I ran across this quote online, credited as a “Japanese proverb”.
”Vision without action is a dream. Action without vision is a nightmare”
I did some searching around and couldn’t find any reference to the original Japanese or the originator of this phrase, so I decided to post on Oshiete Goo in Japanese. You can see my post here.
One of the responses I got attributed this quote to Honda Soichiro, the founder of Honda motor company. Let’s look at the original Japanese text, and then analyze it word by word.
であり: form of である, a more formal/flowery way of saying “で”, which basically means “and” here.
無価値（むかち）：valueless, lacking any value
When we put these together, we end up with the following (mostly) literal translation.
”Action without ideology is dangerous, but ideology without action is worthless.”
If we switch the two clauses around, this is very close to the original statement, so I’m fairly sure it’s just a different translation of the same quote by Mr. Honda. We see the word ‘vision’ used to replace ‘ideology’, ‘dream’ replacing ‘worthless’, and ‘nightmare’ replacing ‘dangerous weapon’. At first I felt that this is a mistranslation for the sake of dramatic effect, but since the resultant quote sounds quite good, with added parallelism between ‘nightmare’ and ‘dream’, I can’t complain. As I mentioned in a recent blog post, a translator’s job is to produce a good end result, regardless whether it’s a ‘literal’ translation or not. The heart and soul of the original quote are definitely present in this translation.
Honda Soichiro was an amazing man who took his love for machinery and invention and turned it into the billion-dollar multinational company that it is today. For those who want to learn more about him, here is one site that has a biography of him posted online.