Kotowaza (諺, ことわざ), how Japanese proverbs and sayings are called in Japanese, are divided in three categories: popular proverbs (諺, ことわざ, kotowaza), common idiomatic sayings (慣用句, かんようく, kan’youku) and “four-character-idiomatic-compounds” (四字熟語, よじじゅくご, yojijukugo).
Popular proverbs (諺, ことわざ, kotowaza)
Reading: Neko ni koban
Reading: Buta ni shinju
Reading: Nanakorobi yaoki
Reading: Mizaru, kikazaru, iwazaru
Reading: Uma no mimi ni nenbutsu
Reading: Saru mo ki kara ochiru
Reading: Anzuru yori umu ga yasushi
Reading: Deru kui wa utareru.
Meaning: If you stand out, you’ll be facing criticism.
Reading: Iwanu ga hana
Reading: Asu no hyaku yori kyou no go juu
Reading: Atama kakushite shiri kakusazu
Reading: Atama soru yori kokoro wo sore
Translation: Before shaving your head, shave your heart.
Meaning: The outer appearance tells nothing about someone’s character. Only the heart does.
Reading: Atama no ue no hae wo oe
Translation: To chase flies above your head.
Meaning: Before watching for others’ flaws, amend your own ones.
Reading: Ama dare ishi wo ugatsu
Translation: Raindrops drill the stone.
Meaning: Even something that seems to have no power, might win even against seemingly powerful opponents.
Reading: Ishi no ue ni san nen
Translation: Three years on the top of a stone
Meaning: You have to sit for a long time on a stone for it to get warm. Work, give your best, but don’t expect results to come in a short time.
Reading: Koketsu ni irazunba koji wo ezu
Translation: If you don’t enter the tiger’s cave, you won’t get its child.
Meaning: To get something, you must take a risk.
Reading: Chousho wa tansho
Translation: Strong points are weak points.
Meaning: Overconfidence leads to careless mistakes.
Reading: Neko wo ou yori sara o hike
Translation: Instead of chasing the cat, pull its dish
Meaning: Attack the root of the problems.
Reading: I no naka no kaeru taikai wo shirazu
Translation: The frog in the well doesn’t know the great ocean.
Meaning: Sometimes we are mentally limited. We must open up our mind to new possibilities.
Reading: Seinen kasanete kitarazu
Translation: Years pilling up won’t come back
Meaning: Youth will only happen once in your life, so make the most of it.
Reading: Iu ha yasuku okonau ha katashi
Translation/Meaning: To speak is easy, but to do is hard.
Reading: Isogaba maware
Translation: If you are in a hurry, go around.
Meaning: It’s better to walk long paths than shortcuts full of obstacles.
Reading: Onna sannin yoreba kashimashii
Translation/Meaning: Three women together means knockabout.
Reading: Ryooyaku kuchi ni nigashi
Translation: A good remedy is bitter.
Meaning: A good advice is often hard to accept. Sometimes the bitter truth is the best remedy.
Reading: Ame ga futte chi katamaru
Translation: Rain falls, soil hardens.
Meaning: After the storm comes the calm.
Reading: Ki no mi wa ki no moto
Translation: The fruit of the tree is the origin of the tree.
Meaning: Everything returns to its origin.
Reading: Akuji senri wo hashiru
Translation: Bad affairs run long distances.
Meaning: Bad news are the first to arrive.
Common idiomatic sayings (慣用句, かんようく, kan’youku)
Reading: Mizu ni nagasu
Translation: Flow in the water.
Meaning: To forgive and to forget.
Reading: Abura wo uru
Translation: Sell the oil.
Meaning: In the middle of something, avoiding others’ attention and take a break.
Four-character-idiomatic-compounds (四字熟語, よじじゅくご, yojijukugo)