Five More Japanese Idioms

To Look With White Eyes

Japanese: 白い目で見る (shiroi me de miru)

Meaning: to look coldly upon

If you look at someone with contempt or disdain, you look at them with white eyes. It's especially used when you shun someone outside of your own group. Imagine being watched by a pair of white eyes without an iris and pupils; feels cold, doesn't it?

Example: 田中は妻を裏切るので友達から白い目で見られた。 Because Tanaka betrayed his wife, he was looked coldly upon by his friends.


Sumo by yourself

Japanese: 一人相撲を取る (hitori zumô o toru)

Meaning: Struggling by yourself, working yourself up even though there's nothing to fight

It's pretty obvious that you need two participants for a sumo match. If you do however decide to wrestle on your own, you will soon realize that there really isn't any way to win...so all the struggling and fighting is kind of pointless, since you're the only one doing it. This expression is basically used to describe situations where you struggle by yourself to achieve something, but no one really cares all that much.

Example: 俺は会議で提案したんだ。しかし一人相撲取った感じがしたけど、誰も支持してくれなかったさ。 I proposed something at the meeting. But it was like doing sumo by yourself, as nobody supported it.

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Packed Like Sushi

Japanese: すし詰め (sushizume)

Meaning: Crowded, packed

This one is pretty obvious. When you buy take-out Sushi, it usually comes in little boxes (called Sushi-Ori in Japanese) in which the Sushi is tightly packed together. This expression is similar to "packed like sardines" and can be used in a variety of ways.

Example: 数分おきに発着する電車は、すし詰め状態である。 The trains that come and go every few minutes are packed like Sushi.

A Sparrow's Tears

Japanese: すずめの涙 (suzume no namida)

Meaning: A very small amount (unfortunately)

If sparrows could cry, their tears would be very small. This expression carries the implication "not enough" - the amount of something is small and you wish it were more. It is similar to "drop in the bucket" and as one might think, is often used in relation to money.

Example: 昇給したけど、本当にすずめの涙だったけどね。 I got a raise, but it's really like a sparrow's tear, just a drop in the bucket.

To Set Something Adrift, Let It Float Away

Japanese: 水に流す (mizu ni nagasu)

Meaning: To forget, to let bygones be bygones, forgive and forget

If you set bad and painful memories adrift in a river, they will head downstream, never to return again. They will keep floating in the water - water under the bridge, if you will.

Example: 過去のことは水に流しましょう。 Let's put the past behind us.

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