Japanese Idioms & Sayings 3

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idioms will give you great insight into Japanese culture and thinking, and also impress people with your knowledge of interesting expressions! Check out some these most common ことわざ (kotowaza), and take the quiz!

Japanese Idioms & Phrases 3 Quiz!

Before you take the test, lets study some new idioms




五十歩百歩
(gojyuppo hyappo)
50 steps, 100 steps

50 steps, 100 steps

It is said that back in the day in China, the then ruler once said how the soldier who ran 50 steps away from the battlefield is the same as the soldier who took 100 steps, since they both ran away. Therefore, whether 50 steps or 100 steps, it brings similar results.

腐っても鯛
(Kusattemo tai)
Still a snapper, even if it rots

Still a snapper, even if it rots

鯛 (tai), or red snapper, is considered a delicacy in Japan, and is eaten commonly during celebratory times. Therefore, even if it rots, it’s still considered celebratory and a delicacy.

住めば都
(sume ba miyako)
A palace if you live

A palace if you live

都 (miyako) means city, or capital. Back in the feudal days, most rich people would live in cities. Wherever you live, if you get used to it, it will seem like a palace.

どんぐりの背比べ
(donguri no sekurabe)
Acorns measuring heights

Acorns measuring heights

どんぐり (donguri) are acorns, and 背比べ (sekurabe) is to compare heights. Acorns are all similar in size, therefore trying to measure and compare their heights is an insignificant task.

二階から目薬
(nikai kara megusuri)
Eye drops from the second floor

Imagine someone trying to aim an eyedrop into your eye from the second floor. It's probably quite hard to succeed in, and it will take many tries.

月とすっぽん
(tsuki to suppon)
Moon and softshell turtle

Moon and softshell turtle

すっぽん (suppon) is a type of turtle, often eaten as a delicacy. Though both the turtle and moon is round, they are two far different things, therefore some things are just uncomparable.

目の上のこぶ
(meno ueno kobu)
Bump on top of an eye

Bump on top of an eye

こぶ (kobu) is a bump that appears on your body. If there was a bump on your eye, it would make things harder to see, therefore this idiom implies how something is a nuisance.

善は急げ
(zen wa isoge)
Rush the good

Rush the good

This phrase implies that if you think of doing something good, act on it immediately.