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Kanji for "Fish" and Fish Proverbs


The kanji character for fish has three different readings; "sakana," "uo," and "gyo." Here are some words including the character for fish.

  • Sakanaya 魚屋 (さかなや) - fish store
  • Uoichiba 魚市場 (うおいちば) - fish market
  • Kingyo 金魚 (きんぎょ) - goldfish

The character for fish is included in most kanji characters used for the names of fish. See the examples below. All of them have the character for fish as a radical.

  • Iwashi 鰯 (いわし) - sardine
  • Sake 鮭 (さけ) - salmon
  • Tara 鱈 (たら) - cod
  • Same 鮫 (さめ) - shark

Here are some proverbs that include the word "fish".

  • Uo-gokoro areba mizu-gokoro (魚心あれば水心)

It comes from the close relationship between fish and water, and it indicates that when one likes another, the other will come to like you. It also means, if one helps another, the other will respond to the kindness. It is considered a useful tactic in business situations or love. It is similar to the English expression, "One hand washes the other."

  • Nigashita sakana wa ookii (逃がした魚は大きい)

It is almost a literal translation of the English expression, "Every fish that gets away appears bigger than it really is".

  • Mizu o eta uo no you (水を得た魚のよう)

Literally means, "Like fish in water". It indicates a person who takes an active part, or proves to be really capable in his/her favorite filed.

Although this is not really the name of a fish, there is an expression called "sushizume (すし詰め, packed like sushi)". Take-out sushi comes in a small box (sushi-ori), where the pieces of sushi are squeezed very close together. Therefore, this expression indicates a situation that people or things are packed close together, or very crowded. It is similar to the English expression, "packed in like sardines".

Exercises for Fish Proverbs

After you read this article and other articles about "Japanese Fish Proverbs", try your knowledge with the following exercise. Choose the appropriate expressions from the English equivalents.

(1) That baseball player is getting old, but he is full of sprit. He is ____.
(2) I am exhausted because the train was ____ this morning.
(3) It shouldn't be so expensive. You must have been ____.
(4) The popularity of that singer is ____.
(5) Yoko looks ____ since she got her new job.
(6) OK, I will lend you money, but ____.
(7) "How was the job interview you had last week?" "I haven't heard from them yet. I feel like ____."
(8) There are many houses like ____ in this area.
(9) I could have won a trip to New York, if I could have answered one more question. I would have loved to go to New York. ____.
(10) It is unusual for her to help with the cleaning. She might be planning to ____.

(a) 腐っても鯛 Kusattemo tai
(b) 海老で鯛を釣る Ebi de tai o tsuru
(c) 鰻の寝床 Unagi no nedoko
(d) 鰻のぼり Unaginobori
(e) まな板の上の鯉 Manaita no ue no koi
(f) 鯖を読む Saba o yomu
(g) 魚心あれば水心 Uo-gokoro areba mizu-gokoro
(h) 逃がした魚は大きい Nigashita sakana wa ookii
(i) 水を得た魚のよう Mizu o eta uo no you
(j) すし詰め Sushizume


(1) - (a)
(2) - (j)
(3) - (f)
(4) - (d)
(5) - (i)
(6) - (g)
(7) - (e)
(8) - (c)
(9) - (h)
(10) - (b)


(1) Ano yakyuu senshu wa toshi o totte kiteiru kedo, kihaku ga chigau ne. Kusatte mo tai da na.
あの野球選手は年を取ってきているけど、気迫が違うね。 腐っても鯛だな。

(2) Kesa wa densha ga sushizume de tsukarechatta.

(3) Sonnani takai hazu nai to omou yo. Saba o yomareta n darou.
そんなに高いはずないと思うよ。 鯖を読まれたんだろう。

(4) Ano kashu no ninki wa unaginobori da.

(5) Atarashii shigoto ni tsuitekara, Yoko wa mizu o eta uo no you da.

(6) Wakatta yo. Okane o kasu koto ni shiyou. Demo Uo-gokoro areba mizu-gokoro.
分かったよ。 お金を貸すことにしよう。 でも魚心あれば水心。

(7) "Senshuu no mensetsu no kekka wa dou datta." "Mada renraku ga nai n da. Manaita no ue no koi no shinkyou da yo.
"先週の面接の結果はどうだった。" "まだ連絡がないんだ。 まな板の上の鯉の心境だよ。"

(8) Kono chiku ni wa unagi no nedoko no youna ie ga takusan arimasu.

(9) Mou ichi-mon seikai shitara, nyuu-yooku ryokou ni iketa noni. Nyuu-yooku ni ikitakatta noni na. Nigashita sakana wa ookii yo.
もう一門正解したら、ニューヨーク旅行にいけたのに。 ニューヨークに行きたかったのにな。 逃がした魚は大きいよ。

(10) Kanojo ga souji o tetsudau nante mezurashii ne. Ebi de tai o tsuru tsumori nano kamoshirenai ne.
彼女が掃除を手伝うなんてなんて珍しいね。 海老で鯛を釣るつもりなのかもしれないね。

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