Z is for Zodiac

Way, way back when this blog was just a waddling toddler just learning its first aisatsu, we looked at how blood types and how they apparently have a categorical influence on your personality. I also made mention of horoscopes and how they have those too, so it’s high time we talked about them. Well, not so much the star signs, really: we’re going to look at the Japanese Zodiac.

Except no, that’s not strictly true: the Japanese Zodiac is actually the Chinese Zodiac, with the same animals assigned to the same years and by and large the same personality traits are assigned to each animal too.

First, a bit of history on the zodiac. The legend goes that as Buddha lay dying, he summoned the animals of the world to his bedside (presumably the same way all the animals rushed to Pride Rock at the start of ‘The Lion King’). He promised those who would come that he would give them a special thanks message in the sleeve notes of his new album, ‘Big Buddha Beats’. Of those animals, just 12 made it. Presumably the animal kingdom doesn’t have many fans of zen-style drum-and-bass. Buddha changed his mind halfway through proceedings to “Well actually, how’s about a place on my new Zodiac wheel?” but it was too late to get in the race by then. The ox led the pack. However, the crafty rat claimed to be tired, so the ox offered the rat a lift on its back. At the home stretch, though, the rat leapt off of the ox and sprinted for the finishing line, making him the first to be placed on the zodiac. The crafty bastard. I hate rats. I was born in a year of the ox, by the way. The ox came second, and the following animals then made up the cycle that is the zodiac.


And that’s genuinely fascinating, I think. I mean, time as a concept is impossible to really picture, but if we were to imagine it I think most of us would envisage time to be a straight line, right? However, the traditional Chinese and Buddhist philosophies the zodiac stems from see time as a repeating cycle, so every 12 years sees a return to top of the animal list.

And that leads me neatly onto my next point: as we all know it’s a bit of a rudeness to ask someone their age, and that is especially true in harmony-loving Japan. So, a clever way of finding out someone’s age is to ask them what their zodiac sign is. With a bit of common sense, you can figure it out thanks to that big 12-year margin.

Today, the zodiac system’s main purpose is in that same arena as horoscopes, divining one’s personality by their sign (because, as well all know, there are only 12 different personality types out there), and also for matchmaking. Yep, your zodiac sign dictates what other animals you’re going to get along with well, which are neutral, and which ones you’re going to avoid hanging out with lest you implode from sheer hatred.

Especially boars. They actually hate each other. I guess it’s because they’re so…BOAR-ing!

…that’s it, this blog is cancelled. I can’t top that.

I’m joking.


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