Jikkan junishi (Eto)Japanese
Jikkan junishi (Eto) is a method of placing order on time and space which was developed in China. It's origin goes back to more than 3000 years ago. After importing the Chinese method, Japan established the Eto culture in 604 when the Emperor Suiko introduced the calendar for the first time.
Originally, the ten signs called jikkan and the twelve signs called junishi were used independently but it was somewhat inconvenient because both cycles were too short. After a long time of use, China created the sexagendary cycle by combining those two different signs. The Eto is the fruit of amazing intelligence of ancient Chinese.
The Eto, however, came to take on the aspect of religion and intervene in human affairs. It was often divined whether fortune would be good or bad, bringing us various superstitions.
A lot of fires break out in the year of Hinoeuma. Also, women born in the year can not have an offer of marriage. (As a matter of fact, the birthrate plunged in 1966 when the year of Hinoeuma came around.)
Northeast and southeast, termed kimon and urakimon respectively, are unfavorable directions likely to bring bad luck. Therefore, front entrances shouldn’t be used.
In this way, the Eto has taken root in us who always pursue good fortune. Nowadays in Japan, the term Eto chiefly refers only to junishi, the signs of which correspond to twelve kinds of animals-rat, ox, tiger, hare, dragon, serpent, horse, sheep, monkey, cock, dog, and boar. Most people are familiar with this 12-year cycle and the series of 12 animals, one allotted to each year. It is common for New Year’s cards to have a picture of the animal of the New Year. Everyone knows the animal representing the year in which he or she was born. When the sign of a particular year is the same as a man’s birth sign, he is termed toshi-otoko, Man of the Year, while a woman is called toshi-onna, Woman of the Year. For example, the year 2001 is the year of the serpent.
By the way, why were the twelve animals chosen from countless animals on earth? In addition the Eto includes one imaginary animal of Dragon. Actually no definite answers have been found yet as far as all the related archives were scrutinized. These somewhat mysterious aspects may be the reason why we are still familiar with the Eto.