Category Archives: Kotowaza

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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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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