Proverb: 失敗は成功の基。 Shippai wa seekoo no moto.
English translation: Failure is the foundation of success.
Situation: Tanaka-san lost a game and Satoo-san wanted to encourage him.
Tanaka: Shippai wa seekoo no moto dakara, tsugi ni ikaseba iiyo.
Satoo: Un, arigatoo.
Tanaka: Failure is the foundation of success so you can make use of your experience for the better next time.
Satoo: Yes, thank you.
Proverb: 百聞は一見に如かず。 Hyakubun wa ikken ni shikazu.
English translation: Seeing something once is better than hearing about it a hundred times.
Situation: Yamada-san wants to go abroad to study English. He is gathering information from Ogawa-san who has experience studying abroad.
Yamada: Kaigai-ryuugakutte yappari taihen kanaa.
Ogawa: Hyakubun wa ikken ni shikazu dayo. Itte mitara iiyo.
Yamada: Do you think studying abroad is tough?
Ogawa: Seeing something once is better than hearing about it a hundred times. Why don’t you give it a try?
Proverb: 思い立ったが吉日。 Omoitatta ga kichi-jitsu.
English translation: The day you come up with the idea is a fine day.
Situation: Mori-san and Miyazaki-san are at a cafe. Mori-san thinks she is getting fat.
Mori: Saikin futotte kita. Daietto shinakya.
Miyazaki: Omoitatta ga kichi-jitsu toiukotode sono keeki wa watashi ga taberuyo.
Mori: I’m getting fat recently. I have to go on diet.
Miyazaki: It is said, “Make hay while the sun shines.”, so I will eat that cake.
This proverb is similar to 鉄は熱いうちに打て Tetsu wa atsui uchi ni ute (Strike while the iron is hot).
Proverb: 笑う門には福来る。Warau kado niwa fuku kitaru.
English translation: Fortune comes to those who smile.
Situation: Sasaki-san and Mita-san are talking about Kuroki-san at the office.
Sasaki: Kuroki-santte itsumo egao dayone.
Mita: Sooieba Kuroki-san, raigetsu kekkon surundayo. Warau kado niwa fuku kitarutte hontoodane.
Sasaki: Kuroki-san always smiles, doesn’t she?
Mita: By the way, Kuroki-san is getting married. Fortune comes to those who smile seems true.
Note: 門 kado (usually pronounced “mon”) refers to “home/house”, not the original kanji meaning “gate”. However, in this this phrase the word is used not only for “home” but also for “people”.
Proverb: 案ずるより産むが易し。 Anzuru yori umu ga yasushi.
English translation: To give a birth is easier than to worry about it.
Situation: Shiraki-san and Oda-san are talking in the office about a presentation.
Shiraki: Purezen ga umaku ikuka shinpai datta kedo, iza yatte mitara umakuitta yo.
Oda: Masani anzuru yori umu ga yasushi dane.
Shiraki: I was worried about my presentation, but actually it went well.
Oda: It’s exactly “Fear is often worse than the danger itself.”
Proverb: 一期一会。Ichi go ichi e.
English translation: Once in a life time.
Situation: Sara was traveling in Japan and was having a drink with some new Japanese friends.
Sara: Ichi go ichi e no deai o taisetsu ni shitai desu ne.
Nihonjin no yuujin: Hontoo dane.
Sara: We want to treasure every encounter which is “Once in a lifetime opportunity”, don’t we?
Japanese friend: That’s true.
This proverb is originated from 茶道 Sadoo (Japanese tea ceremony). When a host had a tea ceremony, that opportunity would never come back so a host had to try his best and guests also had to show their sincerity.
Proverb: 七転八起。 Shichiten hakki.
Literal translation: Fall seven times, stand up eight times.
Situation: Uehara-san keeps failing job interviews and shares his disappointments with his former coworker Fujita-san.
Uehara: Mata ochimashiita.
Fujita : Sore wa kinodoku data ne.
Uehara: Shichiten hakki no seeshin de ganbari masu yo.
Uehara: I failed again.
Fujita: It’s such a shame.
Uehara: I will do my best next time bearing in mind the spirit of “Falling seven times, standing up seven times”.
Another similar proverb is 七転び八起き Nana-korobi ya-oki.
Proverb: 一生懸命。Isshoo kenmei.
English translation: With all one’s might.
Situation: Jack joined a Japanese company as a new team member. His boss introduced him to the team and Jack said the following.
Jack: Isshoo-kenmei ganbari-masu node yoroshiku onegai shimasu.
Jack: I will work hard. Nice to meet you. [I’m looking forward to working with you.]
This 四字熟語 comes from 一所懸命 Issho kenmei. 一所 means “one place”, 懸命 means “desperately”. A long time ago, Bushi (samurai) had a distributed territory, and they protected it and made a living by risking their life. The kanji 一所 (one place) has been changed to 一生 (one’s whole life).