Nihongo of the Day: 世渡り上手
This is one of the better phrases we’ve discussed lately. ALC translates it as follows:
世渡り上手（yo watari jyouzu） — worldly wisdom
which is not.. really right. 世渡り上手 literally means “good at crossing the world”.
Think of someone you know for whom, without really having to try, everything goes well; especially career-wise. They float from job to job and their career always seems to grow brighter. The golden boy in the office. The entreprenuer who stumbles from one boom to another as others go bust. These people are 世渡り上手.
In a positive sense this phrase refers to those who live a “charmed life”. The innocently lucky. 世渡り上手 can also refer to those who worm their way up the ladder of life. Sycophants and “yes men”.
It all depends, I suppose, on whom you are referring and the particular secrets of their success. And maybe upon your point of view.