3

enter image description here

Context:

I encountered this in a compulsory book about moral education for elementary school student by MEXT "私たちの道徳" Source

My question:

  1. What is the best equivalent proverb in English of: 腹八分目に医者いらず?

  2. What is the background story of this proverb in Japanese?

  3. Why do the Japanese use "八分目" or "80% full"?

  4. Is there probably any medical record or any medical publication source that this is true or is this only a conjecture at best?

My attempt in translating it:

Eating in moderation is good for your health.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

Is this natural?

Thank you in advance!

  • For number 1, I suppose the meaning is around "Eat in moderation if you want to keep away from visiting a doctor"? However, the equivalent proverb in English.. I found one up there ^, is it true? – Flonne Dec 26 '17 at 6:40
  • 2
    "The devil is not so black as he is painted" -- is there any scientific research that the level of devil's blackness is really lower than the paint used to picture him? ...why not keep a minimal sanity level in questions on a language-oriented SE? – macraf Dec 26 '17 at 7:10
  • 1
    That doesn't appear to be for elementary school students ... unless you're showing us the wrong cover. – virmaior Dec 26 '17 at 13:33
  • @virmalor Yeah, you're right. I think I have shown all of you the wrong cover (中学校 - is for junior high school ...) – Flonne Dec 26 '17 at 14:17
2
  1. What is the best equivalent proverb in English of: 腹八分目に医者いらず?

I'm not really good at English proverbs, so I'll leave this to someone else. Basically the meaning of this proverb is something very simple, straightforward and mundane, "Don't eat too much." Nothing more or less. Of course 医者いらず is an exaggerated expression, and it should be taken as "~ is good for your health."

  1. What is the background story of this proverb in Japanese?
  2. Why do the Japanese use "八分目" or "80% full"?
  3. Is there probably any medical record or any medical publication source that this is true or is this only a conjecture at best?

I'm afraid to say this, but there is not much to talk about regarding this saying. This saying is fairly old, and obviously not based on an evidence from modern scientific research. I believe someone in the old days chose 80% either purely empirically or arbitrarily. The number "8" is not very important.

Some expressions like 矛盾 have fascinating background stories, but 腹八分目 is a pretty simple and straightforward Japanese phrase which has nothing to do with metaphor, philosophy or religion. I think it's extremely difficult to trace who first said this. After all, it can be said that the idea of "eating too much is bad for your health" itself is almost as old as the history of human civilizations.

-1
  1. What is the best equivalent proverb in English of: 腹八分目に医者いらず?

ここは、日本語{にほんご}を勉強{べんきょう}するサイトですので、英語{えいご}の表現{ひょうげん}は別{べつ}のところで尋{たず}ねてください。

  1. What is the background story of this proverb in Japanese?

4番目{ばんめ}の回答{かいとう}で貝原{かいばら}益軒{えっけん}の書{か}いた『養生訓{ようじょうくん}』のことを紹介{しょうかい}しますが、それとは別{べつ}に、「腹八分目{はらはちぶめ}」の考{かんが}え方{かた}は、多分{たぶん}中国{ちゅうごく}から来{き}たのだと思{おも}います。「腹八分目」はここでは食事{しょくじ}の量{りょう}のことですが、食事は単{たん}なる例{たと}えであって、人間{にんげん}の理想{りそう}とする生{い}き方{かた}を示{しめ}しているのだと思{おも}います。食事の量に限{かぎ}らず、何{なん}でも目一杯{めいっぱい}の「百{ひゃく}パーセント」はだめで、少{すこ}しの余地{よち}を残{のこ}した生{い}き方{かた}、あるいは何{なに}ごとも控{ひか}えめにすることが良{よ}いとする人生訓{じんせいくん}であるように思{おも}います。
「八分目(はちぶめ/はちぶんめ)」とは、最大{さいだい}が十{じゅう}のところを八{はち}で控{ひか}えること、あるいは、控{ひか}えめにしておくことです。

  1. Why do the Japanese use "八分目" or "80% full"?

なぜかは分かりませんが、百パーセントより少ない量{りょう}を数字{すうじ}で概略{がいりゃく}表{あらわ}すのに、「八分目{はちぶんめ}」「五六分目{ごろくぶんめ}」「半分{はんぶん}」「三分目{さんぶんめ}」「二三分目{にさんぶんめ}」というような表現{ひょうげん}が多{おお}く使{つか}われてきました。

  1. Is there probably any medical record or any medical publication source that this is true or is this only a conjecture at best?

語源{ごげん}としてここに、江戸時代{えどじだい}の儒学者{じゅがくしゃ}であり、医者{いしゃ}であった貝原{かいばら}益軒{えっけん}という儒学者の書いた医学書{いがくしょ}『養生訓{ようじょうくん}』に、「珍美{ちんみ}の食{しょく}に対{たい}するとも八九分{はちくぶ}にして止{や}むべし」という言葉{ことば}があると書{か}かれています。

私は、貝原益軒も『養生訓{ようじょうくん}』を著{あらわ}したときには、すでに「人生{じんせい}何事{なにごと}も控{ひか}えめが良い」という人生訓{じんせいくん}を知っていたと思います。 なお、お腹{なか}いっぱい食{た}べることを毎日{まいにち}続{つづ}けていると西洋人{せいようじん}に多{おお}い「太{ふと}り過{す}ぎ obese」になり、健康{けんこう}を害{がい}することが分{わ}かっていますので、「腹八分目は医者いらず」は、医学的{いがくてき}にも根拠{こんきょ}があるのでしょう。

EDIT

I read the comment of Vun-Hugh Vaw and understood that I needed to answer a little more carefully, so I'll add some information.
The reason I answered in Japanese was because I understood that OP could understand Japanese very well by reading the profile of OP and by the content of the question posted by OP.

The reason why I didn't answer the first question of the questioner was because it was written as "What is the best equivalent proverb in English of: 腹八分目に医者いらず?" The "best" answer is impossible unless you are familiar with both Japanese and English.

If you do not stick to the best answer, you can find the following examples including ones presented by OP and ones in the answers posted if you search for them on the Internet using "腹八分 医者 英語" as a keyword.

  • (a) Moderation in eating is the best medicine.
  • (b) Moderate eating keeps the doctor away.
  • (c) Eating in moderation is good for your health.
  • (d) An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
  • (e) Temperance is better than medicine.
  • (f) Feed by measure and defy the physician.
  • (g) Measure is medicine.
  • (h) Much meat, much disease.
  • (i) You may go farther and fare worse. Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs (6 ed.) here defines this as "Be satisfied with what is close at hand rather than searching further afield and possibly ending up worse off."

I think that the translations using "moderation" or "moderate" including OP's attempt is close to the essential meaning of "腹八分 or 腹八分目".
The last example sentence (i) carrying commentary from the Oxford dictionary here is close to what is said to be "知足{ちそく}" or "足{た}るを知{し}る knowing contentment" in Japanese, which is, I think, close to "人生訓 rule of life or how to live properly".

"知足 knowing contentment" was used first by "老子{ろうし} Laozi", an ancient Chinese philosopher and writer, who had also influenced Japan.

See here for Laozi, and see here for the commentary on Laozi's first text using 知足. "知足者富" by Laozi is interpreted as "A person who knows contentment has true wealth" in the commentary.
It is also known as "足{た}るを知{し}るは富{とみ}にまさる Contentment is better than riches".

The important thing that I want to convey with "moderation" or "知足 knowing contentment" is not only "physical health" written in the proverb presented by OP but also "mental health". If we consider how we can acquire mental health, we need "moderation" or "知足".

The idea of "知足" was adopted in Zen in Japan, and it has been one of the important ideas that supports the spirit of the Japanese until the introduction of Western culture into Japan. 知足 is well known as a word used in the expression with "吾{われ}唯{ただ}足{た}るを知{し}る All you need, you already have" in Japan.

"吾唯足るを知る" will be explained in the following BONUS.

BONUS

"蹲踞 Tsukubai", a kind of a washbasin, of Ryoanji-temple in Kyoto, which is famous for its rock garden and also for a world cultural heritage, utilizes wittily the square or a shape of 口 in the middle of it to arrange four kanjis of "吾", "唯", "足" and "知" clockwise. In total they make up a meaning of "吾唯足るを知る Whatever needed is already in your hand or You already know you have enough".

蹲踞 or "tsukubai" is a washbasin (usually made of stone) set in a Japanese garden. Here, guests rinse their hands and mouths, purifying both body and spirit before entering the tea room for a tea ceremony.

I'll show the Tsukubai of Ryoanji-temple with 吾唯足知 in the following illustration.
The word order of 知足 differs depending on the difference between Chinese and Japanese languages.

enter image description here

  • @mackygooさん>失礼しました、その通りです。私が不注意なことは認めました。迅速なお返事まことにありがとうございます。 – Flonne Dec 26 '17 at 14:35
  • 5
    Seriously though, what kind of rule is "ここは、日本語を勉強するサイトですので、英語の表現は別のところで尋ねたください。"? Where the hell do you even ask for an English translation (a PERMISSIBLE TAG, mind you) for a JAPANESE expression? Can you even assume anyone at english.stackexchange speaks Japanese at all? And even if it means "asking questions in English not allowed", even some learners may not be able to express intelligibly in Japanese yet. – Vun-Hugh Vaw Dec 26 '17 at 20:07
  • 4
    There's also a chance the learner might not entirely grasp the nuances of the expression in question, and might not be able to "translate" it and ask for an equivalent somewhere else. – Vun-Hugh Vaw Dec 26 '17 at 20:13
  • 1
    「多分中国から来た」とか「貝原は前からこの人生訓を知っていた」というのには何か具体的根拠があるのですか、それとも個人的な予想ですか。 – naruto Dec 27 '17 at 8:24
  • 2
    「腹八分目」が老子のこの文章由来だと主張しているのですよね。私には非常に突飛な発想に見えるのですが、それは歴史的・語源学的にどの程度具体性・信憑性・裏打ちのある話なのですか? 強引なこじつけでないなら、「なんか似てそう」以上の根拠を示して下さい。というかそもそも「足るを知る」と「腹八分目」は意味が全然違う気がしますし、腹八分目を無理に拡大解釈して「何事もほどほどがよい」という意味に解釈するにしたって、そんな意味の諺は世界中に無数にあると思うのですが…。 – naruto Dec 27 '17 at 14:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.