Category Archives: Kotowaza

Actually, don’t put a lid on it

Keep your mouth open and face the music 臭い物に蓋をする(Kusai mono ni futa wo suru;“To put a lid on something stinky”) Definition: Stopgap measures to hide misdeeds, scandal, or other inconvenient realities. The tactic is temporary, but that doesn’t stop some, … Continue reading

Posted in Japanese, Kotowaza | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Too hot for a cold reading

“Philosophers / must ultimately find / their true perfection // in knowing all / the follies of mankind / -by introspection.” – Piet Hein, Grooks, “The Ultimate Wisdom.” 陰陽師身の上知らず(On’youji mi no ue shirazu;“The diviner knows not their own fate”) Definition: … Continue reading

Posted in Japanese, Kotowaza | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The hammer of kindness

鑿と言えば槌(Nomi to ieba tsuchi;“When [asked for] a chisel, [one also brings a] mallet”) Definition: To be intelligent and thoughtful in all things – as a description, or as an imperative. If someone asks you to bring them a chisel, having … Continue reading

Posted in Japanese, Kotowaza | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Faith is believing in something when common sense tells you not to.”

For better or for worse… or for just vaguely smelly 鰯の頭も信心から(Iwashi no atama mo shinjin kara;“Even a sardine’s head, from faith”) Definition: Faith works in mysterious ways; faith is kind of weird if you stop to think about it. Even … Continue reading

Posted in Japanese, Kotowaza | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Out of the wrong, something sweet

嘘から出た実(Uso kara deta makoto;“Truth that came from a lie”) Definition: Something that was said as a lie or joke turns out to be true after all. Note that this applies to coincidences and accidental truths, not “fake it ‘til you … Continue reading

Posted in Japanese, Kotowaza | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Not a typo.

NOT a typo. 馬の耳に風(Muma no mimi ni kaze;“Wind in a horse’s ear”) Definition: Ignoring something somebody has said, especially people’s opinions or criticism that you don’t want to bother with. “In one ear and out the other.” Breakdown: We begin … Continue reading

Posted in Japanese, Kotowaza | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

There is no rose without its thorns

…and no thorn without its roses? 楽あれば苦あり、苦あれば楽あり(Raku areba ku ari, ku areba raku ari;“When there is ease there is hardship; when there is hardship, there is ease”) Definition: Where there is pleasure, there will also come suffering or toil; where … Continue reading

Posted in Japanese, Kotowaza | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

And still the generations of the birds sing through our sighing

(Elizabeth Barret Browning, “Patience Taught by Nature”) 鳴くまで待とう時鳥(Naku made matou hototogisu;“We shall wait until it sings – The lovely cuckoo”) Definition: An expression of patience, of waiting for something good to happen or a good opportunity to arise. If the … Continue reading

Posted in Japanese, Kotowaza | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fences within fences

I heard you like chumrot so I put a chumra in your chumra. 念には念を入れよ(Nen ni wa nen wo ireyo;“Put thought into thought”) Definition: An exhortation to be extra meticulous or cautious in a given task or situation. Make absolutely certain … Continue reading

Posted in Japanese, Kotowaza | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Teeing up some self-improvement

爪の垢を煎じて飲む(Tsume no aka wo senjite nomu;“to boil and drink fingernail-dirt”) Definition: To follow a good example that someone has set. To learn from someone who excels, by doing whatever it takes to get any positive effect at all. Often referenced … Continue reading

Posted in Japanese, Kotowaza | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment