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Namiko Abe

Proverb of the Day: Toudai moto kurashi

By January 27, 2013

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This week's proverb is "Toudai moto kurashi (灯台下暗し)." It literally means, "The lighthouse does not shine on its base." It refers to the idea that "we are apt to overlook important things that lie near at hand" or "it is often difficult to see what's right in front of your eyes." It is similar to the English expression, "The darkest place is under the candlestick."

Here is some vocabulary from the proverb.

toudai --- lighthouse
moto --- base
kurashi (kurai) --- dark



July 31, 2013 at 12:22 pm
(1) Lingo Checker says:

This is a common mistake made by Japanese people, but “Toudai” does not refer to a “lighthouse” in this case. It’s actually referring to a “candlestick” which is also pronounced “Toudai.” Hence the common confusion.

Back in the day, a long candlestick with a plate that held Rapeseed oil and a wick at the top was used as lighting (not a wax candle). Due to the oil plate’s size, the base of the candlestick stayed dark even though the entire room was lit up. Hence the proverb.

Therefore, it’s exactly the same as it’s English proverb equivalent, “The darkest place is under the candlestick.”

True, the base of the lighthouse does stay dark so “in essence” the proverb meaning Namiko Abe is teaching is correct. She just got the origin of the proverb wrong. (Toudai/Lighthouse vs Toudai/Candlestick)

Please fix.

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