Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu! Happy New Year! And welcome to the year of the rat. If you were born in 1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, you were born in the year of the rat on the Chinese calendar. The Japanese also use the Chinese animal zodiac, so right now in Japan, people are preparing for the year of the rat. What kind of a year will it be?
Rats are known for being very industrious and hard-working, so rat people tend to be successful. In addition, rat years are seen to predict successful years for the economy so we should see a rise in stocks.
Most businesses will have a rat displayed somewhere in their company or shop and many people will have a scroll hanging in their displaying a rat drawing. If you are travelling in Japan this year, you will find lots of rat souvenirs to commemorate your trip. Rats will be on everything from key chains to stationary letterheads.
The word for rat in Japanese is “nezumi,” which is the same word for mouse. To Japanese, a mouse and a rat are the same, just different in size. As a result, in English “the year of the mouse” is also correct.
At the New Year, many most Japanese people will send out New Year’s cards (see photo) which contain greetings for the year. These are sent to family, friends, and business relations. The cards this year will surely feature a rat or mouse on them and you may find that Mickey Mouse to be a very popular characters on this year’s cards.
When speaking with Japanese people, it is very important to know which animal year you were born in, as they believe your personality is determined by that animal. Also, it is easy to guess someone’s age if they know which animal you are since the animal cycle starts over every 12 years.
Animal signs are a great topic of conversation when around Japanese people. You’ll be sure to learn a lot of things you didn’t know about the other’s personality.
Find out your animal sign on the Chinese zodiac at:http://chinese.astrology.com/profiles.html
Find out more personality traits of those born in the year of the rat at: http://www.c-c-c.org/chineseculture/zodiac/Rat.html
Amy Chavez is author of Guidebook to Japan: What the other guidebooks won’t tell you” She is a columnist for The Japan Times, co-hosts the Planet Japan podcast. Visit her website at www.amychavez.com