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Issue Eight / Photo Essay

Old Lives Tales

Photographs by Hideaki Hamada Translations by Masafumi Kajitani

Keep calm and carry these Japanese proverbs close at hand to live well and gain wisdom.  


1. 雨降って地固まる

(ame futte ji katamaru)

LITERALLY: After the rain, earth hardens.

MEANING: Adversity strengthens the foundations. / After a storm, things will stand on more solid ground than they did before.


2. 雲散霧消

(unsan mushō)

LITERALLY: scattered clouds, disappearing mist

MEANING: disappear without a trace


3.  十人十色

(jūnin toiro)

LITERALLY: ten men, ten colors

MEANING: To each his/her own. / Different strokes for different folks.


4. 虎穴に入らずんば虎子を得ず

(koketsu ni irazunba koji wo ezu)

LITERALLY: If you don’t enter the tiger’s cave, you will not catch its cub.

MEANING: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. / You can’t achieve anything without risking something.


5.  出る杭は打たれる

(deru kui wa utareru)

LITERALLY: The stake that sticks out gets hammered down.

MEANING: Don’t make waves. / It’s better to conform than to stick out.


6.  三日坊主

(mikka bōzu)

LITERALLY: a monk for just three days

MEANING: giving up easily


7.  二兎を追う者は一兎をも得ず

(nito wo ou mono wa itto wo mo ezu)

LITERALLY: One who chases after two hares won’t catch even one.

MEANING: Trying to do two things at once will make you fail at both.


8. 花鳥風月

(kachō fūgetsu)

LITERALLY: flower, bird, wind, moon

MEANING: the beauties of nature


9. 言わぬが花

(iwanu ga hana)

LITERALLY: Not speaking is the flower.

MEANING: Silence is golden. / Some things are better left unsaid.


Photographer Hideaki Hamada is a photographer based in Osaka, Japan. Born in 1977 in Hyogo, he is the father of Haru and Mina (pictured). 

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