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M

Many mouths can melt metal. [Criticism (slander) by many people can melt metal. The Japanese are very sensitive to criticism, especially from a large group, Buchanan tells].

Merchants regard each other as foes. [They are trying to undercut each other].

Miscanthus which took a thousand days to reap is destroyed in one day.

In Japan, silvergrass, Miscanthus is a reed used for roofing, especially in rural areas: it keeps the house warm in winter and cool in summer. Its chief drawback is that it is easily set on fire by sparks or flames from a neighbour's house, for example. The essence: Carelessness or ill luck can destroy in one day the result of many days' hard labor. Cf. An hour may destroy what it took an age to build.

Moonlight and boiled rice. [That is, one never tires of eating even a simple meal of boiled rice by the light of the moon].

N

Neither the hands nor the feet will go out. [To be at wit's end].

Never rely on the glory of the morning nor the smiles of your mother-in-law.

No tax is placed on the mouth. [To be free to speak. Cf. Talking pays no toll].

Not enough hands. [To be shorthanded].

Not the slightest dirt in the nails. [Not the slightest dishonesty in one's conduct].

Not to clothe the teeth with silk. [To speak frankly].

Not to let madmen or irresponsible people get hold of tools or weapons with which they may injure themselves or others.

Not to see, not to hear, not to speak.

That is, not to see other's faults, not to hear other's scandals, and not to talk of other's failures. The proverb is portrayed in Japanese painting and sculpture as three monkeys sitting side by side: the first with his hands to his eyes ("see no evil"), the second with his hands to his ears ("hear no evil"), and the third with his hands to his mouth ("speak no evil"). These mark the well-bred and well-disciplined person. Cf. the Confucian form of the Golden Rule: What you do not wish others to do to you, do not to them.

O

One barking dog sets many other dogs in the street to barking. [When one person starts a false rumor, other people may spread it as if it were true].

One look, a thousand trees! [An expression used to describe places noted for plum or cherry blossoms].

One thickness of plank, and below hell. [To explain the hazardous nature of a fisherman's or a sailor's life in his frail craft on the sea].

One who chases after two hares won't catch even one. [Trying to do two things at the same time can make you fail in both].

One-single-spear! [One supreme effort. From "Forward even with only a spear!"

One-tenth of an inch, forty-eight feet. [Be careful not to make even little mistakes, especially when aiming, since the difference between aim and result may be very great whether we shoot an arrow, bullet, or something else].

Oxen go with oxen, horses with horses. [People are more contented and do better work if they belong among their kind. Also: Birds of a feather flock together. Like attracts like.

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