Japanese idioms and expressions | Ready culture

Many elements of Japanese culture are prevalent in American life. People are familiar with Japanese food, entertainment, and technology, but may not know the idioms and expressions commonly used in Japan.

Your own act, your own profit.

The expression “one’s act, one’s profit” reflects the same meaning as the American expression “reap what you sow” – everyone eventually faces the consequences of their actions. There is a similar Japanese idiom, “evil cause, evil effect,” but this version suggests that karma intervenes to give people what they deserve.

Different body, same mind, two bodies, one heart.

People use this idiom to describe like-minded individuals. The English equivalent could be a soul mate or kindred spirits, but this Japanese phrase is broader and includes two friends who share the same beliefs or interests.

Nice person, slim waist.

In America, we say, “beauty fades” to describe how the outward appearance does not last forever; in Japan people say “nice person, thin life”. The Japanese version expresses more superstition it means that a beautiful person is doomed to premature death.

A frog in a well does not know the great sea.

This idiom has no direct English equivalent. “A frog in a well does not know the great sea” means that individuals make judgments based on their own experience and have no knowledge outside their worldview; therefore, if a frog always lived in a well, it would not know that the sea exists. People also use this idiom in a similar way to the American expression “a big fish in a small pond” or someone who is a big deal in their small, isolated environment.

It is easier to give birth than to worry about it.

If you find yourself stressed about something that hasn’t happened yet, this Japanese idiom is for you. “It is easier to give birth than to worry” means that the stress of something is often worse than the actual event, and even if the event is difficult, worrying does not help.


To know more:
Thirty fantastic Japanese idioms
Sixty-nine wonderful Japanese idioms and expressions