December 31, 2010
In feudal times, conquering warriors would raise the flag of their lord on the battle site. Raising the flag in Japan today still symbolize victory, particularly in reference to independent enterpreneurs who succeed in business after starting from scratch.
December 30, 2010
December 29, 2010
This expression teaches the moral that, little by little and bit by bit, one's persistent efforts will lead to achievement. Even the smallest of efforts however trivial they may seem at the time, will contribute toward one's ultimate success.
December 28, 2010
Social control through shame is highly developed in Japan. Japanese are keenly sensitive to being the object of scorn or ostracism. This expression conveys the feeling that everyone is pointing an accusatory finger at one's back for one's shameful conduct.
December 27, 2010
A deep feeling of guilt for discarding one option in life in favor of another. Japanese feel a lingering tug of loyalty toward the discarded option. The tug, however, is not at the heart strings but at the hairs at the back of the head.
December 26, 2010
December 25, 2010
The ideal face in Japan figuratively has a thin layer of skin so as to respond with sensitivity to others. In contrast, a thick-skinned, un-Japanese face reflects an inability to blush (to show shame), to reveal vulnerability, or to show empathy.
December 24, 2010
This expression means to treat someone with disdain bordering on contempt. This is an especially appropriate phrase when the person is outside of one's group. Why shiroi (white) eyes? One theory is that eyes without pupils would have a cold, ghostly look analogous to a scornful rebuke.
December 23, 2010
Shinzoo ga tsuyoi describes a socially bold, cheeky person. Usually considered a negative trait, the phrase also may refer to having the courage (or gall) to behave against what is normally expected, like an employee who questions his boss, or a student who challenges the teacher.
December 22, 2010
Teaches that one cannot expect to hear only good news in life. Sometimes, although painful, it is good medicine to taste the bitter truth. It is implicit in the statement that the speaker "cares enough" to speak with unusual candor.
December 21, 2010
Some say that, despite Japan's economic might, its people are pretty simple. To say "My ear hurt", when words of criticism are hurled one's way, is direct and disarming. It's a way of saying "you got me". Implicit in the phrase is the recognition of wrongdoing.
December 20, 2010
It's probably fair to say that Japanese are preccupied with hierarchies. Status is indicated physically by one's posture in relation to others. To bend a little, to lower one's head, or to bow a deep bow is to position oneself vis-a-vis a person of higher rank. Thus, koshi ga hikui is a complement-especially to one who, by virtue of wealth or fame, has attained high status.
December 19, 2010
When in the presence of others who are superior in some respect, one's feeling of inferiority may be intensified. The physical manifestation of this feeling is a shrinking into oneself. The Japanese picture this reaction as a drawing in of the shoulders.
December 18, 2010
To be established in business or to be respected in society, it is important to be kao ga hiroi. The kao ga hiroi person is often the community leader or the authority figure in the profession. He ro she has many contacts in the community and is expected to perform a paternal or maternal role.
December 17, 2010
Wordless yet total communication between two pepole, as if one heart is in direct contact with the other. Couples who have been married for 50 years may have ishin densin. Co-workers, business associates, and friends are also capable of this harmonious relationship.
December 16, 2010
The origin of the word haragei is a drama performed on the belly of a person lying down, or a skit performed with a face painted on one's belly. From this comes the meaning of a theatrical strategy to communicate to others without words. Today haragei is thought of as a nonverbal, intuitive problem-solving technique requiring experience, sensitiviity, and a keen knowledge of others.
December 15, 2010
This idiom captures the deep concern japanese have for maintaining face. "Face," of course, means one's positive image, one's public identity and correct behavior wihtin the community. The "having no face" part of the expression can be interpreted as "not knowing what expression to wear," or "not knowing even how to compose one's expression" when having to face someone at a time when one feels deeply ashamed.
December 14, 2010
December 13, 2010
December 12, 2010
According to Japanese etymological sources, ashimoto o miru comes from the Feudal Age when the planquin carriers would examine the legs and feet of prospective customers to judge their level of exhaustion, then raise the fare accordingly.
December 11, 2010
Sitting on the edge of one's chair with both feet firmly planted on the ground shows eagerness, enthusiasm, and spirit of trying hard to succeed. In contrast, a relaxed pose of sitting on a cushion with one's legs crossed means to coast, to rest on one's laurels.
December 10, 2010
Abata mo ekubo is another way of saying, " Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." But in this Japanese expression, the beholder is almost always a man who is beholding a woman. Her face may not have physical beauty, but her personality makes her attractive to him.
December 09, 2010
This Japanese proverb acknowledges the reality that people have different tastes. Also used to warn people not to judge others by one's own taste. Tade is smartweed, a bitter tasting plant. Yet some insects prefer it.
December 08, 2010
Among fish caught in nets, mackerel are so little valued that Japanese fishermen may not bother to count them. Often the rough estimates of mackerel have been highly inflated, giving rise to the use of the phrase " reading the mackerel " to indicate the practice of " guesstimating " in one's own favor.
December 07, 2010
When someone has been hit simultaneously with several bad breaks, it may be consoling to hear a friend say, " Nakitsura ni hachi." The philosophical surety of the phrase reminds Japanese that misfortune may indeed come in twos(or even threes).
December 06, 2010
December 05, 2010
December 04, 2010
December 03, 2010
Used to advocate greater travel beyond the Japanese islands, it captures the Japanese sense of awareness of being like a frog in a well. Comfortable as the well may be, it is but a small part of the whole world. Japanese teachers often recite this proverb to encourage their students to progress beyond the circumstances into which they were born.
December 02, 2010
This expression originates from the way an octopus is stretched out to dry. All eight legs are spread out and stretched to their limits. Thus, when the pretty young starlet or the renowned architect is suddenly in great demand, the impression is like a hippari dako.
December 01, 2010
The impression is that of a swarm of noisy bees buzzing around in a frenzy of confusion. Complete bedlam that one is not happy about.