Japanese Saying – Saru mo Ki kara Ochiru

April 26, 2013 Juju Kurihara 2 Comments

Recently I´ve started pottery class. This is my very first time in my life and every class is just new. Yesterday my first bowl came out of the first firing. It had some cracks but the teacher said there are solutions and I didn´t need to worry. Then I put some glaze on it but suddenly one part stopped absorbing the glaze. The teacher said it was because some water entered through the bowl and apparently I´ll have to get rid of all the glaze and do it again. Oh well. 

Was I disappointed? Well yes. Was I stressed? No. I was sort of "oh, well". This was my first time anyway and I wasn´t expecting anything would come out perfect.


figure skate

However, other things that I think I do quite good, if I fail, it annoys me so much. Does it happen to you? You do it so good that even a small mistake seems to be a gran failure. Just like when a figure skater falls.  

I understand that they´ve been training years and years and their technique are so perfect that they are not allowed to make a mistake. Come on, they are trying to dance with those two metal blades on the ice. Not just standing still but they have to jump, do the triple spins and land elegantly to continue skating. It´s not a normal movement we can do. 

This is a good example of even a master makes mistakes. In Japanese saying, Saru mo ki kara ochiru (猿も木から落ちる). Saru is monkey in Japanese, Ki means tree and ochiru means to fall. The literal meaning of this Kotowaza (諺/ saying) is "even a monkey falls off the tree". 

fall monkey

Apparently, climbing master, monkeys fall quite often. This monkey is not an exception. Then the monkey get depressed just because he missed a branch? Or other monkeys laugh at him and suspended from the monkey society? Well, no. He will climb up and jump between trees again. Perhaps, each time he falls less.



One way of understanding Saru mo ki kara ochiru is even professionals can make mistakes and it´s not a huge disadvantage. And other part is not to afraid making mistakes. Because people grow by making mistakes. It´s even worse if you are only worried about failures and not to try more. 

fall down polar bearSometimes only way to develop yourself is keep practicing by making mistakes. Just like the way we learn how to ride a bicycle. We all fell over at the beginning, right? 


I know some people are competitive. You may think you can play bowling much better than me. Then something happens to me and I won. I know it annoys you but hey, Saru mo ki kara ochiru. It´s OK that you lose. Just stand up and keep going. 



More Japanese saying

Hitono furi mite waga furi naose

Karasu no gyouzui

Sumeba miyako

Mizu ga awanai

Uso mo Houben

Japanese Karuta game

Neko no te mo karitai


  1. Gary 9 years Reply

    I love the saying that you introduced to your readers today, Juju! Great folk wisdom! And it comes just in time for me. As you suggest, when we get used to success and then fall, it comes as a bit of a shock. It’s good to remember that it’s okay to fall, get up again, and return to business. Thanks for sharing!


    • juju.kurihara 9 years

      Thank you Gary. I guess we pressurise ourselves just because you are proud of your capacity. But by doing that, we may limit ourselves to perform better because we are scared of making mistakes. It shouldn´t be, right? Actually we´ve just faced to this accident that we´ve lost a whole year of work… It´s tough but I just need to writing. 

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