Our friends over at TheJapanShop.com have another great deal. You can get audio, textual, and visual media to help you learn Japanese Proverbs for just 5 bucks.
It’s a PDF, Flash, and Mp3 pack of 25 commonly used Japanese proverbs. You can listen to any sentence in slow, or regular speed, and explanations are included. Check out the product image on their website to see some of the features.
They’ve got all the classic “kotowaza”, such as…
石の上にも三年 Literally, sitting on top of the rock for 3 years. A proverb for perseverance. And…
十人十色 Literally, 10 people, 10 colors. A proverb that means everyone is unique.
Click here for a larger image. Click here to go to product page.
Back in my early days of learning Japanese we went through a lot of these in class. Proverbs are a great way to pick up new vocabulary, learn about Japanese culture, and impress native speakers all at the same time. Native Japanese are usually astounded and very happy to hear when foreigners can quote proverbs. These days many young Japanese don’t know the more difficult ones. I would be willing to bet that any high school kid these days (except for the roughest of the ruffians) would know all 25 included in the JapanShop package.
So, the proverbs they include are very basic, so if you’re already an advanced learner of Japanese this probably won’t be terribly useful. However, if your Japanese is beginner to low-intermediate, it looks like a great deal!
You can pay with PayPal and download the stuff immediately. Instant gratification. Yum.
Other Proverbs on JapanNewbie
By the way, check out a few more proverbs that I have introduced in the past… Like a Rolling Stone, and The Light of Money.
Learn Proverbs With Our Favorite Cat-like Robot Doraemon
For more Japanese Proverb fun, check out this episode of Doraemon called “Proverb Game” (kotowaza game) in its entirety on YouTube. The proverbs introduced in the episode and their literal and interpreted meanings are…
早起きは三文の徳 – hayaoki ha sanmon no toku
Literally: Waking up early brings three coins of profit.
Meaning/usage: Waking up early will bring good things to you.
In Doaremon: The father woke up early and happened to see a famous actress during his morning walk and tells the main character, Nobita-kun. Nobita really wanted to see the actress and starts to head out to get her signature, but his father tells her she’s already gone. Nobita should have woken up early!
棚からぼたもち – tana kara botamochi
Literally: A botamochi (a type of snack) falls out of the cabinet.
Meaning/usage: Good things can happen unexpectedly.
In Doraemon: Nobita thinks that he can just lie under the cabinet and wait for an actual botamochi to fall out. He didn’t know the proverb. Instead, they accidentally stumble upon his moms secret stash of cash.
急がば回れ – isogaba maware
Literally: If you want to hurry, take the round-about way.
Meaning/usage: If you want to arrive at your destination quickly, don’t take the more dangerous and risky shortcut. Instead, take the long way around and you’ll be more certain to reach your destination safely and on time.
In Doaremon: Nobita is going to his friends house, so instead of taking the direct route he takes the long road. On the way there he happens to run into his friend, which is lucky! Good thing he didn’t hurry to take the direct route.
情けは人のためならず – nasake ha hito no tame narazu
Literally: Pity/compassion doesn’t help people.
Meaning/usage: Traditionally, it means that showing compassion to people not only helps them, but will also bring good fortune to the person who showed the compassion later. Some people these days mistakenly interpret this to mean that if you’re too overly compassionate to people it won’t help them in the long run.
In Doaremon: Nobita sees a little girl who has fallen and hurt her knee. Due to the literal meaning of the proverb he almost doesn’t help her, but gives in to his good nature and decides to carry her home anyway. Later Doraemon explains the actual meaning of the proverb and Nobita feels better.
仏の顔も三度 – hotoke no kao mo sando
Literally: On the third time, even someone with a face like the Buddha… (will get angry)
Meaning/usage: No matter how nice someone may be, the third time (or eventually) they will get angry!
In Doaremon: Nobita and his friend see the town bully getting scolded by his mom for fighting. They get an idea and decide to tease him just twice, because they figure he won’t get angry the first and second time. They’re right… But some other friends accidentally taunt him a third time causing Nobita and his friend get beat up anyway.
泣き面に蜂 – naki tsura ni hachi
Literally: A bee will come to a crying face.
Meaning/usage: Once something bad happens, more bad things will follow.
By the way, I didn’t know 泣き面に蜂! Passed JLPT level 1, and there are still things about Japanese to learn from kids shows. Isn’t Japanese great!? The fun never stops.