In Japan, people generally think of a person who uses Japanese proverbs everyday life as being educated and cultured. If a person does not know anything, he or she might be thought of as the opposite. Of course, foreigners are not required to know them. However, if you use them, I am sure you will be respected and admired. It’s very cool. Thus, I have collected six useful Japanese proverbs for encouraging someone.
List: Six Japanese Proverbs for Encouraging Someone
*Disclaimer: The translations between proverbs in different languages cannot be perfect. It is recommended to focus on the notes and the examples in Japanese rather than the translation.
Translation: Failure teaches success.
Meaning: If you are failed on something, you can pursue its cause and try to find its solutions, so that you can get closer to success.
Note: This proverb can be used for a person who made a (or especially the first) mistake or failure, sometimes to prevent him/her from repeatedly making the same mistakes.
My job interview today didn’t go well…
B 今日失敗したところを修正すれば、次回の面接は大丈夫（だよ / ですよ）失敗は
成功の元（だよ / ですよ）。
If you realize and fix today’s mistakes, you’ll be prepared for the next one! Failure teaches success.
Translation: What one likes, one will do well.
Meaning: Everyone studies hard, devises and does the best on whatever s/he likes, so s/he can improve the skills naturally.
Note: This proverb can be used for a person who would like to try things s/he heartily likes not just for money or returns.
A 彼の日本語が、あそこまで上手になるとは思わなかった（よ / です）！
I didn’t expect his Japanese to improve so much!
B 彼は本当に日本が好き（だから / ですから）。好きこそ物の上手なれ（だね / ですね）。
He really loves Japan. What one likes, one will do well.
Translation: Tomorrow is another day.
Meaning: Even if you’re too worried about tomorrow, it is another day. Whatever will be will be.
Note: This proverb can be used for a person who is nervous of doing something important or is disappointed with failures made by him or herself.
A 昨日、面接で大失敗（しちゃった / しちゃいました）…。
I made a big mistake in a job interview yesterday.
B 明日は明日の風が吹く、（だよ / ですよ）。元気を出して（ください）。
Tomorrow is another day. Cheer up.
Translation: Easier said than done.
Meaning: Everyone can say something, but only a few of them can accomplish it.
Note: In practice, it is often omitted; “言うは易し”. I recommend you to use this proverb for a person who has gotten strong criticism.
A 批判ばかりされてもう嫌に（なるよ / なります）。
I got fed up with the criticism
B 言うは易し、（だね / ですね）。Aさんは本当に偉いと（思う / 思います）。
That’s easier said than done. I think you are really great.
Translation: Half a tatami is enough to stand, and a single tatami is enough to sleep.
Meaning: One should be satisfied without desiring more wealth and rank than necessary.
Note: This may be of popular among Japanese elder generations. This proverb can be used for a person who lost something monetary.
A 会社が倒産して（しまった / しまいました）…。
My own company has gone bankrupt…
B 人間は、起きて半畳、寝て一畳。やり直せ（るよ / ますよ）。
Human being is that half a tatami is enough to stand, and a tatami is enough to sleep. You can do it over again.
Translation: All’s well that ends well.
Meaning: Events which have a good ending are good, even if something went wrong along the way.
Note: This proverb can be used for a person who made a mistake or failure along the way. It is sometimes used for yourself to justify a bad choice.
A 先生を怒らせて（しまったね / しまいましたね）。 We made our teacher angry.
B 終わり良ければすべて良し、やるべきことは（やろう / やりましょう）。 All is well that ends well. Let’s fulfill our duty.
Translation: Even Kobo (which is a man name like the Grecian epic poet Homer) sometimes nods.
Meaning: Anyone can make a mistake.
Note: This proverb can be used for a person who hesitates to start a new try or who has made a very basic mistake.
A しまった、見積書の数字を間違えて（いた / いました）。
Gosh, the figure on the quotation was wrong.
B 弘法にも筆の誤り、（だね / ですね）。直すの（手伝うよ / 手伝いますよ）。
Even Kobo sometimes nods. I will help you correct it.
Translation: Do your best and leave the rest to Providence.
Meaning: Once you have done your best, you have nothing you can do more. Just let go of the outcome.
Note: This proverb can be used for a person who is waiting for a result, such as an examination or a job interview. This also can be used for a person who will start something, to encourage him or her to do his or her best.
I cannot settle down to do anything because the coming result distract me.
B 人事を尽くして天命を待つ、きっと受かって（いるよ / いますよ）。
Do your best and leave the rest to Providence. You will pass it.
How do you like these Japanese proverbs? I am sure that most Japanese natives know all of them. Please try to use when you need to encourage someone important. Just saying “がんばって” is of course no problem. However, if you can use them correctly, it will definitely appeal his or her minds. That’s the power of Japanese proverbs.
Author and English Editor
Author – Takuya Tokiwa
Takuya is the co-founder, Project Director of Wasabi and a serial entrepreneur in the education field. He is utilizing all of his knowledge and experiences for innovating Japanese learning.
English Editor – Reka, Blue Kangaroo
Reka has been working as a native English teacher for the past 4 years and teaching students of all ages, background and ability, from 8-88 years of age, from absolute beginner to fluent. If you have any inquiry related English, please visit here.