What is “Eto”? ~The next year’s eto is a rabit!~

日本の昔話(むかしばなし):Japanese old tales

Japanese article is here; https://japaneselanguagesalonbymikapanda.com/what-is-eto-1100

“Eto” is drown on Japanese New Years’ Greeting Card

Hello, this is MIKA!

It’s already December! Can you believe it?

Speaking of December, Chiristmas is comming!! However, Japanese people have to be ready for not only Christmas but also New Year Holidays, that’s why we’re so busy!

The picture of upper side is an example of “Japanese New Year’s Greeting Card”. Sun, clanes, Mt.Fuji, and a rabit are drown on that.

Sun is the sunrise on New Year’s Day, a clane is a good luck animal, and Mt.Fuji is the symbol of Japan. Then, why a rabit is drown with them?

The answer is; a rabit is “Eto” of the next year!!

By the way, what is “Eto”?

What is “Eto”?

“Eto” is the generic name of “Jikkan” and “Juunishi”. But, recently I have a strong impression that “Eto” means only “Juunishi”.

About “Jikkan”

“Jikkan” is ten elements which are based on the things to make a nature; 「甲(きのえ;Kinoe)」「乙(きのと;Kinoto)」「丙(ひのえ;Hinoe)」「丁(ひのと;Hinoto)」「戊(つちのえ;Tsutsinoe)」「己(つちのと;Tsutsinoto)」「庚(かのえ;Kanoe)」「辛(かのと;Kanoto)「壬(みずのえ;Mizunoe)」and「癸(みずのと;Mizunoto)」.

“Jikkan” had been tought to make 10 days to one unit in ancient China, and it had come from “Onmyou-gogyou”, Chinese cosmology.

For example, “Kinoe” and “Kinoto” means “The brothers of a tree”. In the other words, “~e” is “the elder brother of ~”, and “~to” is “the younger brother of ~”.

About “Juunishi”

On the other hands, “Juunishi” is twelve animals; 「子(ね;Ne)」「丑(うし;Ushi)」「寅(とら;Tora)」「卯(う;U)」「辰(たつ;Tatsu)」「巳(み;Mi)」「午(うま;Uma)」「未(ひつじ;Hitsuji)」「申(さる;Saru)」「酉(とり;Tori)」「戌(いぬ;Inu)」and「亥(い;I)」.

The reason why there are twelve animals is that people in ancient China counted the years by the moving of Jupiter. Jupiter’s period of revolution is twelve years, people had made “Juunishi” to adjust that.

The Kanji of “Juunishi” is different by original; Because in general, we write them「鼠(ねずみ;mouse)」「牛(うし;cow)」「虎(とら;tiger)」「兎(うさぎ;rabit)」「龍(りゅう;dragon)」「蛇(へび;snake)」「馬(うま;horse)」「羊(ひつじ;sheep)」「猿(さる;monkey)」「鶏(とり;chicken)」「犬(いぬ;dog)」and「猪(いのしし;wild boar)」.

Because the Kanji of “Juunishi” had only the meaning of numbers at first. However, to make it easy to remember, people used the animals for the motifs of “Juunishi” later.

This year’s eto is 「寅(とら;Tora)」, 2023’s eto is 「卯(う;U)」, and 2024’s eto is 「辰(たつ;Tatsu)」. So, what is your eto? My eto is 「申(さる;Saru)」.

The way to use “Jikkan” and “Juunishi” , and about “Kanreki”

“Jikkan” and “Juunishi” can express a direction, time, and year together. In addition, we use it for a fortune telling.

This is the picture of a direction. It shows us the good-luck direction of the next year.

And for a year, please check the list of “Jikkan and Juunishi for each years”; 十干十二支早見表(じっかんじゅうにしはやみひょう)

Because I was born in 1992, my “Jikkan and Juunishi” is 「壬申(みずのえさる; Mizunoe-Saru)」.

And my mother was born in 1962, it’s the year of 「壬寅(みずのえとら;Mizunoe-Tora)」. This year, just 60 years later, is also the year of 「壬寅(みずのえとら;Mizunoe-Tora)」, so she has finished going around 60 years; it means she has completed 60 combinations of “Jikkan and Juunishi”.

That’s why there is the custom to celebrate the 60-years-old persons in Japan, and it’s called “The celebration of Kanreki”.

We give something red for them, because red things have a power to protect them against the evils.

How to decide the animals of “Juunishi”

In the case of China

By the way, how were they decided as the animals of “Juunishi”?

In ancient China, people decided like that;

・子(ね;Ne/ねずみ;mouse):As the symbol of a prosperity of descendants because they are prolific animals.

・丑(うし;Ushi/Cow):As the symbol of a strongth, toughness, and sincerity.

・寅(とら;Tora/Tiger):As the symbol of a great courage.

・卯(う/うさぎ;U/Rabit):As the symbol of a safety, rapid progress, and advancement.

・辰(たつ/りゅう;Tatsu/Dragon):As the symbol of a power.

・巳(み/へび;Mi/Snake):As the symbol of an eternity, life, and rebirth.

・午(うま;Uma/Horse):As the symbol of a health and good hervest.

・未(ひつじ;Hitsuji/Sheep):As the symbol of a safety of one’s family.

・申(さる;Saru/Monkey):As the symbol of an intelligence

・酉(とり;Tori/Chicken):As the symbol of thriving business.

・戌(いぬ;Inu/Dog):As the symbol of a faithfulness.

・亥(い/いのしし;I,Inoshishi/Wird boar):As the symbol of a sound health and rushing recklessly.

In the case of Japan

“Juunishi” of China and Japan are same each other. But in fact, there is the old tale related to “Juunishi” in Japan.

A long long ago, God sent letters to animals.

The text was; The first to twelveth animal which come to me in the morning of 1st January will be the general of each years.”

Then, a cow thought; Because I’m slow of foot, I’ll leave early.

And, cunning mouse thought; Because the cow must leave early, I ride on the cow and let me bring when I’m sleeping.

Additionally, the mouse told a lie to a cat; In the truth, we have to go to God’s place in the morning of 2nd January, not 1st.

The cat believed that sufficiently.

Then, in the morning of 1st January. The cow was hurried to God’s place not knowing there was the mouse on the back. “It goes well!” The mouse laughed loudly in the mind.

But just before the goal, a tiger said to the cow.

“Hey, a mouse is riding on your back!”

“Oh no!”, the mouse rushed to going down and run to the goal at full speed.

That’s why the mouse had been the first animal of “Juunishi”.

However, the cat got so angry because the mouse told a lie not to be the animal of “Juunishi”.

After that, cats take mouses to eat them with that reason.

On the other hands, a dog and a monkey had been fighting during the race and the party after the race. That’s why the proverb “The relationship of dogs and monkeys” was born, it means “The relationship like a cat and a dog” in English.

Final comment

How was it?

There is “Juunishi” not only in China and Japan but also Korea, Taiwan, Tibet, Thailand, Vietnam, Russia, Mongolia and so on.

But we can find characteristics from each countries and areas’ “Juunishi”; there is a cat in Tibet, Thailand, Vietnam, and Belorussiya. And there is a water buffalo in Vietnam, there is a panther instead of a tiger in Mongoria!

Then, when you go to a shrine or a temple for the first visiting, you can find “Ema”, a woody plate with a rabit.

If you like it, write your goal or with of 2023 on that!