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The Japanese Zodiac Demystefied!

What’s your sign?

For many of us, this question calls to mind the Western zodiac: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, et al. Throughout most of Asia, however, the zodiac refers to a cycle of twelve years—not months—with each sign represented by an animal. Though this is often referred to as the “Chinese Zodiac,” it is used in many different countries, some with slight variants.

Traditionally, the twelve animals of the Oriental Zodiac, with some of their corresponding years, are as follows:

  • Rat / 子: 2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960
  • Ox / 丑: 2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961
  • Tiger / 寅: 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962
  • Rabbit / 卯: 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963
  • Dragon / 辰: 2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964
  • Snake / 巳: 2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965
  • Horse / 午: 2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966
  • Goat (Sheep) / 未: 2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967
  • Monkey / 申: 2016, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968
  • Rooster / 酉: 2017, 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969
  • Dog / 戌: 2018, 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970
  • Pig (Boar) / 亥: 2019, 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971

Source: www.chinesezodiac.com

Zodiac-set-Museum-Store

Zodiac Figurine Set, available in the Museum Store

Chinese vs. Japanese Zodiac

Japan observes the same 12-year cycle as China, although the new year starts on January 1 (Gregorian calendar), rather than February 8 (Chinese Lunar calendar). Other differences include the use of the sheep instead of the goat and the wild boar instead of the pig, though the original Chinese characters are still used for each.

Toshi-Otoko & Toshi-Onna

If it is currently the year of your birth sign, congratulations! You are a toshi-otoko or toshi-onnatoshi (年) meaning year, and otoko (男) and onna (女) meaning “man” and “woman,” respectively. This distinction is reserved for those whose age is a multiple of 12 and whose zodiac sign corresponds to the current year.

While Oshogatsu may have come and gone, it will be the Year of the Monkey (saru [申] in Japanese) for another eleven months and change—have you stocked up on monkey gear yet? The Museum Store has got you (and any toshi-otoko and toshi-onna you might know) covered!

Pick these up exclusively at the Museum Store!

Monkey-Calendar

Year of the Monkey Gift Calendar / $10.00

Monkey-figure-with-omikuji

Charm Monkey with Omikuji (fortune) / $5.50

gold-monkey-Museum-Store

Gold Year of the Monkey Bell / $6.00

3-monkey-figures-Museum-Store

Three-Monkey Figurine / $9.00

wood-monkey-figure

Wooden, Hand-Carved Monkey Figurine (corresponds to zodiac set pictured above) / $15.00

moneky-with-screen-Museum-Store

Year of the Monkey Figurine with Base and Golden Screen / $9.00

 

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