Proverb – Japanese

Japanese Proverb

“Baka wa shinanakya naoranai.”

“Fools won’t be cured until they die; only death will cure a fool.”

“A tiger can’t change it’s stripes.”

My best friend Ayano is Japanese, and she says that a big part of Japanese culture is the use of proverbs.  As a significantly older country, unlike the United States which is younger and with a mixed variety of cultures, Japan has a lot of older traditions, methods, and proverbs that people still reference today and that are characteristic of their culture in particular.

This proverb references natural intention when addressing an individual’s character.  The word “fools” references individuals who make bad decisions or do things without considering the effects of their actions.  By indicating “cured,” it implies that some may think that fools can improve their character.  The proverb then implies that character cannot change, and the only thing that will truly end the foolishness and is strong enough to establish a point is death.  The second proverb, a similar American version, sends the same message about one not being able to change their character, except without the implication of death.  Saying that a tiger can’t change its stripes is a way of saying that character is inherent in a human being and no matter how hard one tries, it isn’t something that will ever change.

I think this proverb is very popular across different cultures because it regards innate human intention.  Character and personality are things that all human beings possess, and therefore this is a proverb that anyone can understand and connect to.  Personally, I don’t believe this proverb and I think that people can change, however I can relate to it and understand it on the level of being a human with a personality.  This proverb can also be used for specific situations, and most likely is most certainly often used as a piece of advice, but it can stand alone as a statement itself.

This is also very popular in Japanese culture because it is a traditional, age-old proverb.  Ayano said that proverbs are very often used and recited since Japan has such rich, ancient culture.  These proverbs aren’t simply advice; they are a way of continuing old tradition and for people with Japanese decent to take pride in, and recognize, their culture.  For example, though her parents are from Japan, Ayano still lives and grew up in California.  When her parents recite her Japanese traditions or tell her about her culture, it gives her a way of still recognizing and respecting the culture she descends from.