Japanese Proverb: Rust comes from within



Photo by Aramand Agasi / Published under Flickr Creative Commons License CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

By Greg Beck

Today’s Topic: 諺 / ことわざ / Proverb

Kanji: わが身から錆を出し

Kana: わがみからさびをだし

To put it poetically, “Rust comes from within.” わがみ means “your own body”, but the Japanese do love their puns, and 身 can also mean your “blade”. So the rust (さび) can be wear and tear of yourself or your possessions, but the general idea being it comes from you. If there’s something bad in your life or something you don’t like about yourself, the number one person responsible is you. I find that very empowering.

Also, a few months have passed since my last warning, and I think it deserves repeating: These proverbs don’t come up very often in any scenario. They are interesting and offer useful insight into Japanese culture, but you will most definitely receive odd looks if you try busting one of these sayings out in any context other than joking. With that out of the way, thanks for reading and have a happy 2010!


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