Useful Japanese idioms

Japanese modern lifestyle

Hello, it’s Yuko!

Today, I would like to talk about Japanese idioms.

I often hear from foreigners that “Japanese is difficult”.

There are several reasons like below.

  1. There are many characters (Hiragana, Katakana, Kanji).
  2. There are sentences that can be understood without the subject.
  3. Requires the ability to read between lines.
  4. It is difficult to use particles properly.
  5. There are a lot of idioms.

So today, I would like to pick up familiar expressions from the Japanese idioms.

What is an “idiom”?

What kind of word is an idiom?

An idiom is a set of words, phrases, or phrases that have been widely used as a habit for a long time. Two or more words are connected, and the meaning is completely different from the original word.

It is used as a fixed phrase in conversations and sentences. For example, the idiom “Mune ga odoru” in Japanese which is “The chest(Mune) is dancing(odoru)” in English. This does not mean that the chest actually pops out of the body and dances around it. “Mune ga odoru” means “exciting with expectations and excitement.”

What is the difference from the proverb?

In addition to idioms, there is a similar phrase “proverb” in Japanese. Proverbs are lessons, rather than idioms that describes a situation.

For example, the proverb, “The seeds that is not sowed do not grow.” It means that if you don’t sow, it won’t germinate = If you don’t make any effort, you won’t get any good results. If there is no cause, there is no result. From here, we can learn the lesson that “If you want to get something, you need to make some effort”.

Examples of familiar idioms

So how do we actually use idioms in our daily life? This time, I will introduce idioms that use parts of the body, along with example sentences that may apply to your life and situation.

Ushiro gami wo hikareru

Its direct translation is “The back hair is pulled”. (Ushiro gami = The back hair, Hikareru = Be pulled.)

Meaning: There is still some regret. I can’t take it for granted, and my heart remains.
Example sentence: Due to her husband’s transfer, she leaves her hometown with the feeling that “Ushiro gami wohikareru”.

Many people might have experienced!

Kan ippatsu

Its direct translation is “Between only a hair and a hair”. (Kan = Between, Ippatsu = One hair)

Meaning: Only in a few spaces. At the last minute.
Example sentence: At school, I was just on time as “Kan ippatsu”!

Nemimi ni mizu

Its direct translation is “Get some water into ears while you sleep”. (Nemimi = Sleeping ears, Mizu = Water)

Meaning: An unexpected event suddenly happens and you are surprised.
Example sentence: (On Sunday night) Eh! Is it a lunch day tomorrow? “Nemimi ni mizu!” Was there a wiener?

Te wo sashinoberu

Its direct translation is “Give your hands to others”. (Te = Hand, Sashinoberu = give it to you gently)

Meaning: Help someone in need. support.
Example sentence: I would like to “Te wo sashinoberu” to the people in the disaster area. I hope the world is surrounded by such feelings.

Ashi no fumiba mo nai

Its direct translation is “There is no space for only for a foot”. (Ashi = Feet, Fumiba mo nai= No space for stepping on)

Meaning: It looks very messy.
Example sentence: Even if I just tidied up the room, there are still toys as “Ashi no fumiba mo nai).

Megashira ga atsukunaru

Its direct translation is “Inner eye gets hot”. (Megashira = Inner eye, Atsukunaru = gets hot)

Meaning: I’m deeply moved and I’m about to tear.
Example sentence: “Megashira ga atsukunaru” as my child grew up.

Summary for the column

The idioms just mentioned are just a few, and it is said that there are about 40,000 idioms. If you can use idioms naturally in conversation, you will look very advanced in Japanese!

Also, the expression “I’m happy with my child’s growth” is nice, but by expressing “Megashira ga atsukunaru with my child’s growth”, you can express your joy without using the word “happy”.

Japanese is a language that is good at expressing emotions and situations with metaphors and phrases rather than using the expressions directly. I hope you will feel the depth of Japanese.

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