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Japanese Proverbs and traditional sayings
By Peter Pauper Press


Open your umbrella before you get wet.

Spare me your sparrowís tears.

He is as good as he is wicked.

Evil comes full circle home to us.

The first star is nameless.

Kindness: not for others but for ourselves.

Once uttered words run faster than horses.

He is one inch good one foot evil.

A single post canít hold up a sagging house.

The child never changes: Sometimes for a hundred years.

You canít quarrel without another quarreler.

In wealth, many friends: in poverty not even relatives.

Donít go down in anotherís fall.

The half-drunk man exposes his whole nature.

He bends his seven-hinged knee in eight places.

The stone Buddha will sometimes speak.

Big trees provoke the pride of winds.

One madman makes a hundred same men flee.

You canít straighten a snake passing it through a bamboo tube.

To give ground is sometimes the best victory.

The defeated ones become the rebels.

Donít takes a gilded sword to cut a radish.

You can see anotherís arse but not your own.

No medicine cures stupidity.

Even a cup of tea helps hunger for a bit.

Donít try to wash out blood with blood.

No Lord can rule without sometimes playing deaf and blind.

Donít judge the tree till you see the fruit.

You can know ten things by learning one.

No one word can cut kindness.

It takes ordinary men to set off great ones.

Donít ask a blind man to show the way.

We are like blind men peeping through a fence.

The clearest mirror cannot show the back.

Donít get shipwrecked as you enter port.

Wisdom is one treasure no robber can touch.

Even the welcome guest is a nuisance after three days.

Let wisdom and virtue be the two wheels of your cart.

He judges by what he hears not by what he sees.

A crying child and a Lordís agent get their way.

Love blinds us to our sweetheartís faults.

He and she are so close not even water would seep between them.

Your karma and your shadow are always there.

The foolís wisdom comes after he is hurt.

Willow branches never snap under the weight of snow.

Great villainy is often called loyalty.

Donít fear a great enemy or despise a small.

Spilled water never returns to the cup.

You canít see the whole sky through a bamboo tube.

Who does not think far ahead will have troubles near at hand.

Only a monkey tries to catch the full moon in the pond.

Sparrows know not the dreams of swans.

To Buddha, the Shogunís ten thousand candles are no brighter than the peasantís one.

Below the hull is hell.

A slop of the tongue cuts deeper than the sword.

Go away and you are soon forgotten.

Donít call in the doctor after the funeral.

The nail that raises its head is hammered down.

Beauty is silent yet it speaks to us.

Being born: the beginning of the end.

Many pleading voices can melt metal.

Pinch yourself to know how it feels to others.

You can change your clothes not your character.

No one can keep one eye in back of his head.

Youth can grow old and not grow wise. Drink poison: you know as well chew up the glass too.

He is wise who knows what is enough.

Thousands of soldiers, yes: But try to find one general.

Big fish better not swim in shallow bays.

Look up: no shame before heaven Look down: no shame before earth.

His best helper is himself.

Heaven has no mouth: it must speak through men.

The thousand-mile journey starts with one step.

Steal money youíre a thief: steal a country youíre a king.

Even the antís hope may reach Heaven.

The stubborn man insists on walking right under the whip.

Yesterdayís blossoms: only a memory today.

Harder to feed the people than hold back the flood.

The purchase often proves cheaper than the gift.

Keep fences even between friends.

What is left unsaid is rich as flowers.

Your tongueís sword can cut short your life.

Careful how you handle scissors and fools.

A penny in hard worth a pound of hope.

Lazy people have no spare time.

If you carry treasure donít travel at night.

Coffin-makers love the plague.

Donít put a cleaver in the clutch of a maniac.

Wise men do not blame others; but themselves.

Summer insects seek the flame.

Of the thirty-six ways to fight the best is to flee.

If you believe everything you read better not read.

The dead tiger leaves his pelt man his reputation.

In the mountains we forget to count the days.

If you fall in the street look out for dung.

Wherever we go we can find green hills.

We are no more than candles burning in the wind.

Human life: Impermanent as morning dew.

One dog barks at nothing: all the dogs bark with him.

Borrow from him, he has an angelís face: repay him, a devilís.

when the dragon fights the tiger both get hurt.

Donít carry a lantern in moonlight.

First among blossoms the cherry: among the men the warrior.

Fallen flowers canít climb back.

Better the arrow pierce your breast than your back.

Learn on a post not on people.

To teach is also to learn.

You donít have to die: Heaven and Hell are in this world too.

You canít wrap up the wind or tie down the shadow.

A barking dog is no hunter.

The flame brightens when about to fail.

We can see seven faults in another: not one of our own ten.

Get out of the forest while you still have daylight.

A crooked branch casts a crooked shadow.

One falling leaf foretells death of a whole year.

Donít settle the quarrel listening to one side only.

Keep your mouth shut your eyes open.

Sooner or later you act out what you really think.

Donít try to graft the bamboo onto the pine.

No illusion no enlightenment.

Even with devils we prefer the ones weíre used to.

Donít waste your prayers in the horseís ear.

Always condemn the crime not always the criminal.

Disease and death recognize no face.

See no evil hear no evil speak no evil.