“Trip seven times, get up eight times” – Japanese Proverb

1. Text

Main piece: Informant shared a Japanese proverb “七転び八起き”.

Original script: 七転び八起き

Phonetic: Nana korobi hachi oki

Transliteration: Seven falls eight get ups

Translation: Trip seven times, get up eight times.

Definition: Persevering, not giving up till succeeding; the ups and downs of life

2. Context

Relationship to the piece:


“I read it in a book”



“I never really understood what it was”

“I think it’s perseverance though”

3. Analysis

This Japanese proverb seems to say that life is falling seven times and getting up eight times. Even though you keep falling, if you keep getting up, you will end up on your feet. It also suggests that life is full of ups and downs, and is not easy. One must keep failing then trying again to stay afloat. It does have a positive connotation as the number of falls is less than the number of getting up. This outlook of accepting the struggle yet remaining hopeful is one way that Japanese people live their life. Although the meaning seems similar, this proverb is very different from its likes in the western culture like “failure is the father of success”, where failure is suggested to lead to success. Instead, the Japanese proverb tells the people that life is hard, and one must accept that and persevere, where getting up doesn’t mean success but does mean that one can keep on continuing forward. This shows how the Japanese proverb is more realistic and practical, while the North American proverb is more idealistic. This could be traced further back to the power dynamic differences between Japan and the US since the US is a superpower whereas Japan was defeated during WWII and has been forced to remove its military, renounce their emperor, and even be under control of the US for a period of time. As a superpower, the US has the confidence to use more idealistic proverbs while Japan after WWII has a much more stagnant and cynical outlook which leads to more realistic and pragmatic proverbs.