Japanese Proverbs: Akinasu wo Yome ni Kuwasu na (秋ナスを嫁にくわすな)

Akinasu wo Yome ni Kuwasu na

This is a funny proverb. It’s literally saying: “Don’t let the bride eat autumn aubergines.”

Why not? Actually, even the Japanese themselves couldn’t agree on one meaning, which is why there are several interpretations of this proverb. The most common are:

– autumn aubergines are said to be very sweet and delicious, so the mother-in-law (as drawn in the picture) doesn’t want to share them with the detested daughter-in-law

– since they are so delicious, the young wife will probably eat too many and become sick

– autumn aubergines are said to have no seeds, thus being a symbol of the bride conceiving no children

– aubergines are said to lower body temperature – which will, again, make it harder for the young wife to conceive children

While I like this proverb for its weirdness and drawing it was fun, it should not be seen as having relevant meaning nowadays. We should be far beyond believing in the stereotype that all mothers-in-law hate their daughters-in-law and that a wife is nothing more than a host for the children.

Maybe we can interpret it in a new, more relevant sense, though. Such as, even though something tastes really good, be careful not to eat too much and watch out for your loved ones as well.

Japanese Proverbs: Isseki Nichô (一石二鳥)

Isseki Nichou

Literally: Killing two birds with one stone. Since it’s the exact same proverb in English there’s not much explaining to do. The German equivalent is “killing two flies with one swat” which is used in the tale of the Valiant Little Tailor who kills seven flies with one swat and later marries a princess. That escalated quickly.

Japanese Proverbs: Uma no mimi ni nenbutsu (馬の耳に念仏)


Literally: Whispering nenbutsu into the horse’s ear. It means sharing your wisdom and opinion with someone who doesn’t appreciate it. Who doesn’t know that feeling?

Nenbutsu is a term from Buddhism, above all in the Pure Land Buddhism and the True Pure Land Buddhism. Yep, that’s two different schools. Both schools came to Japan during the 12th to 13th century via China from India. They use the nenbutsu as a kind of prayer to find absolution and reach the Pure Land after death. They basically made Buddhism, which had formerly been the religion of the nobility, accessible to the broad masses.

The difference between the two schools? While Pure Land Buddhism teaches that you have to say the nenbutsu as often as possible during your lifetime, True Pure Land Buddhism teaches that you only have to say it once but really really mean it. Yeah, they really wanted those people to like Buddhism. In Japanese saying the nenbutsu goes like this: “Namu Amida Butsu.” That’s it. Now go get absolved.

Meeting the Tanuki

Meeting the Tanuki

A Tanuki is a Japanese racoon, although there are some differences to the ordinary racoon I might talk about some other time. Tanuki are an important part of Japan’s wildlife with a secure place in mythology, literature and film. They are said to be magical creatures and there is a lot of very amusing folklore about them.

This little guy just sat there, next to a small bridge, and he couldn’t have been less impressed by me walking by. I was delighted to see him, but as soon as I got the camera out somebody else walked by and the Tanuki decided it was getting too crowded and left.

This is not the first time we’ve seen Tanuki on Campus. The first time they were crowding around food somebody had left for them. When we offered them cat treats (we always carry treats around, just in case) they came closer, so here are some photos, although of bad quality. Tanuki mainly come out at night.

Tanuki I Tanuki IV Tanuki III

Tanuki V

Japanese Proverbs: E ni kaita mochi (絵に描いた餅)


Literally the rice cake in the painting. In German it’s the castle in the sky, an image I really love for some reason.

It’s a dream or a goal that is nice but unrealistic. You are probably never gonna achieve it but it still looks delicious.

Man, I love rice cakes…