Category Archives: Kotowaza

From a land before credit?

(Actually, tools allowing you to use money that you don’t actually possess have existed in Japan for centuries. A quick search turned up one source* saying that multiple such systems have existed since at least the Muromachi period. And now … Continue reading

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Hot air, cold air

物言えば唇寒し秋の風 (Mono ieba kuchibiru samushi aki no kaze; “When you say something, then your lips will feel the chill of an autumn wind”) Definition: Being nasty will only make you feel bad later; shooting off your mouth invites disaster. Needlessly … Continue reading

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The softest immolation

鳴かぬ蛍が身を焦がす (Nakanu hotaru ga mi wo kogasu; “The silent firefly burns itself”) Definition: Those who feel the most deeply are silent, while those who talk the most are often shallow in their thoughts and feelings. “Light cares speak, great ones … Continue reading

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When nothing sticks

箸にも棒にも掛からない (Hashi ni mo bou ni mo kakaranai; “Can’t be caught on a chopstick or a pole”) Definition: A work that’s just really badly made, or a person who is completely out of control. By extension, something or somebody about … Continue reading

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Blue sea, Red Cliffs, pale blue dot

滄海の一粟 (Soukai no ichizoku; “A single grain of millet in the deep blue sea”) Definition: Something incredibly small in the middle of something something incredibly big. A needle in a haycontinent. Metaphorically, the trifling, ephemeral existence of humans within the … Continue reading

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Like borrowing a cup

(Not a cup of sugar, mind you. Just a cup.) 人の褌で相撲を取る (Hito no fundoshi de sumou wo toru; “Doing sumo in someone else’s loincloth”) Definition: Using something that belongs to someone else for your own benefit or profit. Taking advantage … Continue reading

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The fish not taken

By Robert Frost? 釣り落とした魚は大きい (Tsuriotoshia sakana wa ookii; “The fish that got away is big”) Definition: The things that you lost your chance at, or failed to get, seem all the more appealing because of the pain of missing out. … Continue reading

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