Japanese Proverbs - Ninja Phrase List - Kotowaza

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In this article, we will share a complete list of Japanese sayings that are known in Japan as Kotowaza. The famous Ninja phrases, famous for speaking little but speaking the truth. 

The Japanese word for proverbs is spelled kotowaza [谚] which in addition to a proverb can mean dictation, aphorism and quotation. Japanese sayings don't usually make that much sense, because Japanese grammar is very simple.  

To understand a Kotowaza, it is necessary to go deeper into the meaning of the ideograms presented in the sentence. I will try to explain each Japanese proverb in detail and also quote a similar saying in Portuguese. 

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List of Japanese Proverbs - Kotowaza 


毒を食らわば皿まで
Doku wo kurawaba sara made
  • Literally: If you eat poison, eat the dish;
  • Note: It doesn't mean that you should literally eat the dish, just lick it. 食らわ it is a strong and violent expression to eat;
  • Meaning: It means that if you are going to do something dangerous, take some risk, do it completely;

見ぬが花
Minu ga hana
  • Literally: Not seeing is a flower;
  • Meaning: Reality cannot compete with imagination. Sometimes you imagine things without seeing the reality of it;

案ずるより産むが易し.
Anzuru yori umu ga yasashi
  • Literally: Giving birth to a baby is easier than worrying about it;
  • Meaning: Fear is greater than the danger. An attempt is sometimes easier than we expect. Many are afraid for nothing, this is the greatest Enemy;

バカは死ななきゃ治らない
Baka wa shinanakya naoranai
  • Literally: Only death heals an idiot;
  • Meaning: There is no cure for stupidity;
Provérbios japoneses - lista de frases ninja - kotowaza

出る杭は打たれる
Deru kui wa utareru
  • Literally: The nail that sticks up is hammered down;
  • Meaning: If you stand out, you will be subject to criticism;

秋茄子は嫁に食わすな
Akinasu wa yome ni kuwasuna
  • Literally: Don't let your stepdaughter eat your eggplants;
  • Meaning: Don't let yourself be taken advantage of;

 残り物には福がある
Nokorimono ni wa fuku ga aru
  • Literally: Luck exists in the leftovers. / There is a fortune for leftovers;
  • Meaning: You are saving the best for last. Just because this backwards doesn't mean it's bad. It is often used to comfort people and help them to strive;

 虎穴に入らずんば虎子を得ず
Koketsu ni irazunba koji o ezu
  • Literally: If you don't enter the tiger's cave, you can't catch your cub;
  • Meaning: Take a risk to be successful. Those who do not risk do not snack. Nothing is achieved without effort;

さるも木から落ちる
Saru mo ki kara ochiru
  • Literally: The Monkey also falls from the tree
  • Meaning: Even an expert can be wrong;

 泣いて暮らすも一生、笑って暮らすも一生
Naite kurasu mo issho, waratte kurasu mo issho
  • Literally: Even live life crying, even live life laughing;
  • Meaning: Life is the same, whether you are happy or sad;

 蓼食う虫も好き好き
Tade kuu mushi mo sukizuki
  • Literally: Insects that eat the tade(a weed) is also for the sake of taste;
  • Meaning: Taste is not discussed;

井の中の蛙大海を知らず
I no naka no kawazu taikai the shirazu
  • Literally: The frog in the well does not know the ocean;
  • Meaning: You only know something, knowing it or experiencing it. Perfect for those who criticize other countries without knowing;

 鳶が鷹を生む
Tonbi ga taka o umu
  • Literally: From a parrot a falcon is born
  • Meaning: ordinary parents can have extraordinary children.

郷に入りては郷に従え
Gou ni itte wa, gou ni shitagae
  • Literally: When entering the village, obey those who live in it;
  • Meaning: In Japan be Japanese;
  • Equivalent: Dance to the music;

 頭隠して尻隠さず
Atama kakushite, shiri kakusazu
  • Literally: Hides the head but does not cover the tail;
  • Meaning: You solve the problems partially. There is no way to escape in a lie;

花よりだんご
Hana yori dango
  • Literally: Before flowers, food;
  • Meaning: Practicality;
  • It makes sense, the person goes to a Hanami festival, and instead of looking at the flowers, they will eat sweets in the stalls;

 悪妻は百年の不作
Akusai wa hyaku-nen no fusaku
  • Literally: A bad wife harms the harvest for a hundred years;
  • Meaning: A man's success depends on his wife;

 かえるの子はかえる
Kaeru no ko wa kaeru.
  • Literally: The frog's baby is a frog;
  • Equivalent: Son of fish, goldfish is;

覆水盆に帰らず
Fukusui bon ni kerazu
  • Literally: Spilled water does not return to the bowl.
    Meaning: Nothing will be as before. It is no use crying over spilled milk;

 二兎を追う者は一兎をも得ず
Ni usagi wo or mono wa ichi usagi wo mo ezu
  • Literally: If you chase two hares, you end up with none;
  • Equivalent: Who wants everything, has nothing;

継続は力なり
Keizoku wa chikara nari.
  • Literally: Perseverance brings power;

猫に小判
Neko ni koban
  • Literally: Pearl to the cat;
  • Equivalent: Pearls to pigs;

雨降って地固まる
Love futte chi katamaru
  • Literally: The rain leaves the earth hardened;
  • Meaning: Adversity makes us strong. Equivalent: What does not kill makes you fat. What does not kill, strengthens;

 馬鹿があって力行が引き立つ
Baka ga atte rikkō ga hikitatsu
  • Literally: Power stands out when you are among fools;
  • Meaning: The presence of fools highlights that of the intelligent;

 馬鹿も一芸
Baka mo ichi gei
  • Literally: Fools also have talent;
  • Meaning: Don't underestimate even the donkeys;

 悪に強ければ善にも強
Aku ni tsuyokereba zen ni mo tsuyoshi
  • Literally: The [employee's] effort to do evil is the same as it can do good;
  • Meaning: The same perseverance in doing wrong can be used to do good. A strong enemy can become a friend to the same degree;

金は火で試み人は酒で試む
Kane wa hi de kokoromi, hito wa sake de kokoromu
  • Literally: Gold is tested by fire, people by alcohol;
  • Meaning: Talks about the superstition that drunkenness reveals the true face of people;

 相手のない喧嘩はできぬ
Aite no nai kenka wa dekinu
  • Literally: You cannot fight alone;
  • Meaning: When one does not want, two do not fight;

悪事千里をはしる
Akuji senri the hashiru
  • Literally: Evil is fast;
  • Equivalent: The bad news comes soon. Gossip too;

 朝起きは七つの得あり
Asaoki wa nanatsu no toku ari
  • Literally: Dawn has seven advantages;
  • Equivalent: The early bird catches the worm;

 明日は明日、今日は今日
Ashita wa ashita, kyo wa kyou
  • Literally: Tomorrow is tomorrow, today is today
  • Meaning: One day at a time. Don't be thinking too much about tomorrow;

 痘痕も笑窪
Shoot down the ekubo
  • Literally: Warts / pimples become dimples
  • Equivalent: Love is blind

 一を聞いて十を知る
Ichi kiite, juu shiru
  • Literally: Listening once, understanding ten times
  • Equivalent: For a good connoisseur, one word is enough;

 家ほどいい所ない
Uchi hodo ii tokoro nai
  • Literally: There is no better place than our home
  • Equivalent: Home Sweet Home

 海のことは漁夫に問え
Umi no koto wa gyofu ni to e
  • Literally: Ask the fisherman about the sea
  • Meaning: ask people about something they have mastered;

 男心と秋の空
Otokogokoro to aki no sora
  • Literally: Man's mind changes like the autumn sky;
  • Meaning: Men are fickle;

 男は知恵、女は情け
Otoko wa chie, onna wa nasake
  • Literally: The man has wisdom, the woman has compassion;

Videos about Japanese proverbs

If you liked the proverbs, you can take a look at the great videos below, teaching how to pronounce and explaining the meaning of some Japanese proverbs.