In many ways, the nation of Japan and its sophisticated culture has influenced the rest of the world, be it by martial arts like judo and karate or popular culture in the form of video games and anime. Of course, the Japanese language is the vehicle of this culture.
As a result, many Japanese words and phrases showcase the positive and proactive Japanese way of thinking and living. Though there are many, here are a handful of them that can motivate and inspire you today.
1. Let’s Improve Ourselves
自己を向上させることにはまろう (jiko wo koujou saseru koto ni hamarou) is a rallying cry for self-improvement that is also inclusive and motivates several people at once and together. Like many other phrases in this list, the verb form is volitional. It involves human will and individual motivation.
2. Let’s Face the reality
The phrase 現実に立ち向かおう (genjitsu ni tachimukaou), where 現実 means “reality” and 立ち向かう means “to face or fight against.” Facing the truth simply means looking at the results of your actions to see if they have been favorable. If not, no need to despair. Simply learn from any mistakes and try a better approach next time.
3. Do What Scares You
The phrase 怖くなることをやろう (kowaku naru koto wo yarou), where 怖い means “scary” and やる means “to do,” might seem counterintuitive at first.
But facing your fears head on rather than running away from them is a sensible and noble notion indeed. It is even psychologically sound, as it is found in the therapeutic method known as flooding.
4. Let’s Go Further
In the phrase もっと先に行こう (motto saki ni ikou), ‘motto’ isn’t a transliteration of the English word “motto.” However, that is exactly what it is, and a good one to live by at that.
5. Let’s Get Over Doubt
疑いを乗り越えよう (utagai wo norikoeyou) encourages you not to listen to those negative voices in your head or outside of it that tell you that you can’t do something. If you have tried to repeat any of the phrases on this list out loud, then you have learned some Japanese and recited some positive affirmations. Who says you can’t do it then?
継続は力なり (Keizoku wa chikara nari) encourages you not to give up. Despite the difficulties that you may face, continue to move ahead, demonstrating a strength and power of its own.
7. Always Rising After a Fall
七転び八起き (Nanakorobi yaoki) encourages you to outweigh negativity and defeat with positivity and perseverance. Literally it says to get up eight times if you fall seven times.
8. Rain Hardens
雨降って地固まる (ame futte chi katamaru) assures you that after hardship, here represented by rain, you will gain resilience and character. Here represented by the earth hardening after the rain falls.
9. Everybody Makes Mistakes
猿も木から落ちる (Saru mo ki kara ochiru) reminds you to be kind to yourself, because like even monkeys fall from trees, so too we fall short. No one is perfect, and we can and will get back up and try again.
10. Forgive and Forget
水に流す (mizu ni nagasu) says that like water under the bridge, let too bygones go by without holding on to grudges that may weigh us down while we are moving forward.
虎穴に入らずんば虎子を得ず (Koketsu ni irazunba koji wo ezu) means that if you do not venture out and take risk, there is nothing worthwhile gained.
12. Beauties of Nature
花鳥風月 (Kachou Fuugetsu) reminds you that nature reflects you, and thus can teach you about yourself.
13. Be Born Again
起死回生 (kishi kaisei) is a hyperbole that says to return from death, representing hardship, and come back to life, representing success against the odds.
14. No use crying over spilt water
覆水盆に帰らず (Fukusui bon ni kaerazu) says there is nothing to gain from obsessing over past events.
15. Nothing to fear but fear itself
案ずるより産むが易し (Anzuru yori umu ga yasashi) uses the metaphor of pregnancy to say that scary things are doable or otherwise not as bad as they seem.
16. Sell yourself
自分自身を売り込もう (Jibun jishin wo urikomou) means that you are the only one ultimately responsible for getting your name and reputation out there to all. Don’t sell yourself short in the process!
17. Know what moves you
自分を動かすものを知ろう (Jibun wo ugokasu mono wo shirou) says to be aware of what motivates you.
18. Survive Whatever
何が何でも生き延びよう (Naniganandemo ikinobiyou) reminds us we are meant to survive as individuals and as a species, no matter the cost.
19. Give a Good Impression
好感を与えよう (Koukan wo ataeyou) reminds us that positivity on our part attracts the same back to us.
20. You Can Do it
君なら出来るよ (Kimi nara dekiruyo) is a simple positive affirmation.
21. Best of Luck
頑張れ/頑張ってね (Ganbare/Ganbattene) wishes the other person good luck.
22. Act Like a Winner
勝利者のようにふるまおう (Shourisha no you ni furumaou) says to cultivate a positive mindset to get better results.
23. Love Yourself
自分自身を愛そう (Jibun jishin wo aisou) says love is contagious.
24. Imagine and Create
想像して創造しよう (Souzou shite, souzou shiyou) is self explanatory but timeless.
すすみつづけてさえいれば、おそくともかんけいない (Susumi tsudzukete sae ireba, osokutomo kan ke inai) reminds you that going forward slowly is better than stopping and stagnating.
As can easily be seen with every one of these Japanese proverbs and phrases, the universal spirit of motivation and inspiration is not specific to any one culture. Nonetheless, it can be captured and poetically presented in a variety of elegant and noble ways through metaphors or even simple affirmations.
Hopefully, these Japanese phrases have been able to motivate you whenever you may find yourself in a difficult situation. And remind you that even in hard times when you feel alone, you are more connected and capable than you realize, and can always turn things around for the better.