Category Archives: Kotowaza

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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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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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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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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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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Hasty digging in the Mines of Morai

慌てる乞食は貰いが少ない (Awateru kojiki wa morai ga sukunai; “A beggar in a hurry receives little alms”) Definition: Haste makes waste; slow and steady wins the race. Rushing about or fighting to get in the door first, especially in pursuit of profit, … Continue reading

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All eyes upon you, Masao-kun

弱り目に祟り目(Yowarime ni tatarime; “In a time of weakness, a curse”) Definition: To be beset by compounded troubles when things were already bad. To be kicked when you’re down. Having salt rubbed on your wounds. Things were already worrisome, then they … Continue reading

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From the ashes a fire shall be woken?

A light from the shadows shall spring! 焼け木杭に火がつく (Yake-bokkui ni hi ga tsuku; “Fire catches on a burned stick”) Definition: A former relationship that was cut off is easy to reestablish. On meeting an old friend or lover, you often … Continue reading

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Soldiers are for war, not for peaceful protests

(Another saying that features 焉. Next week we’ll have something different, I promise.) 鶏を割くに焉んぞ牛刀を用いん (Niwatori wo saku ni izukunzo gyuutou wo mochiin; “Why use a cow-cleaver to cut up a chicken?”) Definition: There’s no need to use powerful tools, or … Continue reading

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Ambition is for the birds

燕雀安くんぞ鴻鵠の志を知らんや (Enjaku izukunzo koukoku no kokorozashi wo shiran ya; “How could the swallow or sparrow understand the goose or swan?”) Definition: People of lowly character or small ability don’t, and can’t, understand the thought processes and ambitions of those with … Continue reading

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