JUNISHI -Twelve Zodiac Signs-

JUNISHI -Twelve Zodiac Signs-

In Japan, there are JIKKAN and JUNISHI, both calendars imported from China. Combinations of the two are called ETO (the sexagenary cycle) and the ETO of each new year becomes a popular topic of conversation.

What is JUNISHI?

十二支, Jyu-ni-shi, is the twelve zodiac signs in Chinese astrology. In present-day Japan we make use of it only to refer to years, but until 1870s, it was widely used to show time and directions.

There are 12 animals, with one animal allocated to every year. Have you think about how the order of the 12 animals decided? Well, there is a old story about that.


A long time ago, on December 31st, God announced to animals, “I will make the first 12 animals who come to see me on the morning of the new year’s day powerful generals, one for each year”. All of the animal got so excited and they were getting to prepare for it.

One cow thought, “I’m so slow, so I should start to night” and decided to start leaving for God’s place earlier than other animals. A tricky mouse saw the cow about to leave, and silently jumped on the back of the cow.

All other animals starts running towards the God’s place few hours later the cow left.

And when the sun began to rise up, the cow was the first to arrive at the destination.

But right at the end, the mouse jumped off from the back of the cow and run across the finish line first.

Therefore, the first 12 animals finished in this order, mouse, cow, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, cock, dog, and boar.


How we call animals of JUNISHI in Japanese?

  1. Mouse 子(ね) = NE
  2. Cow 牛(うし) =USHI
  3. Tiger 寅(とら) =TORA
  4. Rabbit 卯(う) =U
  5. Dragon 辰(たつ) =TATSU
  6. Snake 巳(み) =MI
  7. Horse 午(うま) =UMA
  8. Sheep 未(ひつじ) =HITSUJI
  9. Monkey 申(さる) =SARU
  10. Cock 酉(とり) =TORI
  11. Dog 戌(いぬ) =INU
  12. Boar 亥(い) =I

Because JUNISHI is used for long time, the Kanji we use for it is little bit different from what we are using now. Please be careful to this if you are studying Japanese:)


How people in Japan use JUNISHI in their daily life?

Because we do not use JUNISHI to show time and directions right now, people usually do not care about JUNISHI in their daily life. However, we still have some opportunities to notice about JUNISHI.

1. New Year Greeting Card

As you can know from the story of the JUNISHI, the animal of the year is considered as a symbol of that year. Therefore, many of New year’s greeting card, Nengojyo, include some pictures or drawing of the animal.

2. Lucky Charm & Paper Fortune

Other thing is the lucky charm and paper fortune. In shrines and temples, you can find many animal shaped lucky charm and paper fortune. It is said that you can have a good luck if you carry something of the animal of the year or put it somewhere you can see.


3. Toshi-otoko (年男) or Toshi-onna (年女)

One more interesting thing is Toshi-otoko and Toshi-onna. Men or women who born in the year current under the twelve-year cycle of the Oriental zodiac is called Toshi-otoko(Men) or Toshi-onna(Women). It is believed that Toshi-otoko and Toshi-onna can have a great year than other people! If you are DOG year (who born in 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970 etc...), you might have something special in 2018:)

4. Kanreki

Not directly related to JUNISHI, but KANREKI (還暦), the celebration for being 60 years old comes from ETO. As you learned that JUNISHI goes around in twelve years, in the other hand, ETO goes around in 60 years. Therefore, becoming 60 years old means that the ETO came back to the same ETO when they were born. People in here thinks that "make a round of ETO" as "make a round of life" and celebrate 60 years of longetivity and new start of a great life. In addition, there is a custom to send a red vest to people who are KANREKI for the celebration.


According to JUNISHI, 2018 is the DOG year!! The theme of our current stationery pack is “Puppy Pack” so why don’t you get one and have a great year with the doggie stationery?


Check out the Stationery Puppy Pack!