Japanese Proverb: 猫に小判 To Cast Pearls Before Swine


[ねこ に こばん neko ni koban]

Cast Pearls Before Swine

[audio http://thejapanesepage.com/audio_files/kotowaza/1neko.mp3 ]

 This is a useful and common Japanese proverb that is similar to the biblical “cast pearls before swine.” Literally, this means to give a cat a koban.

A koban was an oval-shaped coin used in the Edo Period. Being valuable, giving one to a cat naturally would be foolish.

Koban. Image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koban_%28Japanese_gold_coin%29



  • 猫に neko ni (give) to a cat [に shows direction]
  • A 小判 koban was an oval-shaped gold coin used during the Edo period.
  • 豚に真珠 buta ni shinju Pearls to a pig. This proverb from the Bible is also often heard in Japanese and means basically the same thing as 猫に小判.



 houseki ni kyoumi no nai hito ni daiyamondo wo agetemo, neko ni koban da.
For someone who has no interest in precious stones, even giving that person a diamond would be casting pearls before swine.

 [audio http://thejapanesepage.com/audio_files/kotowaza/1neko-f.mp3 ]

  • 宝石 houseki—precious stones; gems
  • 興味のない人 kyoumi no nai hito—a person not interested in…
  • に ni—indicates the 興味のない人 is the receiver of ダイヤモンド
  • ダイヤモンド daiyamondo—diamond
  • 上げても agete mo—even if you give (him a diamond)

This lesson is found in our Kotowaza, Japanese Proverbs and Sayings book. It is available in ebook and paperback formats. To learn more, go here on Amazon and here at TJS.com.