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Japanese Quotes That Will Enrich Your Life

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Do you have a favorite quote or saying? All it takes is a look at social media posts, framed wall decorations, and postcards to see that insightful quotes and proverbs inspire people and touch their hearts.

Proverbs are the fruit of wisdom, accumulated through the ages to reflect a given culture. By studying Japanese sayings, you’ll also learn about Japanese culture and values, as well as historical facts. For example, did you know that many Japanese quotes were influenced by ancient China and 儒教 (Jukyō), or “Confucianism“?

Today, we’ll introduce you to popular Japanese quotes and proverbs on a variety of topics. Whether you want life-changing motivation or are seeking relationship advice, you’ll love reading these words of wisdom. Learn Japanese and get inspired here at JapanesePod101.com!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. Quotes About Success
  2. Quotes About Life
  3. Quotes About Time
  4. Quotes About Love
  5. Quotes About Family & Friends
  6. Quotes About Language Learning
  7. How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

1. Quotes About Success

A Beautiful Sea

Quotes, or 格言 (Kakugen), and proverbs, or ことわざ (Kotowaza), give people inspiration and motivation.

Do you have big plans for your future, or maybe an upcoming task you’re concerned about? These practical Japanese quotes on success will give you the encouragement you need to go above and beyond!

1 – 継続は力なり 

[Japanese proverb]

Romanization: Keizoku wa chikara nari

Literally: “Continuance is power.”

Meaning: Continuity is the father of success. / Persistence pays off.

This is one of the most famous Japanese proverbs for success. 

It highlights the importance of continuous effort, even if you only do a little bit. When you progress one unit per day, the result after 100 days will be 100. But if you don’t do anything, the result will be zero after any number of days. You’ll eventually gain the strength and power to achieve your goal, as long as you put in the effort and overcome the difficulties involved.

This Japanese proverb is often used to encourage someone in their studies, sports, music (e.g. playing piano), and so on. 

2 – 七転び八起き 

[Japanese proverb]

Romanization: Nanakorobi yaoki

Literally: “Stumbling seven times but standing up eight”

Meaning: However many setbacks you face, never give up and always keep trying. 

While the numbers “seven” and “eight” have no intrinsic meaning, they’re used to represent “many times.”

The fact that the number for standing up (eight) is one higher than the number for stumbling (seven) is said to be rooted in Buddhism. When a person is born, he can’t walk by himself; he stands up for the first time with support from other people. This extra one is counted.

This proverb is also used to express that life always has ups and downs, so there’s no reason to give up.

3 – 振り向くな、振り向くな、後ろには夢がない 

[by 寺山修司 (Shuji Terayama), a Japanese playwright and poet]

Romanization: Furimuku na, furimuku na, ushiro ni wa yume ga nai

Meaning: Don’t look back, don’t look back, there is no dream in the back.

This encouraging quote is from the late Japanese multi-creator Shuji Terayama, who challenged the new era and was labeled a maverick. 

One must face forward in order to walk steadily; no one can walk backwards well. In other words, no matter how much you regret the past, you can only change the future to make a brighter life for yourself. 

4 – 人を信じよ、しかし、その百倍も自らを信じよ 

[by 手塚治虫 (Osamu Tezuka), a Japanese manga artist and animator]

Romanization: Hito o shinjiyo, shikashi, sono hyaku-bai mo mizukara o shinjiyo

Meaning: Believe in people, but believe in yourself a hundred times more. 

Believing in yourself is the most important thing when you want to achieve something big. 

This Japanese quote is very convincing and has encouraged people for decades. Osamu Tezuka had to believe in himself to become the pioneering manga and anime creator he was. He is known for his innovative techniques and his ability to redefine genres.


Center of A Street

振り向くな、振り向くな、後ろには夢がない。(Furimuku na, furimuku na, ushiro ni wa yume ga nai.) – “Don’t look back, don’t look back, there’s no dream in the back.”

2. Quotes About Life

Are you feeling stuck or unsatisfied with your day-to-day existence? Maybe you just need some Japanese quotes about life to get yourself back in the right direction. 

5 – 残り物には福がある 

[Japanese proverb]

Romanization: Nokorimono ni wa fuku ga aru

Literally: “There’s luck in the leftovers.”

Meaning: The greatest fortune and value in life are those things left behind by others.

This Japanese proverb comes from a line of a story in 浄瑠璃 (Jōruri), a form of traditional Japanese narrative music during the Edo period.

It’s often used to cheer someone up when they have to take the last turn doing something. People also use it as a warning toward someone who is greedy and selfish, scrambling to get things for him- or herself.

The proverb implies that good luck comes to those who are generous and give away their valuable possessions. It reflects the Japanese values that put importance on cooperativeness and thoughtful consideration for others.

6 – 井の中の蛙大海を知らず 

[Japanese proverb]

Romanization: I no naka no kawazu taikai o shirazu

Literally: “A frog in the well knows nothing of the great ocean.”

Meaning: Those who live in a small world think that what they see is everything; all the while, they never know about the bigger outside world.

The proverb originally came from Zhuangzi, ancient Chinese Taoist literature. When it was brought to Japan, the Japanese turned the following line into a proverb: “The reason why you can’t talk about the ocean with a frog in the well is that a frog only knows about a hole.”

This proverb warns against putting too much value on one’s own knowledge. It criticizes a narrow perspective and closed mindset, and encourages the broadening of one’s horizons.

7 – 人生に失敗がないと、人生を失敗する 

[by 斎藤茂太 (Shigeta Saito), a Japanese psychiatrist and essayist]

Romanization: Jinsei ni shippai ga nai to, jinsei o shippai suru

Literally: “If you have no failure in life, you will fail in life.”

Meaning: If you want to succeed in life, you must learn from your failures.

This quote tells us that there are always ups and downs in life, and that no one can lead a perfect and successful life without learning from failures. It’s crucial to take failures and setbacks as opportunities for growth and to change yourself with the lessons you learn.

This quote is from Shigeta Saito, who encouraged many distressed people as a “great doctor of mind” as well as a writer and lecturer. His words inspire and encourage people who face failures and difficulties.

8 – 人生には、テキストもノートも助っ人も、何でも持ち込めます  

[by 森博嗣 (Hiroshi Mori), a Japanese writer and engineer]

Romanization: Jinsei ni wa, tekisuto mo, nōto mo suketto mo, nan demo mochikomemasu

Literally: “You can bring textbooks, notes, supporters, anything into life.”

Meaning: Make maximum use of resources and opportunities to make your life better.

Unlike an examination, where you’re not allowed to bring a cheat sheet or helper, you can utilize any kind of supporting tools in life. Some people may feel hopeless and desperate when they face difficulties or when they can’t achieve something all by themselves. However, by benefiting from others’ knowledge and ideas, these kinds of problems could be easily resolved. This quote also suggests that you can do anything with your life, as there is no rule about how to live.

This quote is a persuasive life lesson that award-winning Hiroshi Mori practices. He has created multiple works of literature and has also worked as an assistant professor of architectural engineering.

A Sign of Victory

人生に失敗がないと、人生を失敗する (Jinsei ni shippai ga nai to, jinsei o shippai suru) –
“If you have no failure in life, you will fail in life.”

3. Quotes About Time

Time is what binds us to our own mortality, and it’s the topic of many Japanese quotes of wisdom. Check it out!

9 – 急がば回れ  

[Japanese proverb]

Romanization: Isogaba maware

Literally: “If you are in a hurry, go the long way around.”

Meaning: Haste makes waste.

This Japanese proverb means that when someone is in a hurry, it’s wise to choose the secure and stable path, even if it takes a little longer. Using a shortcut may involve risks and uncertainty.

This proverb comes from a line of classical Japanese poetry, 短歌 (Tanka), written by the poet 宗長 (Sōchō) in the Muromachi period. He wrote that when warriors go to Kyoto (the capital city back then), using a bridge was more secure and reliable than crossing 琵琶湖 (Lake Biwa) with a board; this is because the strong wind from 比叡山 (Mt.Hiei) could blow and move the board. Of this poem, the phrase 急がば回れ (isogaba maware) is the most popular today.

When in a hurry, don’t rush and head for what looks like an easier way. Rather, think calmly and make a wiser choice.

10 – 歳月人を待たず  

[Japanese proverb]

Romanization: Saigetsu hito o matazu

Literally: “Time and tide wait for no man.”

Meaning: Time flows without regard for humans’ convenience.

This proverb is said to originate from the following line in a poem by ancient Chinese poet, 陶潜 (Táo Qián): “Youth never comes back again. There is no morning twice a day. Work and study hard, cherishing each moment and without wasting time.”

In other words, make each day count and use time wisely, as it’s limited and never comes back. 

11 – 石の上にも三年という。しかし、三年を一年で習得する努力を怠ってはならない。

[by 松下幸之助 (Kōnosuke Matsushita), a Japanese businessman, inventor, and founder of Panasonic]

Romanization:Ishi no ue ni mo san-nen” to iu. Shikashi, san-nen o ichi-nen de shūtoku suru doryoku o okotatte wa naranai.

Meaning: Proverb says: “Three years on a stone (Perseverance prevails).” However, we must not neglect our efforts to try to acquire things in one year, not three.

Japanese culture puts importance on the value of perseverance, which is expressed by the proverb: Ishi no ue ni mo san-nen (“Three years on a stone”). It means that even a stone will become warm when you sit on it patiently for three years. In other words, you can achieve things when you remain patient and put in the effort, even if it’s difficult and painful.

On the other hand, Kōnosuke Matsushita says that patience is essential, but it’s more important to put in extra effort to thrive and to accelerate your results. 

The words of the great inventor and businessman Kōnosuke are very encouraging and convincing. His endeavors, in only a limited amount of time, resulted in a number of innovations. 

12 – 人生において 最も大切な時 それはいつでも いまです 

[by 相田みつを (Mitsuo Aida), a Japanese poet and calligrapher]

Romanization: Jinsei ni oite mottomo taisetsu na toki sore wa itsu demo ima desu

Meaning: The most important time in life is always the present.

No one can retrieve the past and you can only change the future. However, the future is merely a continuation of the present. 

Mitsuo Aida, known as The Poet of Zen, emphasizes the utmost importance of “now” in life because the present is what shapes the future. Even if you have regrets about the past or worries about the future, focus on what you can do right now to make your life better.

A Compass

急がば回れ  (Isogaba maware) – “Haste makes waste.”

4. Quotes About Love

Are you madly in love with someone? Or maybe you’re a hopeless romantic? Either way, we think you’ll enjoy these heartwarming Japanese quotes about love!

13 – 思えば思わるる  

[Japanese proverb]

Romanization: Omoeba omowaruru

Literally: “When you care about (someone), you will be cared about.”

Meaning: Love and be loved. / Love is the reward of love.

When you’re kind and well-disposed toward others, they will also be nice to you. Likewise, when you have a hateful and hostile attitude, it will come back to you.

This proverb encourages people to have a generous heart and to be kind to others. This quote is also said to be the floral language of Gypsophila.

14 – かわいい子には旅をさせよ  

[Japanese proverb]

Romanization: Kawaii ko ni wa tabi o saseyo

Literally: “Make a beloved child travel.”

Meaning: Spare the rod and spoil the child.

Children learn better through experiencing different things than by being kept close to their parents and getting spoiled. If you truly love your child, let them see the world and experience bitterness themselves; it will make them grow stronger and wiser.

This proverb teaches us that watching over someone quietly from afar is indirect, but also a sign of firm and trusting love.

15 – 恋とは自分本位なもの、愛とは相手本位なもの

[by 美輪明宏  (Akihiro Miwa), a Japanese singer, actor, director, composer, author, and drag queen]

Romanization: Koi to wa jibun hon’i na mono, ai to wa aite hon’i na mono

Meaning: Romance is self-oriented; love is companion-/partner-oriented.

When people are romantically in love with someone, they tend to think and see things from an egoistic perspective: “I want to go out with her.” / “I want to be his girlfriend.” / “I don’t want her to disappoint me.” 

On the other hand, real love is more generous and giving. It makes a person look at things from the other person’s point of view: “She would be happy if she got flowers.” / “My family would enjoy it if I went on holiday and took them to Disneyland.”

These words founded in Akihiro Miwa’s experience get to the heart of the matter, as he went through difficult times while living an extraordinary life.

16 – 愛の前で自分の損得を考えること自体ナンセンスだ  

[by 岡本太郎 (Tarō Okamoto), a Japanese artist]

Romanization: Ai no mae de jibun no sontoku o kangaeru koto jitai nansensu da

Meaning: It’s nonsense to think about your profits and losses in front of love.

Love is sincere and profoundly tender; it comes from one’s genuine heart and feelings, without any lies. If you act from self-interest, it is not true love.

Unconventional artist Tarō Okamoto’s quote strikes a chord and makes people realize what it’s really like to love someone.


Men and Women Forming Heart with Their Hands

思えば思わるる (Omoeba omowaruru) – “When you care about (someone), you will be cared about.”

5. Quotes About Family & Friends

Family and friends are the most important people in our lives. Read through the following Japanese quotes on friendship and family to gain some cultural insight!

17 – 親しき仲にも礼儀あり  

[Japanese proverb]

Romanization: Shitashiki naka ni mo reigi ari

Literally: “Courtesy should be exercised even among intimate relationships.”

Meaning: A hedge between keeps friendships.

The origins of this proverb can be traced back to the Cheng–Zhu school, which was a major philosophical school of Neo-Confucianism. In the Analects of Confucius, an ancient Chinese book, it’s written that even if there is harmony, order can’t be maintained without courtesy.

Close relationships include friends, neighbors, relatives, and family. To keep sound relationships, one must always observe the boundaries. 

18 – 類は友を呼ぶ  

[Japanese proverb]

Romanization: Rui wa tomo o yobu

Literally: “Same kind calls friends.”

Meaning: Birds of a feather flock together.

People who have things in common naturally tend to get closer and become friends. These similarities can be anything: a sense of values, personality, background, environment, hobbies, experiences, and so on. The proverb can also be used to warn people to be wise in choosing friends, because if you hang out with bad people, you would become steeped in vice as well. 

This proverb derives from the I Ching or Yi Jing (“Book of Changes”), the oldest Chinese classic and a major divination text. It was brought to Japan and has become very widespread since.

19 – 家族とは、「ある」ものではなく、手をかけて「育む」ものです

[by 日野原重明 (Shigeaki Hinohara), a Japanese physician]

Romanization: Kazoku to wa, “aru” mono de wa naku, te o kakete “hagukumu” mono desu

Meaning: Family is not something that is “there,” but something that is “fostered” with care and time.

Family is the most important thing. It is your family that you call first in an emergency, such as an earthquake or hurricane, to confirm their safety. However, a loving family is never made by itself; it has to be created by each member with love and care, over time.

With this quote, Shigeaki Hinohara, who devoted his whole life to being a doctor even after he turned 100 years old, reminds people not to take their family for granted. Rather, one should cherish and take good care of them. 

20 – 人生最大の幸福は一家の和楽である  

[by 野口英世 (Hideyo Noguchi), a Japanese bacteriologist who discovered the agent of syphilis]

Romanization: Jinsei saidai no kōfuku wa ikka no waraku de aru

Meaning: The greatest happiness of life is happy and quality time with family.

The base of any kind of happiness lies in family. No matter how difficult a goal you achieve, nothing is happier than sharing positive feelings and celebrating with loved ones.


Three Men Looking at the Sunset

類は友を呼ぶ  (Rui wa tomo o yobu) – “Birds of a feather flock together.”

6. Quotes About Language Learning

Finally, let’s look at a couple of Japanese language quotes that you can apply to your language learning journey!

21 – 為せば成る 為さねば成らぬ何事も 成らぬは人の為さぬなりけり

[by 上杉鷹山 (Yōzan Uesugi), a powerful Japanese feudal lord]

Romanization: Naseba naru, nasaneba naranu nanigoto mo, naranu wa hito no nasanu nari keri

Meaning: You can accomplish anything by simply doing it. Nothing will get done unless you do it. If something was not accomplished, that’s because no one did it.

Most things in this world can be done with a strong will and ceaseless effort. As a similar English proverb also says: “Where there is a will, there is a way.”

This is from a poem of Yōzan Uesugi, who was known as the greatest lord in the Edo period. He gave this poem to his vassals as a cautionary lesson. It’s said that he also followed the words of the powerful warrior 武田信玄 (Shingen Takeda) and the warlords of the Sengoku period (fifteenth to sixteenth century): “It is human frailty that people give up by thinking they can’t, although anything can be achieved if they have a strong will.”

The first part—Naseba naru (“You can accomplish if you do it”)—is one of the most famous Japanese quotes for encouraging people who are up against a challenge. Don’t find reasons that you can’t do something and complain about them; instead, try to think about how you can do that thing and put your ideas into action.

22 – 努力は必ず報われる。もし報われない努力があるのならば、それはまだ努力と呼べない。  

[by 王貞治 (Sadaharu Ō), a former baseball player and manager in Japan]

Romanization: Doryoku wa kanarazu mukuwareru. Moshi mukuwarenai doryoku ga aru no naraba, sore wa mada doryoku to yobenai.

Meaning: Effort is always rewarded. If there is an unrewarding effort, it can not yet be called an effort.

Like the quote above, this quote tells the importance of making an effort and emphasizes that anything can be achieved with enough effort. 

These words from Sadaharu Ō strike the hearts of many people. He is a man of effort, and has numerous career highlights and awards, as well as records in Japan and worldwide. His ceaseless effort and passion is seen not only in his playing days, but also in his career as a coach, leading his team to victory a number of times.

His quote is very inspiring, especially for language learners!


A Woman Reading Book while Standing in a Train

努力は必ず報われる。もし報われない努力があるのならば、それはまだ努力と呼べない。
(Doryoku wa kanarazu mukuwareru. Moshi mukuwarenai doryoku ga aru no naraba, sore wa mada doryoku to yobenai.) – “Effort is always rewarded. If there is an unrewarding effort, it can not yet be called an effort.”

7. How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

In this article, we introduced the most inspirational Japanese quotes and proverbs in several categories. I hope you enjoyed today’s topic and were encouraged by these Japanese words of wisdom! 

If you would like to learn more about the Japanese language, you’ll find much more helpful content on JapanesePod101.com. We provide a variety of free lessons to help you improve your Japanese language skills. Here are some more inspiring Japanese quotes and motivational phrases for language learning: 

And we have so much more to offer you!

For instance, you’ll gain access to our personal one-on-one coaching service, MyTeacher, when you subscribe for a Premium PLUS membership. Your private teacher will help you practice your pronunciation and offer you personalized feedback and advice to ensure effective learning. 

Learn Japanese in the fastest and easiest way possible with JapanesePod101.com!

Before you go, let us know in the comments which of these Japanese quotes is your favorite, and why! We look forward to hearing from you.

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