A look at a Japanese proverb

By | March 14, 2014

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.


理念(りねん):idea, ideology,philosophy



凶器(きょうき):deadly weapon

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.







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5 thoughts on “A look at a Japanese proverb

    1. locksleyu Post author

      Sure, I’d love to help. The first thing I’d recommend doing is reading all my posts, or the ones that interest you. In several of them I discuss how I learned.

      I’ll be writing more about how I studied in the future as well.

      Also, if you have any questions about vocab, grammar, or anything else let me know and I’ll try to write a post about it.

      Thanks for the comment and follow!

  1. Yukari

    Thanks for the info. I’ve been looking into the origin of the quote and could not find it as a Japanese Proverb,


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