We all have a zodiac symbol, right? I was born in late April so mine is Taurus (The Bull). But people over in Asia use an alternate zodiac system that most Westerners aren’t familiar with.
In fact, even the various Asian countries use different animals from each other! So what are the Japanese zodiac signs and their respective animals?
Well I’m gonna’ give you their names and the order that they appear in!
In addition to that, I’ll also show you their zodiac symbols (kanji) since they are different from the normal ones used for each animal in written Japanese.
Then it gets pretty interesting when we dive into the different things that each symbol represents like direction, time, and a catastrophic event.
Dun. Dun. DUUUUUUN!!!
Finally, I’ll show you which one is YOURS so you can remember it for yourself!
The 12 Japanese Zodiac Signs in Order
Here’s how to read the zodiac chart below:
- Number of the zodiac
- Kanji (or symbol) that represents it
- The pronunciation in Rōmaji
- The name of the animal in English
1. 子 (ne) = The Rat
2. 丑 (ushi) = The Ox
3. 寅 (tora) = The Tiger
4. 卯 (u) = The Hare
5. 辰 (tatsu) = The Dragon
6. 巳 (mi) = The Serpent
7. 午 (uma) = The Horse
8. 未 (mitsuji) = The Ram
9. 申 (saru) = The Monkey
10. 酉 (tori) = The Bird
11. 戌 (inu) = The Dog
12. 亥 (i) = The Boar
What’s interesting about these is that some of the kanji used for the “zodiac symbols” are also used as common words in Japanese, but with completely different meanings and pronunciations from the chart above!
For example, 子 usually means “child” and is pronounced “ko.”
Very different from “rat” pronounced “ne” right? … Right? No, kids are like rats? WHAT!
Other zodiac kanji have kept their pronunciation, but still use an alternate kanji. An example in this group would be #10 tori which is usually spelled as 鳥 for “bird” but gets 酉 as the zodiac symbol instead.
What other things do you notice from the above list? Recognize some more changes from the commonly used kanji and pronunciations for each animal?
Take a Look at This Picture, Then Read the Explanation Below
| Image Credit: Oilstreet |
When you look at this picture, does it remind you of a clock? This is what’s known as a 十二支 (jūnishi) or “12-branches.”
One branch represents each of the zodiac animals.
One branch also represents two hours of the day. The Rat (子) is from 11pm-1am and the pattern continues in a linear path from there.
One branch also represents 30 degrees out of a 360 degree circle for direction. The Rat (子) is north which you can see is marked by the kanji for north 北.
Since each branch represents one year, it takes 12 years to complete one full cycle. This is important to note because each cycle is given an element from one of five possibilities:
Five full cycles adds up to 60 years which is what’s known as a sexagesimal system.
Why does that matter? Well let me tell you!
Once every sexagesimal cycle (or once in 60 years) there is an event known as 丙午 (hinoe uma).
丙午 is known as the “Year of the Fire Horse” and it is said that women born in this year are destined to kill their husbands!
You might think that’s a little superstitious, but during the last 丙午 in 1966 there were 400,000 fewer births than the previous year!!! [source]
I guess nobody wanted to have a murderer for a daughter!
Were any of you born in 1966? Have any of you
killed uhh, I mean… gotten really angry at your husbands?
Which Japanese Zodiac Symbol is Yours?
The cycle repeats every 12 years, so it’s actually pretty simple to figure out which one is yours by doing a little math.
But who likes to do that, am I right?
So I’ve gone ahead and done the math for you. Check out the signs below and see which one has your birth year in it!
Years of the Rat 子
(minus every 12 years), 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, (plus every 12 years).
Years of the Ox 丑
(minus every 12 years), 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, (plus every 12 years).
Years of the Tiger 寅
(minus every 12 years), 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, (plus every 12 years).
Years of the Hare 卯
(minus every 12 years), 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, (plus every 12 years).
Years of the Dragon 辰
(minus every 12 years), 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, (plus every 12 years).
Years of the Serpent 巳
(minus every 12 years), 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, (plus every 12 years).
Years of the Horse 午
(minus every 12 years), 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, (plus every 12 years).
Years of the Ram 未
(minus every 12 years), 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, (plus every 12 years).
Years of the Monkey 申
(minus every 12 years), 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, (plus every 12 years).
Years of the Bird 酉
(minus every 12 years), 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, (plus every 12 years).
Years of the Dog 戌
(minus every 12 years), 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, (plus every 12 years).
Years of the Boar 亥
(minus every 12 years), 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, (plus every 12 years).
As you can see from the above, this current year (2017) is that Year of the Bird 酉.
My year is that of the Serpent 巳. I always did think that Slytherin was cool!
Which year is yours?
Pretty Cool when You Think About it.
I really enjoyed learning about the Japanese zodiac and all the interesting details like how it was used for direction, and that Year of the Fire Horse (i ain’t scurred!).
You begin to realize that learning a new language isn’t just about the words and phrases, it’s also about the spirit of the country, its legends, and traditions.
At least, that’s my take on the matter.
But what do you guys think about all this?
Do you like the Japanese zodiac? Is it cooler than the one we use in the West?
Which symbol is yours? (Use the chart above!)
Share your thoughts on it with a comment below!