If you’re thinking about getting a Japanese writing tattoo, why not get a four-character idiom?
These tiny sayings are packed with meaning and, often, very wise advice.
What is a four-character idiom?
Known as yojijukugo in Japanese, four-character idioms are a succinct and poetic way of stating proverbs. They use a mere 4 kanji characters to express complex concepts.
It would be similar to English proverbs like “Killing two birds with one stone.” being shortened to “Two birds, one stone.” And Japanese has the added advantage of each kanji having an individual meaning as well as changed meanings when combined with certain other kanji, allowing even more to be expressed in these tiny proverbs.
Here are 10 beautiful and inspiring four-character idioms to kickstart your inspiration:
十人十色 (juunin toiro)
Literal meaning: 10 people, 10 colours.
Natural Translation: “To each their own.”
一日一歩 (ichinichi ippo)
Literal Meaning: 1 day, 1 step
Natural Translation: “One step at a time.”
悪因悪果 (akuinn akka)
Literal Meaning: Bad cause, bad results.
Natural Translation: “Sow evil, reap evil.”
Literal Meaning: People who meet always part
Natural Translation: “Every meeting must involve a parting.” OR “Those who meet must part.”
一期一会 (ichigo ichie)
Literal Meaning: One life, one meeting.
Natural Translation: “Every encounter is a once-in-a-lifetime encounter.”
Literal Meaning: one time to know new
Natural Translation: “Learning from the past.” or “Review the past to learn about the future.”
七転八起 (nanakorobi yaoki)
Literal Meaning: Seven falls, eight rises.
Natural Translation: “Fall down seven times, get up eight.
Literal Meaning: Similar hearts convey themselves.
Natural Translation: “Communication without words.”
Literal Meaning: flowers, birds, wind, moon
Natural Translation: “The beauties of nature.”
Literal Meaning: “Without words, action”
Natural Translation: “Actions before words.”