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
“Japanese people seem to be too afraid of failure. People who do nothing out of fear of failure are the worst kind of people.”
2. 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.”
3. 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.”
4. 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
“I believe that accumulating small steps is the only way to go to extraordinary places.”
6. 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
“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
“When imitating, it is better to imitate the mind, not the form.”
9. 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.”
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