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The 12 Japanese Zodiac Figures

In Japan you will often run into 12 different zodiac figures.
They’re available as omamori (lucky charms) or printed on ema (wooden wishing plaques) at shrines / temples and even on Japanese New Year cards.

To be fair, those zodiacs have their origin in China, so more accurately we’re talking about the Chinese Zodiac signs.
I’m sure most of you have heard of them?

japanese zodiac figures

There are 12 animal zodiac figures and each of them stands for a specific year.
Each animal is also associated with specific character traits, a direction, a month and a certain time of the day (2 h span).

 

What is your Japanese zodiac sign?

If you don’t know your zodiac sign, go here and look for the year you were born in!
Are you satisfied with your animal zodiac or would you rather be something else? If so, what animal would you prefer to yours?

I’m a monkey (which is okay), but I’d love to be a cat! emoticon
Yes, there is no cat among the 12 animals. Do you know why?
If you want to know more about his, I can write another, more detailed post.

In Japan, these zodiac signs are a big deal and you will run into them very often.
Especially at temples and shrines you can often buy lucky charms of your zodiac.
They make a great souvenir, so you should definitely find out what your zodiac sign is before coming to Japan!
It would be horrible to stand in front of a bunch of cute lucky charms, not knowing which one is for you! emoticon

Although I have to admit that it really depends on your animal.
If you are a rabbit or a sheep, you’ll always find something cute. emoticon
Not so much if you’re a monkey like me! emoticon

japanese zodiac figures

You will find zodiac related items in almost every Japanese house!
Usually, they decorate their house with figures of the current year’s animal.
I also have bigger figures of the ox and the tiger.
It’s similar to Christmas decoration, just that most people have it out the whole year, changing the figures as the year changes.

I decided to buy something where I can have all animals displayed at once!
At the time I took the photo it was the year of the rabbit (2011).
The animals are lined up in the correct order and every year you are moving them by one.

So, looking at the photo above, you’ll know which animal was representing which year:
Dragon (2012), snake (2013), horse (2014), sheep (2015), monkey (2016), rooster (2017), dog (2018), boar (2019), mouse (2020), ox (2021), tiger (2022).

Thanks for reading!~ emoticon

19 Comments

  • Ooh I’ll look forward to this series.. I love japanese things no matter how random.
    Everything is always so interesting (and cute!)

    • Hello, Lady!
      Thank you very much for your comment! :hearts:
      I enjoy looking at random Japanese items, too, so I’m glad we share that interest!
      I have too so many items, so please look forward to seeing more soon!

      • Yo! btw this is e*lali from lj ;3 hehe~
        wow your site looks amazing! I can understand now why you were so stressed out in twitter~
        everything has been customized!

        I hope you get more visitors!~

        • Oh, hey!! :hihi:
          Is that Aya Ueto in your icon??
          Thanks for understanding! Yes, it took forever and it’s still not done, but for now I guess I’m focusing on producing some content! :D

          I hope so, too! :thumbup:

    • Dogs are cute, though, aren’t they? Better than monkeys! XD
      Mice are cute as well. The year of the mouse was not too long ago (2008) – which is also when Toma turned 24, I guess.

    • Hehe :shiawase:
      Yes, they are cute, but there are cuter sets out there!
      And some with bigger figures, but I thought that was is pretty handy!

      When you come to Japan, you’ll easily get your hands on your own set. Something to look forward to, right? :D

      I’m really looking forward to the year of the dragon. I hope it will be MUCH better than the year of the rabbit.
      As cute as it is, it was quite a horrible year worldwide. Also for Japan with the earthquake in March and all … :(

  • Im the boar, lolol but thats okay, its not as cute as all of the other ones, but its still cute (:

    • Hi frances!
      I bought it in Fukuoka, near Dazaifu, but I saw similar ones in many other cities, too!
      I’m sure you can find yourself something similar if you keep your eyes open when you get to places where they sell souvenirs or traditional figures! :D

  • Ooh, I’ve always been interested in the Chinese Zodiac since I was a just a little kid! I would love to have a little zodiac set like this! It’s soooo cute! :D
    My sign is the horse, though sometimes I wonder if it really fits me. :notamused:
    I love dragons so it would’ve been awesome if I had been born a dragon! :shiawase:

    • I know how you feel! I wish my zodiac was cooler, too. ^^;

      When you visit Japan, try to find a set like that. They might have a similar one in a souvenir shop, especially in bigger cities. :D

  • 2014, I believe it’s the year of the snake if im not mistaken. I’m an ox, the figure looks pretty awesome actually, now I want an ox charm as a necklace do I can always have it with me. I wish I was a snake though, the snake, the ferret, and the gecko are my top three favorite animals. Imagine little gecko and ferret figurines! Those would be rather nice if you think about it in my opinion.