Category Archives: Kotowaza

Someone who can see through the shell game

亀の甲より年の劫 (Kame no kou yori toshi no kou; “Better the wisdom of years than a tortoise-shell”) Definition: Pun time! Japanese is actually full of puns, and here’s one that made it into a kotowaza. The phrase itself means that one … Continue reading

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Soryaa, ii kamo?

鴨が葱を背負って来る (Kamo ga negi wo shotte kuru; “A duck comes bearing a green onion on its back”) Definition: A confluence of almost-too-good-to-be-true convenience. Often used when somebody you’d been planning to use or con comes to you with a get-rich-quick … Continue reading

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Der Dreigroschenvorteil

早起きは三文の徳 (Hayaoki wa sanmon no toku; “Rising early is a three-penny profit”) Definition: Waking up early in the morning instead of sleeping in leads to better health and a variety of other benefits. “Early to bed and early to rise … Continue reading

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Lucy in the pie

…with a 3D rendering of diamonds 絵に描いた餅 (E ni kaita mochi; “A rice cake drawn in a picture”) Definition: Something appealing that doesn’t actually do any good. Pie in the sky, to substitute a Western food. No matter how well-drawn … Continue reading

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Even this old man comes rolling home

枯れ木も山の賑わい (Kareki mo yama no nigiwai; “Even a dead tree adds life to a mountain”) Definition: Even something boring or drab is better than nothing at all. Even dead, withered trees give more “life” to a mountainside than if it … Continue reading

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Warm, but not a good oven

雪隠で饅頭 (Secchin de manjuu; “A bun in the outhouse”) Definition: Hiding away in order to enjoy something all by oneself, like squirreling oneself away in the toilet to have a snack (or go online with a smartphone, these days). Other, … Continue reading

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A tail full of sound, and furry

(Told by an idiot) 大山鳴動して鼠一匹 (Taizan meidou shite nezumi ippiki; “The mountain trembles; a single mouse.”) Definition: Terrible harbingers and portents without follow-through. Much ado, after which, nothing. Especially used in reference to empty threats. Like a large mountain rumbling … Continue reading

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