10 fantastic Japanese proverbs

April 8, 2018

Japanese proverbs are very popular all over the world. They have been used since time immemorial in the country of the rising sun to guide everyday life. Many of them have managed to cross borders. Today they are remembered throughout the world, although we do not know the origins of many.

Most Japanese proverbs originate in rural areas. That is why many of them refer to natural beauty. They reflect what is learned from the sun, water, the river and even stones. All have an undeniable poetic touch. In fact, they have also been used in philosophy and religion.

Japanese proverbs are very enigmatic. The cultures of the East are very discreet. That is why most of these proverbs use few words and leave much to the imagination. They convey a serene and patient world view. Here, we will share 10 of those fantastic capsules of wisdom.


A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.

-Japanese proverb-

Japanese proverbs about action

Several Japanese proverbs talk about action. For Eastern culture, activity is not impulsive, nor compulsive. Thought and activity go hand in hand. One complements the other. They say it here, If you think about it, decide it. If you have decided, do not think about it.

Japanese dragon

The Japanese concept of speed is perfectly reflected in this proverb, “Fast is slow, but continuously, without interruptions...” It is clear how speed for this culture has more to do with efficiency than with accelerated actions.

Many mistakenly think that Eastern cultures are passive. Quite the opposite. What happens is that they see the action from another perspective. It is not unheard of for many Japanese proverbs to call for action, but at the same time establish a limit for it. As in this beautiful sentence, “Do your best and leave the rest to fate.”

Kindness towards others

The Japanese have a deep sense of the collective. Many of their customs are oriented towards preserving respect and consideration for others. That is why they deeply value gentile expressions, “A kind word can warm three months of winter”.

Respect for others is also reflected in many Japanese proverbs. This is one of them, “Check seven times before questioning a person“. It is a call to avoid light judgments about others.

The serene attitude of Eastern cultures is often confused with a lack of passion. This is not right as they can be very passionate. And happy. This proverb, for example, gives a great value to joy, “Fortune will come in to a house with laughter”. It is true. Laughter calls for harmony and happiness.


About the paths of personal growth

The communitarian and cooperative sense of the Japanese is perfectly embodied in this proverb, “The sun does not know good, the sun does not know bad. The sun illuminates and warms everyone equally. Whoever finds himself is like the sun … ” It implies that a solid identity is reflected in full acceptance of others and the world.

representing Japanese proverbs

Another of the Japanese proverbs says, “If you ask you will feel shame for one minute, if you do not you will feel shame all your life”. There is a great wisdom in this. Japan is a very reserved society. However, in phrases like this they also set a limit for discretion.


Slowness and waiting

Japan has a thousand year old past. The Japanese have learned to understand and value the passage of time. They know that the most important and genuine part of life takes time. This shows in this fantastic proverb, “The deepest rivers flow slowly.” It means that everything that has depth and manifests itself little by little.

The Japanese know that patience is a determining virtue. They themselves have experienced that triumph or failure depends to a large extent on being patient. They say it this way, “Victory belongs to those who wait half an hour longer than their opponent.” Thus, for them, triumph always belongs to the most patient.

This is just a very small sample of some of the most popular Japanese proverbs. There are hundreds waiting to be rediscovered. We have a lot to learn from this culture, which has been great over many historical eras and has risen from the ashes when reality has demanded it.