8.7. Vertebrates


8.7.1. The Chinese zodiac


You might have heard of the Chinese zodiac. Each year is associated to one of the twelve animals in Chinese custom, and it is used mainly for fortune-telling. Japanese people also know the twelve animals, whether they believe fortune-telling or not. You can calculate the animal of the year when you were born. The year 1996 is associated to the first animal rat, 1997 is to the ox, 1998 is to the tiger, and so on. I was born in 1970, the year of the dog. This order doesn't mean order of importance at all.

OrderAnimalDescription
1
(ne)(zu)(mi)
nezumi
Rat, mouse.
2
(u)(si)
usi
Ox, cow.
3
(to)(ra)
tora
Tiger.
4
(u)(sa)(gi)
usagi
Rabbit, hare.
5
(ri)(small yu)(u)
ryû
Dragon. This is an imaginary animal, of course. The word (ta)(tu) "tatu" also means the dragon and is more commonly used for the year of the dragon.
6
(he)(bi)
hebi
Snake.
7
(u)(ma)
uma
Horse.
8
(hi)(tu)(zi)
hituzi
Sheep. In China, the year of the goat ((ya)(gi) "yagi" in Japanese) is used instead of the sheep.
9
(sa)(ru)
saru
Monkey.
10
(ni)(wa)(to)(ri)
niwatori
Chicken. The word (ni)(wa) LH "niwa" means yard, and (to)(ri) "tori" means bird. The latter is more commonly used for the year of the chicken than (ni)(wa)(to)(ri).
11
(i)(nu)
inu
Dog.
12
(i)(no)(si)(si)
inosisi
Wild boar. In China, the year of the pig ((bu)(ta) "buta" in Japanese) is used instead of the wild boar.

Further readings:

8.7.2. Mammals


(ta)(nu)(ki)
tanuki
raccoon dog

Note: Raccoon dogs are animals of the dog family native to Japan that look like raccoons. They often appear in fairy tales as mischievous animals with magic power. They are often described to be stupid.

(ki)(tu)(ne)
kitune
fox

Note: Foxes often appear in fairy tales as sly animals with magic power.

(o)(o)(ka)(mi)
ôkami
wolf

Note: Coming from the adjective (o)(o)(ki)(i)kii" (big) and the noun (ka)(mi) "kami" (god), this word literally means great god. Wolves were not considered evil in Japanese culture. Wolves went extinct a few hundred years ago in Japan.

(ra)(i)(o)(n)
raion
lion

Note: Since this is an imported word, katakana are used. Japanese doesn't have the sound of English "l", so it is changed to Japanese "r".

(hi)(small yo)(u)
hyô
panther

(ku)(ma)
kuma
bear

(si)(ka)
sika
deer

(zo)(u)
elephant

(ki)(ri)(n)
kirin
giraffe

(sa)(i)
sai
rhinoceros

(ka)(ba)
kaba
hippopotamus

(ra)(ku)(da)
rakuda
camel

(ku)(zi)(ra)
kuzira
whale

(i)(ru)(ka)
iruka
dolphin

(a)(si)(ka)
asika
sea lion

(a)(za)(ra)(si)
azarasi
seal


8.7.3. Birds


(ka)(ra)(su)
karasu
crow, raven

(ha)(to)
hato
pigeon, dove

(su)(zu)(me)
suzume
sparrow

(tu)(ba)(me)
tubame
swallow

(u)(gu)(i)(su)
uguisu
Japanese nightingale

Note: Japanese nightingales are diurnal birds found in the spring.

(ki)(zi)
kizi
pheasant

For your interest: The pheasant is the symbol bird of Japan. They are so rare now that people scarcely see a wild pheasant.

(ka)(mo)
kamo
wild duck

(a)(hi)(ru)
ahiru
domestic duck

(ga)(ti)(small yo)(u)
gachô
goose

(i)(n)(ko)
inko
macaw, parrakeet

(o)(u)(mu)
ômu
parrot

(ka)(mo)(me)
kamome
sea gull


8.7.4. Reptiles and amphibians


(ka)(me)
kame
tortoise

(wa)(ni)
wani
crocodile

(to)(ka)(ge)
tokage
lizard

(ka)(e)(ru)
kaeru
frog


8.7.5. Fish


Japan is famous for sea food, and probably Japanese has more words for (sa)(ka)(na) LHH "sakana" (fish) than any other language. The translation of the words listed here is not precise because English doesn't have many words for fish.

You can eat all of these fish. (I can't. I'm an unlucky Japanese allergic to fish and I get stomachache after eating fish!)

(ma)(gu)(ro)
maguro
tuna

(u)(na)(gi)
unagi
eel

(sa)(n)(ma)
sanma
mackerel pike

(a)(zi)
azi
horse mackerel

(bu)(ri)
buri
yellowtail

(hu)(gu)
hugu
fugu (balloonfish)

For your interest: The fugu is delicious white-meat fish, but eating it can be dangerous because it has deadly poison. You need a license to cook fugu in Japan.

(sa)(ke)
sake
salmon

(sa)(me)
same
shark

For your interest: Few Japanese people eat shark, except for Chinese shark fin soup, which is one of the three finest Chinese cuisines. (The other two are bird's nest soup and sea cucumber.) The word (hu)(ka) "huka" also means shark, and it is more often used for shark fins for the soup.



Go to the previous page
Go to the next page
Return to the index

Copyright(C) TAKASUGI Shinji (ts@sf.airnet.ne.jp)