All About the 12 Japanese Zodiac Signs: Which Animal Are You?

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The 12 zodiac signs or juunishi (十二支) are an important element of Japanese culture, especially when a new year rolls in. It is part of the astrological system called eto (干支). The Japanese zodiac uses special kanji that are different from the usual characters for each animal.

The Japanese zodiac is separated into 12 animals (rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and wild boar) and 5 elements (earth, wood, fire, metal, and water). Each year corresponds to a certain animal, and a full cycle is repeated after 12 years. 

The kanreki (還暦) or 60th birthday is an important point in a person’s life, because that is when 5 cycles of the juunishi is completed. At 60 years, a person is ‘reborn’ as they go back to the very start of another cycle.

Are the Japanese and Chinese zodiac the same?

Both zodiacs share the same traits, since the Chinese zodiac was introduced to Japan around the 4th to 5th century. There are many myths about the order of animals belonging to the zodiac, but the most popular one that applies to most Asian zodiacs is the myth of the Jade Emperor.

There is one difference between the Japanese and Chinese zodiacs, though: instead of a pig, the Japanese zodiac has a wild boar. 

A typical Japanese new year’s decoration, featuring the 12 animals of the zodiac.

What Japanese zodiac sign is 2022?

2022 is the Year of the Water Tiger or mizunoe tora (壬寅) in Japan! 

Even before the end of 2021, tiger-related merchandise, calendars, New Year’s cards (nengajo / 年賀状) and decorations became popular in Japan, also anywhere the zodiac is observed. The brave Water Tiger represents strength and courage.

An example of a Japanese new year card (nengajo) featuring the zodiac animal of the year - in this case, two cartoon tigers wearing traditional Japanese clothing (kimono).
An example of a Japanese new year card (nengajo) featuring the zodiac animal of the year.

Related post: New Year in Japan: Traditions, Food And Celebrations

Rat 子 (ne)

People born in the year of the Rat are intelligent and persuasive, which make them good leaders. They are passionate in achieving success and can come up with creative ways to attain it.

Birth years: 1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020

Ox 丑 (ushi)

Ox people are hardworking and patient. They’re not the type to give up so easily, and many people look up to them for inspiration. Oxen are resourceful and innovative people who can achieve good results.

Birth years: 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021

Tiger 寅 (tora)

The Tiger has an unpredictable, competitive, and intense nature, making them act on impulse in some situations. They are also courageous and generous individuals who can spark inspiration in others.

Birth years: 1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022

Rabbit 卯 (u)

People born under the Rabbit sign are sensitive and tend to be shy. Their sweet nature makes them the kind of people who hate conflict. It is common belief that these talented Rabbits are the luckiest among the zodiac signs.

Birth years: 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023

Dragon 辰 (tatsu)

They say that the Dragon is the most interesting sign. This Japanese zodiac animal is strong, passionate, and charismatic. Their uniqueness shines through their self-confidence and pride in achieving their ambitions!

Birth years: 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024

Snake 巳 (mi)

Individuals under the Snake zodiac are full of wisdom and logic! They are deep thinkers, and though they speak very little, they are said to be financially lucky and are some of the most determined and thoughtful people. 

Birth years: 1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025

Horse 午 (uma)

People born in the year of the Horse are quick-witted and flexible. They can be free-spirited, often adapting well to sudden changes. Their charisma is what draws people to them, making them popular with their peers!

Birth years: 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026

Sheep 未 (hitsuji)

The Japanese Sheep zodiac is one of the most creative signs. They are comfortable in expressing themselves through artistic means and are true to their principles. One of their strengths is showing compassion towards others.

Birth years: 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027

Monkey 申 (saru)

The Monkey zodiac shows a lot of curiosity! Because of their cleverness, they are good at solving problems and coming up with new inventions. Their originality lets them enjoy a simplistic outlook in life. 

Birth years: 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028

Rooster 酉 (tori)

Rooster signs are opinionated and brave. Even if their striking independence might make them critical of others or proud, Roosters use it to become resourceful. They are not afraid to voice out their thoughts and stand up for those who are in need of help.

Birth years: 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029

Dog 戌 (inu)

Very much like man’s best friend, Dog signs are dutiful and loyal. They are very protective of the people they are closest to. They are also the most sociable sign, not to mention affectionate! 

Birth years: 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030

Boar 亥 (i)

Those who are born in the years of the Wild Boar are the most adventurous and optimistic people! They know the best ways to sit back, relax, and appreciate the little things in life. Boars are also hardworking and honest people.

Birth years: 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031

Related post: How to Say Happy New Year in Japanese

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Thea Ongchua

Thea is a freelance content writer, currently majoring in Japanese studies. She likes to create art and draws inspiration from film and music. Thea was inspired to study Japanese language and culture by reading the literary works of Haruki Murakami and Edogawa Ranpo.

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