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Recently I watched again the Kenichi anime, and I went several times through this proverb. "When a man steps out of the gate, he faces seven enemies" (e.g. episode 5) Looks like a legitimate proverb, but trying to find its origin or references, I got nothing at all. So I was wondering if somebody could have some references or sources about this proverb.

Thank you in advance. :-)

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The proverb is real, although spoken differently.

In episode 5 of Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, Miu said the following proverb,

男子門口を出れば七人の敵あり (danshi kadoguchi wo dereba shichinin no teki ari)
A young man, if he steps out of the gateway, there are seven enemies (lit.)

The more known proverbs are:

  1. 男は敷居を跨げば七人の敵あり (otoko wa shiki'i wo matageba shichinin no teki ari)
  2. 男子家を出ずれば七人の敵あり (danshi ie wo izureba shichinin no teki ari)
  3. 男子門を出ずれば七人の敵あり (danshi mon wo izureba shichinin no teki ari)

which its interpretation is more about

A man has many competitors, if man comes out to society.

This can refer to education, career, and similar situations (basically: people are competing with each other outside; always be on your guard and do not open a chance to be used by others)

One of the earliest references is on Kunio Kishida's essay Nihonjin to wa? (1951) (Japanese), but no specific origin is known.

昔から、「人を見たら泥棒と思え」だの、「男子外にいずれば七人の敵あり」だの、とにかく、人間と人間との関係を、おのずから相親しむべきものとせず、かえって、互いに心の許せぬもの、油断をすれば隙に乗ぜられるもの、という風に教えているのである

Since a long time ago, there were sayings like "if you see a man, think of him as a robber", "if a young man goes outside, there are seven enemies", anyway, it is told that people should not be familiar with each other naturally, rather, they are unforgivable to each other, and if they are not careful, an opportunity can be taken.

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  • Translation to Kunio Kishida's essay may be off... feel free to improve it!
    – Aki Tanaka
    Dec 27 '20 at 16:40
  • Thanks a lot for those references and explanations. Actually I was wondering if there was an explanation about the seven enemies. I guess if it was general, it could have been said about "many enemies". May those enemies be related to temptations like the seven sins ?
    – Olivier M.
    Dec 29 '20 at 3:30
  • @OlivierM. I haven't found a deeper explanation than that, though the "seven enemies" is indeed interpreted as "various kinds of competitors" instead of a literal number.
    – Aki Tanaka
    Dec 29 '20 at 3:36
  • Thanks a lot again for your help. I'll see if I can dig in deeper.
    – Olivier M.
    Dec 29 '20 at 13:14
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Several variants of this proverb can be found on multiple sites but no direct origin is given:

"Once outside the gate, a man has seven enemies." (source)

"Seven enemies await outside every man’s gate" (source)

"As soon as a man leaves his house he has seven enemies." (source)

The only explanation of the meaning that I found for it was in Japan's New Middle Class by Ezra F. Vogel

Just as the Mamachi resident makes a sharp distinction between friend and stranger, so a large barrier separates family members from outsiders. Outside the home, one must be more formally dressed, more polite, more cautious, and more suspicious. In accord with the well-known proverbs, "If you meet a stranger, regard him as a robber," and "Outside your gate, there are seven enemies," a person is on his guard outside. (source)

There seems to be no deeper meaning behind it than to be wary of strangers.

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