There is a popular Japanese saying “It’s up to you how you comment. But it’s me who take action after all.”

The line came from the answer of Katsu Kaishu (勝海舟-1823-1829), who was the leading figure of Tokugawa regime and contributed to peaceful turning-over of Ed Castle to Anti-Tokugawa revolutionary force in 1868 without shedding even a drop of blood, to the public comment by Fukuzawa Yukichi (福沢諭吉 1835-1901), enlightment thinker, journalist, and founder of Keio University criticizing Katsu’s defection from Tokugawa Shogunate to the dignitary of new government after Meiji revolution. Fukuzawa was also a vassal and middle class official of Tokuga regime.

To Fukuzawa’s cutting accusation of Katsu as a turncoat in the famous essay titled “痩せ我慢の説 - Importance of Perseverance and Royalty.” Katsu responded with 15 characters / two lines in a letter, saying “行蔵は我に存す。毀誉は他人の主張 - It’s me who take the action (and responsibility). It’s up to you (I don’t care) how you evaluate it and whatever you criticize me.”

When I get a down-vote or close vote, I mutter this word to myself. Are there equivalent wise sayings or historic remarks in English to the above?

  • I wish you hadn't given such detailed historical background. It makes it very hard to imagine a comparable American incident. In some ways, I might think "the buck stops here" captures part of the sentiment; it means something like "when other people won't do anything about [x] I have to actually make the decision. " This slogan was famously used by President Harry Truman. You could look it up and see if it fits. Jan 7, 2015 at 6:04
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    This, from the Truman Library: ( trumanlibrary.org/buckstop.htm ) -> On more than one occasion President Truman referred to the desk sign in public statements. For example, in an address at the National War College on December 19, 1952 Mr. Truman said, "You know, it's easy for the Monday morning quarterback to say what the coach should have done, after the game is over. But when the decision is up before you -- and on my desk I have a motto which says The Buck Stops Here' -- the decision has to be made." Jan 7, 2015 at 6:17
  • @BrianHitchcock. Thank you for comment and suggestion of "the buck stops here. Regarding the historical episode, I don’t want argue about good or bad of including historical background of this particular saying. But I deliberately included the origin of “It’s me who act. It’s you who comment,” in order for precluding foreseeable routine expressions like “Go (doing it) my way.” If you don’t like preamble part, just skip it and read only the heading. Jan 7, 2015 at 9:37
  • @Amphiteoth.Although I’m not sure if I get your point of question correctly or not, I hope the following would help your understanding the background of the story. 1. Edo is the old name of Tokyo. Maiji government changed the name of Edo into Tokyo literally meaning the Easter Capital. Tokugawa, then actual political ruler of Japan was based in Edo, and the Edo Castle was the stronghold of Tokugawa regime, while Mikado (the Emperor, then a nominal ruler) based in Kyoto. Jan 9, 2015 at 0:49
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    Cont. 2. Yes, the construct of aphorism, “毀誉は他人の主張。行蔵は我に存す” is “(While) it’s up to you how criticize me, it’s me who should act (or, should have taken an action) on the other hand”. Jan 9, 2015 at 0:50

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Your question reminds me of a remark uttered on 17 March 1931 by the leader of Britain's Conservative Party, Stanley Baldwin, in a public rebuke delivered in a pre-election speech that was aimed at the proprietors of two influential newspapers who were using their publications as instruments in a manner that they hoped would help to oust him from his leadership:

“The newspapers attacking me are not newspapers in the ordinary sense,” Baldwin said. “They are engines of propaganda for the constantly changing policies, desires, personal vices, personal likes and dislikes of the two men. What are their methods? Their methods are direct falsehoods, misrepresentation, half-truths, the alteration of the speaker's meaning by publishing a sentence apart from the context...What the proprietorship of these papers is aiming at is power, and power without responsibility – the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages.”

The fragment of Baldwin's speech cited in bold above has since been recycled many times by others for their own purposes.

It amuses me that Baldwin's sentiment is in complete contradiction to the one uttered by Katsu. So while this posting does not answer your question, at least you now also have a well-known rebuttal to Katsu's perspective.


It reminds me of a quote from President Theodore Roosevelt's speech Citizenship in a Republic. Wikipedia refers to this passage as "The Man in the Arena":

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

That's a bit of a mouthful, but the opening is a decent summary: "It is not the critic who counts."

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    I think "It is not critic" in "The man in arena" exactly corresponds to the situation where Katsu was put under the criticism of Fukuzawa. Katsu served as the advisor to new revolution goverment with belief that he can avail his talent and vision for construction of modern Japan than living as a defeatist hermit. Jan 8, 2015 at 7:50

In AmE we have an expression: "It's easy to be an armchair quarterback." This means (approximately) "If you are sitting comfortably in front of your television, and are not actually in the game, (in this case American football - quarterback is a lead position on the team) it's easy to criticize, but you are really in no position to evaluate my actions."

We use this expression, in general, to refute criticism, after the fact.

  • Likewise "armchair general". Feb 16, 2015 at 0:15

Harry S. Truman, former President of the United States famously said, "The buck [decision-making power] stops here." In the Oval Office.

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