Japanese Proverb: A skilled hawk hides its talons

By Greg Beck

Today’s Topic: 諺 / ことわざ / Proverb

Kanji: 能ある鷹爪隠す」

Kana: のうあるたかつめかくす

Translation: A skilled hawk hides its talons.

This Japanese proverb actually does come up in conversations from time to time, because it is so true and can be applied to so many situations.

Just like not giving away your hand in poker, by staying modest you give yourself an advantage in life. This is true for any culture, but especially in Japan. Showing off needlessly only annoys those around you. Even plainly stating your talents, you can still come across as aggressive, boastful, or vain. I am absolutely guilty of this, but I really do aspire to be more しぶい (possesing a refined, masculine air).

In Japan, someone who uses their talents only when necessary, is thought to have a “hidden coolness” that is highly respected and admired. You can see this in any of Akira Kurosawa’s old samurai movies’ protagonists like Sanjuro or Yojimbo, and on occasions when good guys do not possess this ability to “hide their cards,” they are always cast as the comedic relief, such as the pair in “The Hidden Fortress.”

So be cool everybody. Be cool.