Tips for Japanese Learners #9

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Apr 16, 2018 11:38 ForJapaneseLearners
Hello everyone. How’s it going?

Do you have any favorite phrases? When we Japanese introduce ourselves, we often refer to “座右の銘”, which is a personal motto, that is, it’s our most favorite phrase. For example, you can add your personal motto to your SNS profile, and if people see it, they can see what kind of person you are. A personal motto can be anything unless it’s too lengthy. I think that a personal motto should be a phrase that you come across naturally in your real life. Meanwhile, your personal motto can be kind of a milestone, I mean, it shows what kind of person you want to be, or you should be. That’s why, I think choosing your personal motto deliberately is also good. But, in my opinion, you shouldn’t choose a too common phrase like a character’s line in a manga, or a too uncommon phrase like a jargon. I mean, people could take you as narrow-sighted or insufferable know-it-all. So, I personally think that a desirable personal motto is that many people have heard of it, but some are not sure what it truly means. If you’ve already had it, that’s totally fine, but, if you want to know Japanese personal mottos that sound sophisticated, I’m going to tell you some of them.

What I recommend is “四字熟語”, four-character idioms. There are numerous four-character idioms, so I’d like to tell you suitable ones I mentioned above.


This idiom is known for the Japanese subtitle of the famous film “Forrest Gump.” 一期 is one chance, and 一会 is one meeting. I found a great translation for the idiom, so I think I don’t need further explanations. 一期一会 : Treasure every encounter, for it will never recur.


This is a common idiom. It’s something like to stick to an aspiration that you aimed at for the first time. Probably it goes well with learning a foreign language. On the contrary, we shouldn’t be “三日坊主(moody and quit shortly).”


This is also a common idiom, but it’s great if you want to show your dependability. It means to carry out your word. Also, there’s a similar idiom called “不言実行.” It’s something like carrying out with no words. Furthermore, there’s an idiom “有言不実行.” I hope you know what it means.


I like this idiom. It means frankness with large-hearted without any prejudice in mind. I should be 虚心坦懐 anytime, because I forget it from time to time. I think all people should be 虚心坦懐 in any social media.

I picked up my favorites, and this might sound pointless, but I think you don’t have to stick to only one personal motto. I mean, if you grow as a person, it can be changeable, and flexibility is much more important. That’s why they’re kind of milestones. Interestingly, there’s a suitable four-character idiom for what I’m talking. It’s 諸行無常(しょぎょうむじょう), the impermanence of all things. It’s the most beautiful Japanese virtue in my opinion. Anyway, please check out other personal mottos if you’re interested. I think that having a personal motto is a good way to live a meaningful life.

Thank you for reading my entry.