Imagine that a Japanese friend said to you: Breaking wind, closing buttocks! You would wonder what on earth he was saying. The Japanese proverb is (in romaji): He wo hitte, shiri tsubome. What it means is that it is no use squeezing your buttocks after you have farted! The proverb is trying to convey the same thing as the English proverb, “It’s no use shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted!”
Kotowaza are Japanese proverbs that often go back a long time. They can be very expressive and delightful. Here are a few more:
Anzuru yori umu ga yasushi. Literally, this means, “Giving birth to a baby is easier than worrying about it.” The implied meaning is that we worry about things imagining that they are going to be terrible but they typically don’t turn out to be as hard as we had imagined.
Aaite no nai kenka wa dekinu. Literally, this means, “You cannot have a fight alone.” The implied meaning is that one party doesn’t want to be in a fight, there won’t be one because, as the proverb says, you can’t have a fight by yourself. Good advice that we should all heed, I think.
Ashita wa ashita, kyo wa kyou. Literally, this means, “Tomorrow is tomorrow, today is today.” The implied meaning is that we should focus on what we need to do today rather than worrying about what may happen in the future.
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