Menu toggle

Embracing 2024: The Year of the Dragon in the Japanese Zodiac


2023, the Year of the Rabbit, is gone, and it's time to embrace the Year of the Dragon. What better way to celebrate the new year than by learning about the Zodiac signs in Japanese culture? First things first, you may hear the 12-year cycle referred to as eto. This eto was initially created in China, though this zodiac has been adopted into Japanese culture. While the same concept is shared (12-year cycle and 12 animals), there is a difference between the zodiac signs in Japanese vs. Chinese culture. Instead of a pig, the Japanese zodiac has a wild boar.


2023 was the Year of the Rabbit, and 2024 is the Year of the Dragon


Continue reading to learn more about the zodiac signs in Japanese culture, what to expect from the mystical dragon, and how to figure out your Japanese zodiac sign!

Introduction to the Japanese Zodiac Signs: Understanding the Celestial Cycle


The Japanese zodiac refers to 12 animals, each connected to a different year. As mentioned, the zodiac signs in Japanese culture actually began in China many years ago. The Chinese-Japanese zodiac is actually comprised of two parts - the 12 animals and the celestial stem, a.k.a. a sequence of numbers. These two items together created a cycle of 60 days. This system was used to help navigate and tell time in various methods (days, years, etc.) in the past.


Originally, the 12 animals were not actually animals. Instead, they consisted of various items and living things. For example, the original version included a sake jug and a child. However, it was deemed challenging for farmers to remember the signs. So, they were changed to 12 animals to make it easier for farmers to remember, as they needed to use this calendar regularly. It is said this zodiac was shared with Japanese people between the 4th and 5th centuries, though this has not been confirmed. This zodiac system is shared with other areas around Asia, and contains slight differences depending on the area.


The twelve signs/animals in the Japanese zodiac cycle each represent a year, not a month. Each animal is associated with certain characteristics, which are said to be shared with people born under each animal. These signs are also associated with the five elements: metal, water, wood, fire, and earth. The animal could be associated with a different element depending on the year. For example, 2024 is the year of the wood dragon.


The Dragon in Japanese Culture and Zodiac


Numerous manga series have been inspired by traditional dragons in Japan.

It's important to note that the dragon is the only fictional character within the zodiac signs in Japanese culture. It is considered one of the luckiest signs and a symbol of wealth. In Japanese mythology, the dragon is a protector of people. They are considered providers of wisdom to mankind. They are also considered a deity of the sea, which is why they're often connected to water in the Japanese zodiac.


Those born in the year of the dragon are great at attracting other people, as they're charismatic. They are also naturally lucky, gifted, and have high standards. Dragons are powerful people who are quite confident.


The Twelve Zodiac Animals: Symbols and Meanings


You can find all types of figurines for your own Zodiac Signs

If you haven't heard about the zodiac signs in Japanese culture before, you'll want to learn more about each zodiac animal and what they represent. Below, you'll find details on the twelve Japanese zodiac signs and what they each represent. It's important to note that the characteristics of the Japanese and Chinese zodiac animals are quite similar, though you may notice a few differences with each animal.


Rat - (2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960, 1948, 1936, 1924, 1912). A person born in the Year of the Rat is a hard worker who will push to reach their goals. They're also honest, charming, and easy to anger (yet able to keep their outward emotions controlled).


Ox - (2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961, 1949, 1937, 1925, 1913). Those born in the Year of the Ox can easily create confidence in others. They are skillful, patient, and often successful in their endeavors.


Tiger - (1998, 1986, 1974, 1962, 1950, 1938, 1926, 1914). Tigers are sympathetic to loved ones yet can be selfish, short-tempered, sensitive, and stubborn.


Rabbit - (1999, 1987, 1975, 1963, 1951, 1939, 1927, 1915). Those born in the year of the Rabbit are considered the luckiest zodiac sign. They are quiet, talented, ambitious, and often admired.


Dragon - (2000, 1988, 1976, 1964, 1952, 1940, 1928, 1916). Dragons are stubborn, excitable, brave, and often some of the most unique individuals.


Snake - (2001, 1989, 1977, 1965, 1953, 1941, 1929, 1917). Snakes are typically quiet, wise, and excellent with money. They do not like failing, so they are determined to succeed in their endeavors.


Horse - (2002, 1990, 1978, 1966, 1954, 1942, 1930, 1918, 1906). Horses are typically extroverts who love complimenting others. They are excellent with money matters and are wise. However, they are typically impatient.


Sheep - (2003, 1991, 1979, 1967, 1955, 1943, 1931, 1919, 1907). Sheep do well in the arts and highly enjoy nature. They are typically quite passionate about their interests.


Monkey - (2004, 1992, 1980, 1968, 1956, 1944, 1932, 1920, 1908). Monkeys are clever, skillful, and good with financial deals. This sign is known for being creative, unique, and good at problem-solving.


Rooster - (2005, 1981, 1969, 1957, 1945, 1933, 1921, 1909). Roosters are intellectuals that are busybodies. They always overcommit to activities and have too many items on their to-do list.


Dog - (2006, 1982, 1970, 1958, 1946, 1934, 1922, 1910). Dogs are loyal, honest, and great at keeping secrets. They also help create confidence in others.


Wild Boar  - (2007, 1983, 1971, 1959, 1947, 1935, 1923, 1911). Boars are brave, honest, and have a lot of inner strength. Though they are quick to anger, they do not like to fight.


2024 - The Year of the Dragon: What to Expect


You can easily celebrate the New Year zodiac traditions with a Year of the Dragon box from Japan Crate! This crate is specifically crafted to represent 2024 and Japanese New Year traditions, including a dragon design on the front of the box. Inside, you'll find snacks, toys, treats, drinks, and more to help you begin 2024 off right. For example, you'll find a ceramic dragon omikuji, which will help you bring in good luck. Inside the figure, you'll find a fortune that will provide advice and insight into the year ahead.


Early 2024, Japan Crate release its Year of the Dragon crate

The Year of the Dragon affects those born as dragons (the birth year of 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, or 2012) and other zodiac signs differently in Japanese culture. In general, it is expected that 2024 will be a good year for risk-takers, problem solvers, entrepreneurs, technology, and AI. All signs can expect to experience personal growth and feel encouraged to start new projects and take new opportunities. Those born in the year of the Monkey and Rat are considered connected to water, which is also a characteristic of dragons. Because of this connection, it is thought these signs will have a particularly good year.


What is your fortune cast for 2024?

Omikuji and Fortune Telling in Japanese Tradition


Omikuji is a New Year's tradition of receiving a fortune from shrines/temples for the upcoming year. This fortune is typically provided on a small piece of paper. While you can find omikuji throughout the year, it's more common to see people reading their fortune at the beginning of the year. These paper slips feature kanji (symbols) that tell you whether you'll have good fortune or bad luck during the year.


Omikuji can be bought for a few dollars and give your fortune cast

There are also omikuji fortunes, which are related to the zodiac signs in Japanese culture and are called eto-mikuji. These specific omikuji are based on the year you were born. Since this is a popular form of fortune-telling, you'll likely see this version of omikuji at shrines/temples.


You can tie your omikuji to the shrine's ropes to cancel the misfortune

Zodiac Signs and Astrological Influence in Japanese Horoscope


While many turn to zodiac signs in Japanese culture to learn more about their personality and characteristics, it's also a great way to see how your personal fortune is influenced. For example, in Japanese culture, certain years are unlucky. For women, when you're 19, 33, and 37, you will supposedly have unlucky years, while for men, it's when they're 25, 42, and 61.


In Western astrology, the signs are based on different times throughout the year (instead of a different sign each year). The signs are named after constellations in the sky versus all the animals in the Japanese/Chinese zodiac. Like Japanese zodiac signs, each astrological sign has personality characteristics associated with it.

Cultural Practices: Celebrating Zodiac Signs in Japan


Of course, New Year's traditions are highly centered around the zodiac signs. At the end of each year, those following the Japanese zodiac will start the year by sending New Year's cards with images of the animal for the upcoming year. Upon visiting a shrine or temple (another Japanese New Year tradition), visitors will see decorations displaying the current year's zodiac animal. The Omikuji also typically feature the animal of the year, as do Goshuin, large seals that show you visited a temple/shrine.


Personal Insights: Understanding Your Zodiac Sign and Fortune


Each Chinese Zodiac Sign has its particularity

Similar to a Chinese horoscope or astrological signs, there are ways to interpret the animal assigned to your year. For example, the characteristics listed for each animal are said to relate to your personality. This is because, in Japanese culture, the year you were born affects your personality. As a note, animal characteristics will differ depending on which element is connected to your year. For example, a wood dragon is different than an earth dragon. So, be sure to consider the element as well for a more accurate interpretation.


Each year, the zodiac signs in Japanese culture are affected differently, as mentioned above. When the animal of the year coincides with your birth animal, you'll be affected differently according to the Japanese zodiac. To understand what to expect during the year, consider how your sign will be specifically affected by the year's animal. If you're unsure, check which Japanese zodiac animals are connected to the animal of the year. For example, those born in the Year of the Dog are not compatible with the dragon, so they may experience more bad luck than other signs or have a tougher year.


Conclusion: Embracing the Zodiac Traditions in Modern-Day Japan


The Year of the Dragon crate transports you to Japan to experience the New Years celebrations

Even though the zodiac signs in Japanese culture were developed many years ago, they continue to be relevant today. The animal associated with each year is used to dictate what each sign can expect from the upcoming year, helping people predict their fortunes for the coming year. While you may not personally follow the zodiac signs in Japanese culture, it's an interesting way to learn more about Japan and Japanese people. It's also a fun way to learn more about yourself as you discover the characteristics of your birth year and animal. Whether you want to explore Japan through snacks, toys, drinks, or other goodies, you'll find plenty of options on Japan Crate.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

Japan Crate

Japan Crate