Japanese Idioms & Proverbs

A Japanese friend visited me a few weeks ago and I as showed her around London the topic of idioms came up. I was helping her with her English and I mentioned “the grass is always greener on the other side” which does have an equivalent phrase in Japanese.

So I’d like to discuss some of the mJapanese Idiomsore useful phrases you might want to use when meeting Japanese people or when travelling in Japan. I know there are a few other sites that talk about these (I’ll link them at the bottom), but I asked a friend for ones that he found interested so these are mixed in with what I think are the most useful.

Each phrase comes with the equivalent English, the Japanese in kana and kanji, and the literal word-for-word translation to help you pick out key vocabulary (because it’s difficult to just remember a long phrase).

English Phrases which have Equivalent Japanese Phrases

1. The grass is always greener on the other side
(Next door’s lawn is blue looks)

2. Two birds one stone
(One stone, two birds)

3. The early bird catches the worm
(Early riser cheapness gets)

4. A once in a lifetime opportunity
(One time, one meet)

5. Better safe than sorry
(Safety number one)


(Later worry less, start from safety is better)

6. Out of the frying pan, into the fire
(Pan center from, fire center in)

7. One thing after another
(One problem passes, another one problem)

*Very similar to 鍋の中から火の中へ

8. Speak of the devil
(Rumours if you do, a figure)


(Devil’s talk if you do, devil will appear)

9. You reap what you sow / Getting one’s just deserts / Pay for your mistakes
(One’s work, one’s reward)


Purely Japanese Phrases (With kind of English Equivalents)

11. Even monkeys fall from trees
(Monkeys also tree from fall)
English equivalent: Everyone makes mistakes

12. Not knowing is Buddha
(Know nothing Buddha)
English equivalent: Ignorance is bliss

13. Different body same mind
(Different body same mind)
English equivalent: Great minds think alike; Brother from another mother

14. Ten men, ten colours
(Ten men ten colours)
English equivalent: Different folks, different strokes (everyone has different tastes, ideas, interests)

15. The future will bring fields and mountains
(Later will fields bring, mountains bring)
English equivalent: I don’t care what follows; the future will take care of itself

16. After the festival
(After the festival)
English equivalent: Too late!; It won’t do you any good now

Other websites/articles with even more idioms and proverbs!!!


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