Oct 19, 2013

Japanese Proverbs

Proverbs are a good way to learn the wisdom and traditions of any culture, but as they are metaphorical, it is simply impossible to grasp the actual meaning without adequate language proficiency.
Let me introduce a very popular Japanese proverb about the autumn sky.
Heart of a woman and the fall sky (Onna gokoro to aki no sora)
There are many ways one can relate “women to nature” but in this proverb, the “nature (heart) of a woman” has been compared to the unexpected, changeable, autumn sky!
Early evening autumn sky
over Tokyo Station
One late autumn afternoon, as my friend was driving me home, I looked up at the sky and said to her “The autumn sky changes so abruptly!” To this she replied, “Yes. In Japan, this abrupt transition is compared to the ever-changing moods of a woman”!
Late evening sky

For a few seconds, I was lost in translation, pondering on all the negative meanings this proverb symbolized (fickle, variable, unpredictable). Then my friend continued; “ Some others think it may also reflect the ever changing beauty of a woman or the clarity of a woman, as crisp and clear as the autumn sky”! Although the second explanation seemed more relevant, my curiosity led me to dig deeper into this matter and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that originally, this proverb was written for Japanese men; A man's heart changes as often as does the autumn sky”. However, this “change of heart from men to women” was highly influenced by a similar British proverb A woman's mind and winter wind change often ".

Irrespective of what message this particular proverb actually conveyed, it made me realize how climates around the world shape the human mind and character differently, and how each culture interprets nature in a unique manner, reflecting their individual style.


There is a harmony in autumn, and a lustre in its sky,
Which through the summer is not heard or seen,
As if it could not be, as if it had not been! -    
    Percy Bysshe Shelley

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