Eto - Japanese Zodiac (干支)

As you might know, this year 2020 is the year of the Rat!

Having years associated with an animal is based on the Eto system. Eto (干支) is the so-called “Japanese Zodiac”, which is the old system used to tell time and directions. It uses 12 animals instead of numbers. Nowadays, we use the same animals to signify the year.

[*The Chinese Zodiac is based on a 60-year cycle. Eto (The Japanese Zodiac) was introduced to Japan around the third to fourth century AD from ancient China.]

Let’s see the all 12 Eto signs and the animals in Japanese/English!

Fun Facts!

Eto signs were originally used to show the growth of plants in each month of the year”. (e.g. 子(ね) doesn’t mean a “Rat/Mouse”).

But later on, people put animals to remember Eto signs more easily. That’s why Eto signs and their animals in Kanji are different! (e.g. 丑(うし) and 牛(うし) are different!)

Also, you might wonder why Eto signs have a particular order (from 子 to 亥). It’s interesting, isn’t it?

According to a folk tale, the order of the Eto signs was decided by which animal gave its new year’s greetings to God first!

Also, each animal has the following characters.

子:cunning / outgoing

丑:hard-working / gentle

寅:brave / whim

卯:honest / quiet

辰:quick-tempered / great pride

巳:thoughtful / persistent

午:hasty / quick wits

未:pacifist / indecisive

申:cheerful / restless

酉:shrewd / methodical

戌:obedient / strong sense of justice

亥:patient / stubborn


They can be used to describe you with the characters of your animal.

For example, if you were born in the year of the Rat, your animal is a “Rat”: cunning/outgoing.

Please check your animal if you’re interested…my animal is the Boar (patient / stubborn)!

(*reference: - you can use the table when checking your animal)

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