10 Famous Japanese Expressions (and What They Really Mean)

10 famous japanese expressions, idioms, and quotes

Read More: quotes in japan

Famous JapaneseIt’s easy for beginners to pick up quotes, sayings, or idioms. You’re probably already familiar with the many idioms in English, such as “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch” and “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

These phrases will make you sound more native by making everyday conversation with others. Japanese speaker, but you have to be sure you’re using them in the right context and setting. Here, we’ll share 10Famous JapaneseGet started with these quotes and their meanings.

10 Famous Japanese Quotes & Sayings

井の中の蛙、大海を知らず – I no naka no kawazu, taikai wo sirazu

Translation: A frog living in a well doesn’t know the vast ocean.


This is the most famous JapaneseThe following story is about a frog. The frog was very proud that he was one of the largest creatures in the well.

The frog thought he was invincible and decided to leave the well. He eventually ended up in the ocean and realized that he was actually much smaller than his imagination.

Similar to other Japanese idioms, this is a reminder that there are many other things beyond the world you live in, so don’t think you’re the biggest or the best in the world.

口は災いの元 – Kuchi wa wazawai no moto

Translation: A mouth causes trouble

2) Japanese saying for "A mouth causes trouble"

Similar Japanese idiom is: “iwanu ga hana,” 言わぬが花.

Both Japanese sayings mean essentially the same thing: sometimes, it’s better to be silent. Think of the English saying, “silence is golden.”

能ある鷹は爪を隠す – Nô aru taka wa tsume wo kakusu

Translation: The skilled hawk hides her talons

3) Japanese expression for "The skillful hawk hides its talons"

A skilled hunter hawk hides his talons away from his prey. This is just one example of many. Japanese quotes that serve as a reminder to stay humble; talented people don’t need to show off.

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猿も木から落ちる – Saru mo ki kara ochiru

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Translation: Even monkeys can fall from trees

4) Japanese idiom for "Even a monkey can fall from a tree"

Similar Japanese saying is, “kappa no kawa nagare,” 河童の川流れ. This means that even a kappa could drown.

Monkeys are good at climbing trees and kappas excel in swimming, but they can also fall and drown. There is no perfect person; even the most skilled can make mistakes.

豚に真珠 – Buta ni Sinjyu

Translation: A pearl to be a pig

5) Japanese saying for "A pearl to a pig"

Another way to say this is “neko ni koban,” 猫に小判. This means, “a koban to a cat.” A koban is a golden coin that was used hundreds of years ago in Japan.

Both Japanese idioms mean that it’s worthless to give a gift or something valuable to someone who doesn’t appreciate the gift.

These Japanese sayings can also be used to describe someone who owns or wears things that don’t really suit them.

武士は食わねど高楊枝 – Bushi wa kuwanedo takayôji

Translation: A Samurai holds a toothpick between his teeth, even though he is starving, to pretend he is not hungry

6) Japanese Idiom for "don

What does this mean? Japanese quote is simple: don’t let others see your pain.

This message is positive but it is also used to describe someone too proud to quit.

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二兎を追う者は一兎をも得ず – Nito wo ou mono wa itto mo ezu

Translation: A man who chases two rabbits, doesn’t deserve one

7) Japanese saying for "don

This JapaneseThe idiom states that success is achieved by focusing on one thing at the time. Also, don’t be greedy.

悪銭身に付かず – Akusen mi ni tsukazu

Translation: Bad money won’t stick with you

8) Japanese expression for "Bad money won

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Many JapaneseQuotes are like proverbs. This proverb says that cheating or bad deeds can lead to loss of money.

Make an honest living; don’t cut corners!

郷に入っては郷に従え – Gô ni haitte wa gô ni sitagae

Translation: You must follow these rules when you join a village.

9) Japanese saying for "When you join another village, follow the rules"

A similar phrase but in English would be: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” This JapaneseA good reminder to be kind to others is the quote.

負けるが勝ち – Makeru ga kachi

Translation: To win means to lose

Japanese quote for "to lose means to win"

This is one of my most difficult tasks. Japanese sayings for Westerners to understand, but its meaning is quite simple: don’t compete over foolish matters.

Sometimes it is better to avoid conflict than to get involved. It can be a better decision to leave a problem or compete with someone else.

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自業自得 – Jigou jitoku

Translation: You get what is due

Japanese expression for "you get what you deserve"

Westerners also have a similar saying. JapaneseAnother idiom: You reap what your sow. You get what you put into your life, so be responsible.

石二鳥 – Isseki nityou

Japanese quote for "killing two birds with one stone"

This expression is similar to the English saying, “kill two birds with one stone.” It essentially means unexpected luck.

Now you are more informed 10Famous JapaneseQuotes and sayings for everyday conversation. You might feel a bit wiser or perhaps more enlightened.

Are there any other famous names you are familiar with? JapaneseAre there any idioms you would like to share? Comment below to share your idioms!

Photo by Moyan Burn

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