folk metaphor
Folk speech

Fukusui bon ni kaerazu.

Fukusui bon ni kaerazu.

Literal translation: Spilt water will not return to the tray.

The informant first heard this from her friend in the eighth grade after a mutual friend had just broken up with her boyfriend of several months.  She was fifteen.  Her friend was comforting their mutual friend, saying, “Fukusui bon ni kaerazu. It’s okay, everything will get better.”  Her boyfriend had broken up with her bluntly after a fight, saying, “I can’t stand you, I hate you!  Let’s break up.”  The informant thinks this is saying that you can’t go back so you should live your life without regrets, because once you’ve lived your life, there isn’t any way that you can go back and change it to be the way you imagined it.

This saying is very similar to the American version “There’s no use crying over spilled milk,” meaning that what is part of the past will remain in the past.  It already happened and there is no way that you can go back and fix whatever happened so there is no use wasting your entire life mourning for something that won’t come back.  Just accept it and move on with your life in peace.  I think the crying over spilled milk goes back to childhood, when children are of the age when many things upset them and they cry about everything.  This might be where the saying arose, don’t cry over spilled milk, because it isn’t a big deal.  However, over time it must have evolved into a different meaning.  Spilled milkd came to symbolize an unimportant matter, something upsetting that will soon fade away in your memory so there is no use stressing over it so much.  Don’t waste your tears on stupid things.

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