|The Year of the Sheep|
"Eto (formally called Jikkan Junishi)" refers to the Chinese zodiac symbols. Unlike the Western Zodiac which is divided into 12 months, the Asian Zodiac is divided into 12 years. Each year is named after an animal: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and boar. It is said to have been adopted in Japan in 604 during the reign of Empress Suiko.
People whose zodiacal sign corresponds to the year's sign (which means their age is a multiple of 12) are called "toshi-otoko (men)" or "toshi-onna (women)."
Like the astrological zodiac there are all sorts of things which influence individual people. The Japanese believe that people who are born in the same animal year share similar personality and character. People born in the year of the sheep are elegant, highly accomplished in the arts, passionate about nature. Click here to check what year you were born in and what kind of personality your animal sign has.
The Japanese word for sheep is "hitsuji." The kanji character for sheep came from the shape of a sheep's head with two horns, four legs and a tail. Click here to learn the kanji character for sheep. "Lamb" is "kohitsuji," "shepherd" is "hitsujikai," "wool" is "youmou." Sheep are rare in Japan since the climate of Japan, which is very humid, is not appropriate to raise sheep. Most wool and mutton are imported from Australia, New Zealand or Taiwan. The sheep's bleat is "mee mee."
Compared to the other zodiac animals such as the snake (hebi) or horse (uma), there are not many expressions including the word sheep. "Hitsuji no you (like sheep)" means "docile, sheepish." "Hitsuji-gumo (sheep cloud)" is "a fluffy cloud, floccus." "Youtou-kuniku (sheep's head, dog's meat)" is one of the Yoji-jukugo which means "using a better name to sell inferior goods, crying wine and selling vinegar."