋 (Warenabe ni tojibuta; “A mended lid on a cracked pot”) Definition: Everybody has their match; no matter how out-of-place a person may feel, there is someone out there who would make a good spouse, friend, or other sort of … Continue reading

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When you write the right rite

温柔敦厚 on.juu.ton.kou Literally: warm – soft – kind – thick / kind Alternately: Kind and gentle, considerate and loving. Notes: This is a compound of compounds. 温柔 expresses a warm, mild disposition; 敦厚 is humanity and kindness. Similar terms include … Continue reading

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The taste of a beetle

蓼食う虫も好き好き (Tade kuu mushi mo sukizuki; “Even the bug who eats knotweed likes it”) Definition: Yet again, “different people have different tastes.” A person can like a thing that you don’t (or vice-versa), and that’s okay. Even spicy plants have … Continue reading

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Fly, cow, fly; cow, fly, cow

蚊虻走牛 bun.bou.sou.gyuu Literally: mosquito – horsefly – run – cow Alternately: Something powerful being defeated by something weak; the great overthrown by the small. Literally, a cow being driven to run away by the onslaught of tiny biting flies. Alternatively, … Continue reading

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Any shape other than the actual shape, really

四角な座敷を丸く掃く (Shikaku na zashiki wo maruku haku; “To sweep a circle in a square room”) Definition: To shirk; to cut corners; to do a bad job at something because you put in the bare minimum of thought and effort. Like … Continue reading

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I know why the caged monkey sings

籠鳥檻猿 rou.chou.kan.en Literally: cage – bird – (jail) cell/pen – monkey Alternately: Unfree; specifically, having had one’s freedom taken away. Living like a bird – or monkey – in a cage, unable to do what you want. Notes: This phrase … Continue reading

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It ain’t no thing

– but an unfelt sting 鹿の角を蜂が刺す (Shika no tsuno wo hachi ga sasu; “A wasp stings a deer’s antler”) Definition: In literal terms, this phrase refers to something that doesn’t even tickle or itch, much less hurt; something that elicits … Continue reading

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