Japanese Birth Year Animals

Japanese birth year animals were originally adopted from Chinese astrology following the arrival of Buddhism in Japan in the mid-6th Century AD. Although this lunar calendar has since been replaced by the solar (Gregorian)  calendar in everyday use, it is still used by many Japanese temples and shrines for important events and retains its role in the practice of divination throughout Asia and much of the western world.

Here we give a brief introduction to Japanese birth year animals followed by a description of the personality traits associated with each one.


Introduction to the Japanese Zodiac calendar

This information has been extracted from the popular A-to-Z Photo Dictionary of Japan's Buddhist & Shinto Deities by Mark Schumacher, an independent scholar of Japanese Buddhist statuary.

Based on the lunar cycle, this complex astrological system was devised to mark the date and time in the Chinese imperial court and civil calendar, and as a means of determining one’s character and forecasting one’s future.

The Chinese Zodiac calendar, and by extension the Japanese astrological system (known as kanshi), is far more elaborate than popular western assumption allows. Japanese Zodiac animals (juni shi) are not only assigned by year, but also by month (‘inner animals’), by day (‘true animals’) and by hour of the day (‘secret animals’).

So a Dragon may be a Snake internally, an Ox truly, and a Sheep secretly. In total, Japanese astrology allows for 103,680 possible combinations (60 year cycle (5 elements × 12 animals) × 12 months × 12 days × 12 periods of the day).

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. To get a better understanding of the complexity of the Japanese Zodiac system, check out Schumacher’s detailed guide: Zodiac Calendar and Lore.


The 12 Japanese birth year animals

In contrast to the Chinese system, the Japanese Zodiac includes the Mouse instead of the Rat, the Wild Boar instead of the Pig, and the Sheep instead of the Goat.

What is your Japanese birth year animal?


Japanese birth year animals
Birth year animal kokeshi dolls from The Japanese Shop


Personality traits associated with each Zodiac animal

Source: China Wiki

1. Mouse

Forthright, tenacious, intense, meticulous, charismatic, sensitive, intellectual, industrious, charming, eloquent, sociable, artistic, and shrewd. Can be manipulative, vindictive, self-destructive, envious, mendacious, venal, obstinate, critical, over-ambitious, ruthless, intolerant, and scheming.

2. Cow

Dependable, ambitious, calm, methodical, born leader, patient, hardworking, conventional, steady, modest, logical, resolute, tenacious. Can be stubborn, dogmatic, hot-tempered, narrow-minded, materialistic, rigid, demanding.

3. Tiger

Unpredictable, rebellious, colorful, powerful, passionate, daring, impulsive, vigorous, stimulating, sincere, affectionate, humanitarian, generous. Can be restless, reckless, impatient, quick-tempered, obstinate, selfish, aggressive, moody.

4. Rabbit

Gracious, good friend, kind, sensitive, soft-spoken, amiable, elegant, reserved, cautious, artistic, thorough, tender, self-assured, shy, astute, compassionate, lucky, flexible. Can be moody, detached, superficial, self-indulgent, opportunistic, stubborn.

5. Dragon

Magnanimous, stately, vigorous, strong, self-assured, proud, noble, direct, dignified, eccentric, intellectual, fiery, passionate, decisive, pioneering, artistic, generous, loyal. Can be tactless, arrogant, imperious, tyrannical, demanding, intolerant, dogmatic, violent, impetuous, brash.

6. Snake

Deep thinker, wise, mystic, graceful, soft-spoken, sensual, creative, prudent, shrewd, elegant, cautious, responsible, calm, strong, constant, purposeful. Can be loner, bad communicator, possessive, hedonistic, self-doubting, distrustful, mendacious, suffocating, cold.

7. Horse

Cheerful, popular, quick-witted, changeable, earthy, perceptive, talkative, agile, magnetic, intelligent, astute, flexible, open-minded. Can be fickle, arrogant, childish, anxious, rude, gullible, stubborn.

8. Sheep

Righteous, sincere, sympathetic, mild-mannered, shy, artistic, creative, gentle, compassionate, understanding, mothering, peaceful, generous, seeks security. Can be moody, indecisive, over-passive, worrier, pessimistic, over-sensitive, complainer, weak-willed.

9. Monkey

Inventor, motivator, improviser, quick-witted, inquisitive, flexible, innovative, problem solver, self-assured, sociable, artistic, polite, dignified, competitive, objective, factual, intellectual. Can be egotistical, vain, arrogant, selfish, reckless, snobbish, deceptive, manipulative, cunning, jealous, suspicious.

10. Bird

Neat, meticulous, organized, self-assured, decisive, conservative, critical, perfectionist, alert, zealous, practical, scientific, responsible. Can be over zealous and critical, puritanical, egotistical, abrasive, proud, opinionated, given to empty bravado.

11. Dog

Honest, intelligent, straightforward, loyal, sense of justice and fair play, attractive, amicable, unpretentious, sociable, open-minded, idealistic, moralistic, practical, affectionate, sensitive, easy going. Can be cynical, lazy, cold, judgmental, pessimistic, worrier, stubborn, quarrelsome.

12. Boar

Honest, gallant, sturdy, sociable, peace-loving, patient, loyal, hard-working, trusting, sincere, calm, understanding, thoughtful, scrupulous, passionate, intelligent. Can be naïve, over-reliant, self-indulgent, gullible, fatalistic, materialistic.

Birth year animals