Category Archives: Kotowaza

On the benefits of job security

Or ego security, perhaps. 名人は人を謗らず (Meijin wa hito wo soshirazu; “The master speaks not ill of others”) Definition: True masters of their art do not go out of their way to find fault with others. If you are an expert, … Continue reading

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Keep your debrief brief

敗軍の将は兵を語らず (Haigun no shou wa hei wo katarazu; “The defeated commander speaks not of war.”) Definition: Someone who has failed at something has no authority to speak on the topic; a defeated general should not give their opinions on warfare. … Continue reading

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“It is useless to meet revenge with revenge; it will heal nothing.”

(J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King) 彼方を立てれば此方が立たず (Achira wo tatereba kochira ga tatazu; “If one raises that side, this side will not rise.”) Definition: It’s difficult, almost impossible, to get all sides of something equally accepting and happy about … Continue reading

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Darkened minds are worse than darkened eyes

真の闇より無闇が怖い (Shin no yami yori muyami ga kowai; “Thoughtlessness is more frightening than pitch darkness”) Definition: Being caught in utter darkness is scary, because you can’t be sure where everything is, or even what actually is and isn’t there at … Continue reading

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A leaf on the wind; watch how it soars

一葉落ちて天下の秋を知る (Ichiyou ochite tenka no aki wo shiru; “A leaf falls, and one knows autumn”) Definition: Sensing something big coming on from a relatively minor hint. Understanding the future from the very first signs. Like realizing that fall is on … Continue reading

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In preparation for Thanksgiving

…a rule that Americans traditionally break shatter. 腹八分目に医者要らず (Hara hachibunme ni isha irazu; “At the belly’s eighth part, no need for doctors”) Definition: It’s better for your health to not eat until you’re stuffed, but rather to stop before your … Continue reading

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A skeleton in every closet

A monster under every bed 人を見たら泥棒と思え (Hito wo mitara dorobou to omoe; “When you see someone, think them a thief”) Definition: Don’t blindly trust strangers. A proverb advising the listener to protect themselves by doubting and confirming, rather than naively … Continue reading

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All ties weird and wonderful

A red thread binds them all? 縁は異なもの味なもの (En wa i na mono aji na mono; “A relationship is a strange thing, a wondrous thing”) Definition: The ties that bind two people together are mysterious, inexplicable, and often pleasantly weird. This … Continue reading

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Some people just want things that don’t burn

沈香も焚かず屁もひらず (Jinkou mo takazu he mo hirazu; “Neither burning agarwood incense nor loosing a fart”) Definition: A person (or lifestyle) without any particular good or bad points; someone who causes no harm but is exceedingly mediocre. Someone with, metaphorically speaking, … 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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