Notable Japanese on the Value of Ignorance, How to Imitate Well, and More

Notable Japanese on the Value of Ignorance, How to Imitate Well, and More

From Japan’s first industrialists, philosophers, sports legends, and more—glimpse life as seen by a selection of Japanese visionaries in this curated list of quotes from famous Japanese. 

Here are 9 Japanese quotes you should know and the great minds who said them, ranging from patience with yourself to how to achieve great things and other timeless themes. 


1. Soichiro Honda on not being afraid to fail

「日本人は、失敗ということを恐れすぎるようである。

どだい、失敗を恐れて何もしないなんて人間は、最低なのである。」

Soichiro Honda on not being afraid to fail

“Japanese people seem to be too afraid of failure. People who do nothing out of fear of failure are the worst kind of people.”

Soichiro Honda 本田宗一郎  (1906–1991), Japanese industrialist, engineer, and founder of Honda, in his book Ete ni ho agete


2. Kazuyo Katsuma on embracing reality

「起きていることはすべて正しい」という私の座右の銘です。これは、すなわち、「いま起きていることを否定したり、こうだったらいいなあと夢想しても仕方がない。それよりは、起きていることから、何を学び取り、どのように行動すれば、いま一瞬のこの時間を最大に活用できるか」を考える技術です。

Kazuyo Katsuma on embracing reality

“My motto is ‘Everything that is happening is as it should be.’ This means that there is no point in denying what is happening or dreaming of what could have been. Instead, think about what you can learn from what is happening and how you can act to make the most of this moment in time.”

Kazuyo Katsuma 勝間 和代 (1968), Japanese author on optimizing thought processes and increasing productivity, in her book Okiteirukoto ha subete tadashii.


3. Taro Okamoto on meeting each moment fully

「いまはまだ駄目だけれど、いずれ」と絶対に言わないこと。〝いずれ〟なんていうヤツに限って、現在の自分に責任を持っていないからだ。生きるというのは、瞬間瞬間に情熱をほとばしらせて、現在に充実することだ。

Taro Okamoto on meeting each moment fully

“Never say, ‘Not now, but eventually.’ Those who say ‘eventually’ are not responsible for themselves in the present. To live is to exude passion in each moment and be fulfilled in the present.”

Taro Okamoto 岡本太郎 (1911–1996), Japanese artist of abstract and avant-garde paintings and sculpture, in his book Jibun no naka ni doku wo motte.


4. Kiyokazu Washida on acknowledging ignorance as a key to success

「自分がわかっていないことがわかるということが一番賢いんです。」

Kiyokazu Washida on acknowledging ignorance as a key to success

“The smartest thing you can know is that you don't know.”

Kiyokazu Washida 鷲田清一 (1949), Japanese philosopher and Professor Emeritus of Kyoto City University of the Arts and Professor Emeritus of Osaka University.


 5. Ichiro on the only way to achieve great things

「小さいことを積み重ねるのが、とんでもないところへ行くただひとつの道だと思っています。」

Ichiro on the only way to achieve great things

“I believe that accumulating small steps is the only way to go to extraordinary places.” 

Ichiro 鈴木一朗 (1973), Japanese former professional baseball player, who established multiple batting records, during a press conference held after his 4257th baseball hit.


 6. Kozo Masuda on patience with yourself

「一人前になるには50年はかかるんだ。功を焦るな。悲観するな。もっと根を深く張るんだ。根を深く張れ。」

Kozo Masuda on patience with yourself

“It takes 50 years to become a full-fledged shogi player. Don't be impatient with your success. Don't be pessimistic. You have to put down deeper roots. Put down deeper roots.”

Kozo Masuda 升田幸三 (1918–1991), shogi master known for his creative style of play and the namesake of the Kozo Masuda Award (升田幸三賞), awarded since 1995 to those whose innovative new ideas in shogi theory or tactics, or whose new or excellent moves have attracted significant attention among other shogi players and fans during the year, as quoted in the book Watashi wo sasaeta hitokoto.


7. Sadaharu Oh on the rewards of your efforts

「努力が報われないことなどあるだろうか。報われない努力があるとすれば、それはまだ努力と呼べない。」

Sadaharu Oh on the rewards of your efforts

“Effort is always rewarded. If there is any effort that is not rewarded, then it cannot yet be called effort.”

Sadaharu Oh 王貞治 (1940), Japanese former professional baseball player and manager, who holds the world homerun record (868) that remains unbroken to this day, as quoted in the book Yakyudamashii: Sugao no Oh kantoku.


8. Eiichi Shibusawa on the most effective method of imitation

「真似はその形を真似ずして、 その心を真似よ。」

 Eiichi Shibusawa on the most effective method of imitation

“When imitating, it is better to imitate the mind, not the form.”

Eiichi Shibusawa 渋沢栄一 (1840–1931), Japanese samurai, industrialist, and father of Japanese capitalism, who founded the first modern-day bank in Japan, in the book Shibusawa Eiichi kungenshu.


 9. Jakucho Setouchi on what living is about

「生きるということは、死ぬまで自分の可能性を諦めず、与えられた才能や日々の仕事に努力し続けることです。」

Jakucho Setouchi on what living is about

“To live is to never give up on your potential and to continue to strive for the talents you have been given and the work you do every day until you die.”

Jakucho Setouchi 瀬戸内寂聴 (1922), Buddhist nun, author, and activist against the death penalty in Japan, in her book, Ikiru kotoba anta he.


About TokyoMate’s suite of services

Your essential Japanese business needs provided by TokyoMate, a comprehensive solution trusted by the foreign executive and startup community in Tokyo.

TokyoMate Assistants, TokyoMate Receptionists, and TokyoMate Mail—all immediately available. 

Get a virtual office address, a Tokyo-area phone number, your Japanese mail handled, and native Japanese bilingual business assistants, plus a no-risk 30-day moneyback guarantee with each of our pricing plans.

Book a Consultation

Popular Posts

TokyoMate x BIJ Clubhouse: Solving Pain-Points for Foreign Execs in Tokyo

From Both Sides of the Table: An Inside Look at 3 Phases of a Successful M&A

Lessons from Airbnb's Startup Story: To Scale, Do Things That Don't Scale

How to Get a COVID-19 Vaccine in Tokyo, Japan