“Year of the Ox”, New Year’s postcard, 1937.

1930sArts & CultureFolklore
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New Year’s card, Year of the Ox, 1937 (Showa 12). The Chinese zodiac calendar was introduced in Japan around the fourth century (juni-shi). It is said that Ox ranks the second among the Chinese zodiacs because it helped the Rat who later tricked Ox so as to arrive first. The myth goes that the Jade Emperor declared the order of zodiac signs would be based on the arrival orders of 12 animals. Ox could have arrived the first but it kindly gave a ride to Rat. However, when arriving, Rat just jumped to the terminus ahead of Ox, and thus Ox lost the first place.

“The Year of the Ox has returned once more in Japan in the cycle of the zodiac. There are eleven other animals which, through fables so ancient that nobody knows just when they started or who started them, have achieved something or other and for their achievement are revered and placed in the zodiac.

Emperor Meiji’s ox-drawn funeral hearse New Year’s postcard, 1913 (coincidentally the Year of the Ox).

“Thus the Year of the Ox comes to Japan but once out of every dozen years. Last year it was the year of the Rat. Next year is the year of the Tiger. So it goes, and each year is named after some animal whose power is said to be transmitted to those born within those twelve months.

“Children born during the Year of the Ox are supposed to be hardy, strong, and successful in later life. They are also supposed to be somewhat stubborn, and some of the fabled historic tales of Old Japan are not so complimentary to the person whose birthday falls in the Year of the Ox.”

“Year of the Ox”, Japan Society Bulletin (NYC), April 1925

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