10+ Funny Japanese Phrases You Should Learn

Last updated on May 27th, 2023 at 12:01 pm

Every language has its unique phrases and idioms. I must admit that the Japanese idioms are fascinating. We tried to collect the most unusual and funny Japanese phrases for this blog post.

These phrases or idioms may be difficult to translate since they are closely related to Japanese culture. But we tried to explain their meanings in the best way possible and tell you in which situation you can say these phrases.

If you want to know more about the Japanese language and learn some basic phrases before getting to these exciting phrases, you can always check our previous blog posts.

So if you are ready, let’s explore some of the funny Japanese phrases!


Funny Japanese Phrases

1. 猫をかぶる (neko wo kaburu)

To wear a cat

Hiragana: ねこを かぶる

Meaning: To wear a cat.

This phrase refers to hiding your bad side. Someone who is friendly and nice but hiding their true personality.

2. 金魚の糞 (kingyo no fun)

Goldfish poop

Hiragana: きんぎょのふん

Meaning: Goldfish poop.

It refers to someone who persistently sticks around even though they are not welcomed. A hanger-on or someone who persistently sticks around. People like this in Japanese are known as ‘kingyo no fun.’

3. 猿も木から落ちる saru mo ki kara ochiru)

Even monkeys fall from trees.

Hiragana: さ​るもき​からおち​る

Meaning: Even monkeys fall from trees.

Monkeys are great at climbing trees and hanging around, but they can also fall sometimes. So it means that nobody is perfect. Anyone can make a mistake which is okay.

4. 猫舌 (neko jita)

Cat’s tongue

Hiragana: ねこじた

Meaning: Cat’s tongue.

It doesn’t refer to a cat’s tongue. It just pertains to your inability to handle hot foods and drinks. You have a cat’s tongue if you are sensitive to hot or spicy foods.

5. 蛇足 (dasoku)

Snake legs

Hiragana: だそく

Meaning: Snake legs.

This expression originated from an ancient Chinese text. Since snakes don’t have legs, this phrase refers to something additional which is unnecessary and possibly detrimental.

If someone makes a remark that’s uncalled for and nonconstructive, you can describe it as snake legs.

6. 犬猿の仲 (kenen no naka)

Dog and monkey relationship  funny japanese phrases

Hiragana: けんえんのなか

Meaning: Dog and monkey relationship.

Japanese people use this phrase when talking about two people at loggerheads who hate one another.

If their relationship is stormy and they’re on terrible terms with each other, you can say that it is 犬猿の仲.

An English equivalent of this phrase is “they fight like cats and dogs,” a very popular saying known around the world. 

7. 喉から手が出る (nodo kara te ga deru)

My hand is coming out of my throat

Hiragana: のどからてがでる

Meaning: My hand is coming out of my throat.

You can say this phrase when you want something really bad like you will die if you can’t have it.

This expression probably came from a time when food resources were scarce, and people were so hungry that it felt like a hand might come out from their stomachs through their throats to grab any food that was around. Do not try to visualize this!

8. 俎板の上の鯉 (manaita no ue no koi)

Funny Japanese Phrases A carp on a cutting board

Hiragana: まないたのうえのこい

Meaning: A carp on a cutting board.

When you’re helpless in a desperate situation, and there’s nothing you can do about it. You can say that you’re a carp on a cutting board.

It is like your fate is in others’ hands, and you’re hoping for the mercy of others. 

9. 耳に胼胝ができる (mimi ni tako ga dekiru)

I’m growing callouses in my ear

Hiragana: みみにたこができる

Meaning: I’m growing callouses in my ear.

Have you ever been tired of hearing the same comments, complaints, or words repeatedly?

For example, like many mums around the world, your mother is constantly telling you to be careful of this and that, you may be tempted to say this phrase: 耳に胼胝ができる!

10. 猫の手も借りたい (neko no te mo karitai)

Borrowing a cat’s paw

Hiragana: ねこのてもかりたい

Meaning: Borrowing a cat’s paw.

An interesting fact about the Japanese expressions is that there are many that involve cats. So I have decided to include one here.

We have all had at least once in a lifetime the experience of being so busy that we barely have time to breathe. It’s pretty common in today’s hectic times! At extreme moments when you are so tired of having so much work, you can say that you’ll be willing to borrow even a cat’s paw to help you out.

If you have a work deadline coming up, and at the same time your house needs to be cleaned, then you definitely need that extra paw, so try saying it in Japanese: “猫の手も借りたい!”

11. 爪の垢を煎じて飲む (tsume no aka wo senjite nomu)

Brew and drink the dirt from under someone’s fingernails

Hiragana: つめのあかをせんじてのむ

Meaning: Brew and drink the dirt from under someone’s fingernails.

What should you do if you want to follow someone’s example to improve yourself?

According to this common Japanese idiom, you should brew the dirt from under the fingernails of that person and drink it like tea so that some of the good qualities of that person will be transferred to you.

Of course, no one takes this expression in a literal meaning!

12. 目の中に入れても痛くない (me no naka ni iretemo itaku nai)

It won’t hurt to put him/her in my eye

Hiragana: めのなかにいれてもいたくない

Meaning: It won’t hurt to put them in my eye.

You can use this phrase when you find someone or something that is absolutely adorable in your eyes, so much that there are no words to describe your thoughts. 

Of course, putting objects in your eye will hurt, don’t even try that! This phrase signifies that you love that person so much, showing a drastic declaration of affection.

Let’s say you have adorable young nieces or nephews. You can say they’re so cute that “目の中に入れても痛くない!”

13. 箸より重い物を持ったことがない (hashi yori omoi mono wo motta koto ga nai)

Never having had to lift anything heavier than chopsticks

Hiragana: はしよりおもいものをもったことがない

Meaning: Never having had to lift anything heavier than chopsticks.

Does “Born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth” sound familiar to you? You have definitely heard that phrase before!

Just like the English phrase, this Japanese phrase also describes a person who had a wealthy life since the day they were born. Since that person was born into a rich family, they had a different lifestyle from the beginning. More protection, easier life, and most likely, they never had to work hard. 


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