What is the Japanese Zodiac?

Like the Western Zodiac, the Japanese Zodiac is rooted in astronomy, cosmology, and divination. It’s based on the belief that people born within the same time period tend to share certain personality traits and is deeply embedded in Japanese culture. The key difference between the Western Zodiac and the Japanese Zodiac is the Japanese Zodiac has a twelve-year cycle and each year of the cycle is represented by an animal sign. The Western Zodiac follows a twelve month cycle with each period being assigned an astrological sign.

The Japanese Zodiac was originally introduced from China during the sixth century and spread among the general public during the Edo period (1600–1868 AD). Even today, every single Japanese person knows the animal sign of the year in which he or she was born. Proof that the Japanese Zodiac is still maintaining its influence in modern day Japan can be seen by Japanese people sending New Year’s greeting cards featuring the animal of the coming year.