Japanese zodiac


Discover how the 12 Japanese Zodiac signs can reveal unique characteristics, allowing you to predict the personality traits of yourself and those around you. Let’s explore this fascinating tradition together!

In Japanese culture, it is believed that people’s birth year influences their character. It is even believed that one should choose a partner that is compatible with one’s Japanese Zodiac. Doing so will ensure a long-lasting and better relationship compared to being in a relationship with mismatched zodiacs. Some even think it would be helpful to consult an astrologer to find the right person for you.

But how true is it? Let’s find out.

History of the Japanese Zodiac 

Japanese zodiac

You might be wondering how the Japanese zodiac came to be and how it became a popular form of astrology and horoscope prediction. How does one small detail about you suddenly become the indicator of your whole being and your future?

To start, the Japanese zodiac, or the Juunishi or Junishi is a twelve-year cycle calendar that assigns certain animals to represent each year. The same animal repeats after twelve years which is a concept based on ancient Chinese. They believed that time shifts were based on twelve units. According to historical records, the system uses the moon’s phases because most oriental regions adopted the lunar calendar in recording time back then.

With this said, it is safe to conclude that the Chinese influenced the Japanese zodiac. Notably, the Buddhists from China brought this system to Japan in the year 600s. But other beliefs claim that it was the Shinto religion that spread the zodiac calendar in Japan.

The story about the order of the animals came from a Chinese myth. According to legend, the Jade Emperor decided to gather twelve animals to form the zodiac. He informed the animals to meet on the first day of January. He also told them that the selection would be based on the order of their arrival.

The First 12 Animals to Arrive

The first twelve to arrive will be the winners and they will represent the zodiac signs. Being fully aware that he was the slowest, the Ox decided to wake up early to get a head start in his journey and arrive on time. The Rat woke up earlier than the ox and was ahead of him for some time.

However, the swift currents of the river hindered the Rat. He had no way of crossing the river because of the currents. So he cleverly jumped on top of the Ox’s back and let the great beast ferry him across the river.  When the Ox was almost at the meeting place, the Rat jumped off the Ox’s back and rushed to the Jade Emperor’s feet.

For being the first to arrive, the Rat became the first animal to be inducted into the Zodiac. The ox followed him, who didn’t mind coming in second. Next, the Tiger and the Rabbit were among the fastest of the animals.  They raced each other to the meeting place. However, the rabbit arrived later than the Tiger since the river slowed him down. The Dragon and the Snake arrived next, followed by the horse, sheep, Monkey, rooster, dog, and boar.

Not only is the Japanese zodiac used to foretell a person’s fortune, but it is also used in Japanese society to tell another person’s age. People even associated it with superstitions. In 1966, Japan saw a decline in childbirth because, allegedly, infants born in that year were becoming strong-willed and dangerous. They also called it the curse of the fire horse that truly sparked fear among the Japanese people.

Year of The Cat? Why the Cat didn’t make it to the Zodiac

Did you know that your Zodiac animal could have been the Cat? When the Jade Emperor made his announcement, the Cat arrived late to the gathering. He asked the Rat what the announcement was about, and the Rat accurately informed him about the Jade Emperor’s decision to form the Zodiac with the first twelve animals that arrived at his palace.

However, the Rat lied to the Cat when he said that the race was on the second day of January. So when he arrived at what he thought would be the date of the race, he was furious to find out that the Rat had deceived him. Since then, he decided to chase the Rat as revenge for deceiving him. 

Japanese Zodiac Animals

Animal symbolism plays a central role in the zodiac system, which has been prevalent not only in Japanese culture but also in other Western countries for centuries. Although there are some differences, such as using birth months instead of birth years, fortune-telling is central. Learn more about your Japanese zodiac and learn how close you are, personality-wise, to your animal.

Presenting the winners of the race:

Rat (nezumi)

4, 1996, 2008, and so on, you belong to this zodiac. The Rat became the winner of the race because the Rat saw an opportunity when the ox decided to leave early for the race because of their species’ slow nature. The Rat rode on the back of the ox, and when the ox was finally near the finish line to claim the first place, the Rat hurriedly jumped to the finish line, making him the winner.  

People born in the year of the rat exhibit tendencies to be hardworking to achieve their goals. Rat persons are competent and intelligent individuals- cunning and calculating even based on the stories. They are a charming and ambitious bunch. They are also known to have few lasting friends (The Rat did deceive the cat.) and are easily angered but can withhold showing their genuine emotions.

The Rat symbolizes the prosperity of descendants and social issues because rats breed fast. Notably, they are most compatible with dragons and monkeys and the three generate positive power when together. They also have a mutually beneficial relationship with oxen but are least compatible with horses. Crown Prince Naruhito and Emperor Meiji were both born in the year of the Rat. 

Ox (ushi)

People born in 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, and….you know the other years, are part of the Ox zodiac. Although the ox was only second to the Rat, the Jade emperor appreciated the determination in arriving at a slow but steady pace. The ox came to be a symbol of loyalty.

Being associated with land tilling, people under this zodiac are hard workers. They are perceived to be patient and earnest. But they do tend to dismiss others’ opinions when they set their mind on something. This zodiac is most compatible with the Snakes and Roosters. They are least compatible with the Sheep and have a mutually beneficial relationship with the rats. One of the most famous Japanese characters born in the year of the Ox is Mario from the highly acclaimed Super Mario Brothers franchise. 

Tiger (tora)

People belonging to this zodiac are revered for being sensitive but courageous. They can be short-tempered and stubborn, but they are also deep thinkers that show sympathy for the people they love. They are the people you can rely on to get things done, making them efficient leaders among the masses.

During ancient times, the Japanese people believed tigers were stars in the sky because of their fur. They later became symbols of wit and decisiveness. The Horses and Dogs are the most compatible zodiacs with the ferocious Tiger and the least compatible with the Monkeys. Birth years such as 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010 are among the people under this zodiac.

Did you know that Hello Kitty was born in the year of the Tiger? 

Rabbit (usagi)

Considered the most fortunate, people born in 1975, 1987, 1999, and 2011 are the smooth talkers, virtuous, and reserved clusters. They are said to have exceedingly fine taste and are well admired and trusted by others. But they are also subject to deceit and are gullible because of their too-trusting nature. They try to see the positive aspects in everything and often build their fantasy world.

Also, the Rabbit zodiac consists of heavy sleepers and can wake up in a bad mood. They are symbols of family well-being and significant progress in business due to their way of leaping forward. Furthermore, people under this sign are most compatible with sheep and boars. They have a mutually beneficial relationship with the dogs and are least compatible with the roosters.

Tokugawa Ieyasu was born in the year of the Rabbit. 

Dragon (Tatsu)

The creature that embodies otherworldly strength and is of significant importance in Asian mythology, the Dragon, is the fifth zodiac. The Dragon is only in fifth place because of dragon’s compassionate nature. Along the journey, the dragon stopped for the ones that needed help that caused its delay.

The Dragon symbolizes justice and trust. Often associated with power, only emperors back in ancient China could use it as an emblem. People in this zodiac are energetic and inspire trust in almost everyone. But they can be very competitive at times, and they can have quite a few enemies. They also work better alone than in groups and are likely to speak their mind without regard for others’ feelings. Suppose your birth year is 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012. Then you are most compatible with monkeys and rats. You are least compatible with the dogs but have a beneficial relationship with the roosters.

The famous robot, ASIMO, was born in the year of the dragon. 

Snake (hebi)

Although people under this zodiac speak very little, they possess wisdom like no other. They are fortunate when it comes to financial matters and are always able to obtain money. Their determination makes this so, and they very much hate failures.  

The Snake zodiac does not forget every good and bad deed that people have committed toward them. This zodiac symbolizes passion and curiosity. The Snake’s tendencies to avoid conflicts are the cause of this zodiac’s stress. They are also viewed as jealous and tend to do mean things behind other people’s backs. You belong to this introverted group if your birth year is 1977, 1989, 2001, or 2013. You are least compatible with boars and most compatible with oxen and roosters. Moreover, you exhibit a mutually beneficial relationship with the monkeys.

The renowned director, Hayao Miyazaki, famous for his Studio Ghibli films such as Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and Howl’s Moving Castle, was born in the year of the Snake.

Horse (Uma)

Unlike the Snake, people born under the Horse years are quite talkative and skillful in paying compliments. They are also considered people who value freedom very much. Thus they don’t like working for other people, and they don’t like ties. People under this Zodiac welcome unforeseen changes and are inclined not to let any opportunity pass them by. However, they are also described as sometimes being a bit rash and tending to anger easily.

Horse people are also skillful with money and handle finances well. They are talented, wise, and quick-witted. They are also free-spirited, elegant, and charismatic persons.  In Japan, a very famous person born under the Horse Zodiac is Oda Nobunaga, famous for unifying Japan during its feudal period.  

If you are someone born in 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, or 2014, you are the least compatible with people born in the year of the Rat, Ox, Rooster, and other people born in the year of the Horse. On the other hand, people born in the year of the Tiger and the year of the Sheep are your perfect matches. Tigers and Horses are born to be the perfect couple and can live in harmony for the rest of their lives.

Meanwhile, Sheep and Horses will never get tired of each other, and their passion and care for one another will be everlasting. They can be good friends with Snakes, and they have a complementary relationship with Pigs.

Sheep (hitsuji)

People born under the year of the Sheep display a considerable amount of passion for nature. They exude elegance and are very artistic and creative persons, and are highly tuned to the arts such as literature. They constantly seek the company of others to feel secure.

Furthermore, they may seem like they are better off than the rest of the Zodiacs, but people under the year of the Sheep may sometimes feel insecure about themselves. Nevertheless, they are noble and generous. They also seem to be deeply religious and exhibit intense passion for whatever they do and believe in.  Sheep people are characterized as righteous, sincere, sympathetic, shy, gentle, compassionate, understanding, and mothering. However, they can be moody, indecisive, overly passive, pessimistic, over-sensitive, and weak-willed.

If you are someone born in 1979, 1991, 2003, or 2015, you are most compatible with people born in the year of the Rabbit, Horse, and Pig. Both Sheep and Rabbits are selfless so that they can think of each other. This selflessness helps them get along with one another even in the face of disagreements.

Sheep people also prefer having clear plans when doing things, which they share with Horse people. Sheep and Pigs share the same interests in food, and that shared interest lets them lead a harmonious life with each other. They are least compatible with Oxes, Tigers, and Dogs. Akira Toriyama, the author of Dragon Ball, is a famous Japanese person born in the year of the Sheep. 

You don’t need to be a Sheep person to be compatible with grammar and literature. Improve your English skills by clicking here

Monkey (saru)

People born in the year of the Monkey are typically erratic geniuses. They show cleverness and skill when it comes to large-scale operations. Notably, they are also good at making financial transactions. They show great intelligence in solving the most difficult of problems. However, Monkey people can only be happy when experiencing constant movement and lots of stimulation. Despite their intelligence, they can also be conniving and calculating. 

In addition, people under the Monkey years are known to be funny and live carefree lives. While others may view this as arrogance, in reality, they just prefer simple lives. 

If you’re born in 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, and 2016, you are least compatible with the Tiger and the Pig. On the other hand, people born in the year of the Ox and Rabbit are your perfect matches. Highly active monkeys complement the steady Oxes making for a harmonious relationship. On the other hand, the equally active rabbit share more common hobbies and personalities with Monkey people. They also know each other very well and tend to have the most fun when together.

A famous Japanese character born in the year of the Monkey is Doraemon, who is very intelligent but can be quite a cheater. 

Rooster (tori)

People born in the year of the Rooster are known for being deep thinkers. They are incredibly devoted to their work, and they become disappointed when they take a task beyond their capabilities. Rooster people are pretty frank, having a habit of speaking whatever they have in their minds. They are highly independent, confident, self-assured, brave, resourceful, precise, and organized. They also are inclined to defend the rights of others. However, they suffer from the habit of ignoring the help and advice of others. 

If you were born in 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, or 2017, you aren’t compatible with Rats, Rabbits, Horses, Roosters, and Dogs. On the other hand, your perfect partners are Oxes and Snakes due to how your personalities complement one another. Roosters aren’t the ones to compromise first when it comes to resolving conflicts. Meanwhile, Oxes and snakes take on a more positive role in the relationship, taking the initiative to resolve conflicts with their partners. Both partners also feel grateful for each others’ devotion in the relationship so their love won’t fade away anytime soon. 

Murasaki Shikebu, an acclaimed Japanese author, was born in the year of the Rooster. 

Dog (inu)

Dog people are said to possess all the fine qualities of human nature. Much like actual dogs, they have a sense of duty and loyalty and tend to protect their families and the weak. People born in the year of the Dog are known for being sincere. They always do their best in their relationship with other people, inspire confidence in others, and know how to keep secrets. They are also known for being highly intelligent and eloquent. 

However, people under the year of the Dog constantly change their mood. They also prefer being in contact with nature most of the time. Even something as simple as reading a book would be much more enjoyable when done in a park. 

People born in 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, and 2018 are not suitable matches for Dragons, Sheep, and Roosters. Their best match is persons born under the year of the Rabbit. They easily attract dogs as Rabbits are always gentle and considerate. Compared to Dog people, they care more about the details. Dogs and Rabbits complement each other well when they make up a family. 

A famous Japanese person born in the year of the Dog is Suzuki Shinishi, a musician and the inventor of the Suzuki method for children, which helps them learn to play the violin, and the piano, among other instruments.

Boar (inoshishi)

 People born in the year of the boar are known for their bravery. They have unbeatable inner strength, display great honesty, and provide plenty of affection and kindness to their loved ones. They are also knowledgeable, enjoy studying, and love the good things in life, mainly eating and resting.

Sometimes they may seem lazy, but the reality is that they know when and how to rest. They also show impressive tolerance, are pretty sensitive, and are highly optimistic. They are always happy and relaxed. Even though they are short-tempered, they dislike quarrels or arguments.  Tigers, Rabbits, and Sheep are the best matches for people born in 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, and 2019. Pigs and Tigers understand each other well and treat one another as the most critical person in their lives. Rabbits and Pigs are simply able to live a romantic life together. Lastly, Sheep and Pigs are family-oriented people with mild personalities, which results in rare clashes between them. 

Kawabata Yasunari, a writer who marked history in 1968 by being the first Japanese to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, is a famous Japanese person born in the year of the Boar. 

Japanese Zodiac: A Recap

The desire to determine what the future holds must be human nature. And how can we not long for it? The appeal of knowing what is yet to come is sometimes overpowering and entirely too reassuring (to some extent). How can someone pass up the opportunity to be knowledgeable of one’s fate through animal symbolism and astrology? How can we not take advantage of that knowledge to maybe alter our life if it is unsatisfactory or push for it to happen if it’s favorable?  It’s no wonder that this ancient tradition has remained a popular part of Japanese customs for centuries. Let’s continue to explore the rich cultural heritage of the Japanese zodiac and its potential to shape our future.

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