Maneki-neko: Beckoning Cats

まねきねこ

日本の商店や飲食店の入り口に猫の置物が飾られているのを見たことがありますか。それは日本語で「招き猫」と呼ばれ、商売繁盛をもたらすと言われています。一般的に招き猫は幸運を招き入れるようにどちらかの前脚を挙げています。右脚を挙げている招き猫は商売繁盛、左脚を挙げているものは千客万来にご利益があるとされています。招き猫はたいてい挙げていない方の手で小判を抱えています。招き猫は陶器が最も多いのですが、石、ガラス、布、紙でできているものもあります。また、人形だけでなく絵やタペストリーも人気があります。

Have you ever seen a cat-shaped figure at the entrance of Japanese shops and restaurants? It is called “maneki-neko” in Japanese, and it is said to bring good luck to businesses. (“maneki” means to invite and “neko” means a cat in Japanese). Usually a maneki-neko has either paw raised as it beckons good luck to come in. Raising a right paw is said to bring good luck for money, while raising a left paw is believed to invite many customers. A maneki-neko usually holds a koban (a Japanese gold coin) with the unraised paw. A ceramic maneki-neko is the most common, and you can also find ones made of stone, glass, cloth or paper. As well as figures, paintings and tapestries are also popular.

時には両脚を上げている招き猫もありますが、欲が深すぎると商売が失敗するとしてこれを避ける人もいます。また、両脚を挙げている姿が「お手上げ」を連想させることがあります。もし両脚を挙げる招き猫を求めるならば、片方の脚が低い位置にあるものをお薦めします。

Sometimes you will find a maneki-neko that raises both paws, but some people hesitate to display this style because they believe greed will kill their business. Moreover, the pose of raising both hands sometimes suggests “Ote-age” (literally, “ote” means hands and “age” means to raise), a typical gesture which Japanese people make in case they give up. If you want a maneki-neko which raises both paws, I recommend you buy a maneki-neko which raises one paw a little lower than the other.

招き猫の起源には諸説あります。東京都台東区の浅草寺や浅草神社が招き猫発祥の地だとする説があります。江戸時代に浅草で住んでいた老婆が、生活に困窮して可愛がっていた猫を手放します。老婆はとても悲しく思っていたところ、その猫が夢の中で自分の姿を人形にするように老婆に告げました。そこで老婆は今戸焼(現在の東京の今戸や千葉の船橋で作られていた陶器)で「丸〆猫」(まるしめねこ)と呼ばれる猫の人形を作り、浅草神社の鳥居横で売り始めると人気が出ました。これが現存する招き猫の最古のもので、江戸時代の有名な芸術家の歌川広重の錦絵にも描かれています。

There are some theories about the origin of maneki-neko. In one theory, Senso-ji Temple and Asakusa Shrine in Taito Ward, Tokyo are said to be the birthplace of maneki-neko. In the Edo period, one old woman in Asakusa Town was so poor that she parted with her beloved cat. As the old woman felt very sad, the cat appeared in her dream and told her to make dolls representing itself. Therefore, the old woman made the dolls of a cat called “Maru-shime-neko” from Imado-yaki ware (a type of Japanese pottery from present day Imado, Tokyo and Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture) and sold them next to the torii of Asakusa Shrine. Later the dolls became popular. These are the oldest maneki-neko in existence and were printed on a nishiki-e (a multi-colored woodblock printing) by Utagawa Hiroshige, a famous artist in the Edo period.

東京都世田谷区の豪徳寺で江戸時代に飼われていた猫がその起源だとも云われています。ある日、彦根二代藩主、井伊直孝がにわか雨にあい、豪徳寺の大木の下で雨宿りをしていたところ、1匹の白猫が彼を寺へと招き入れました。城主はとても珍しく、面白ことだと思い寺に立ち寄りました。彼が寺に入った直後にその木に雷が落ちたので、猫のおかげで命拾いができたと思った藩主は大いに猫に感謝をしました。当時、豪徳寺は財政的に困窮し、寂れていたので城主は再建のために寄進をして、井伊家の菩提寺にしました。

Another theory is that Maneki-neko originate from one cat kept in Gotoku-ji Temple in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo, in the Edo period. One day, when the second lord of the Hikone Clan, Ii Naotaka, was taking shelter from the sudden rain under a tall tree in Gotoku-ji Temple, he realized that one white cat was beckoning him into the temple. He thought that it was really unusual and interesting, so he dropped by the temple. Soon after he entered the temple, lightning struck the tree. He was appreciative and thankful to the cat because he thought he had a narrow escape. Since Gotoku-ji Temple was in great financial difficulties and had become desolate at that time, this lord contributed to this temple for its reconstruction and made it the Ii Family’s temple.

この出来事の後、猫型のお守りで有名になりました。ところで、このお寺の縁起物の招き猫は右脚を挙げており、小判を持っていません。その理由は、招き猫は幸運を招くけれど、成功の機会は自分自身で掴まなければいけないと考えられるからです。

After this event, Gotoku-ji Temple became famous for cat-shaped talismans. Incidentally, the maneki-neko of this temple doesn’t have gold coins. The reason is that the maneki-neko can bring in good luck, but the owners of the maneki-neko should seize their own opportunities for success.

数年前、家族で豪徳寺に行きました。願いが叶って奉納された可愛い招き猫が並んでいる姿に思わず微笑みました。境内の2006年(平成18年)に落成した三重の塔にいくつかの猫の彫刻が彫られていました。一層部分に十二支の彫刻があります。日本の十二支には猫はいませんが、ここでは鼠に挟まれて右脚を挙げている白猫がいました。猫の右側の猫は小判をくわえていました。

Several years ago, I went to Gotoku-ji Temple with my family. We naturally smiled to see many cute maneki-neko which were offered to the temple after the fulfillment of wishes. We saw some cat sculptures on the three-story pagoda which was built in 2006 (Heisei 18th yr). On the first story, there were sculptures of Junishi (the twelve animal signs of the Oriental Zodiac) and among them we saw a white cat who raised its right paw and was accompanied by two rats, one on either side, although a cat was not a member of Junishi in Japan. The rats on the right side of the cat had a gold coin in its mouth.

二層部分には仏像の彫刻の下に白い招き猫がいて、その左には2匹の猫が寝そべった彫刻がありました。同じく二層部分の異なる面には珠で遊ぶ猫もいました。境内を散歩中の近所の方がこれらの猫のことを教えて下さいました。カメラの望遠レンズを持って行かなかったので鮮明な写真を撮れなかったのは残念でした。その他いたるところにあらゆる猫の姿があり、このお寺は猫好きさんの聖地にもなっています。

On the second story, there was a white maneki-neko below the statue of Buddha, and two sculptures of cats were lying on the cat’s left. Another sculpture of a cat was playing with a ball on another side of the same story. A neighbor taking a walk in the precinct showed those sculptures to us. We could not unfortunately take good photos of them because we didn’t bring a telephoto lens for our camera at that time. We saw other various figures of cats in the temple which is a sacred ground for cat-lovers.

滋賀県彦根市の有名なマスコットキャラクターのひこにゃんはこの豪徳寺の白猫がモデルになっているので、寺内にはひこにゃんの姿もありました。もしあなたがひこにゃんに興味をもったなら、彦根城に行くこともお薦めします。運が良ければ本物のひこにゃんに遭遇するでしょう。

Hikonyan, a famous mascot character in Hikone City, Shiga Prefecture, is modeled on the white cat in Gotoku-ji Temple, so you see some figures and pictures of Hikonyan there. If you become interested in Hikonyan, I also recommend going to Hikone Castle. If you are lucky enough, you might see the real one.

東京都台東区にある今戸神社は招き猫発祥の地と謳っています。この神社は縁結びの御利益がある神社としても有名で、絵馬もペアの招き猫でした。(絵馬は絵が描かれている小さい木の板です。元は馬の絵が描かれています。 願い事と名前と住所を書き、神社や寺に奉納します。) 私の頂いたおみくじも招き猫がついていました。

In addition, Imado Shrine in Taito Ward, Tokyo also introduces itself as the birthplace of the maneki-neko. This shrine is also famous for answering prayers for matchmaking, so couples of maneki-neko are on the ema (An ema is a small wooden board with a picture, originally a picture of a house on it, on which one writes his or her prayer or wish, name and address on the ema and offers it to a shrine or a temple). The omikuji (a written oracle) I received included a maneki-neko.

下町風情が残る東京都台東区の谷中には、招き猫好きが泣いて喜ぶようなお店があります。その名は谷中堂、オリジナルの招き猫が所狭しと並んでいます。定番の招き猫から、個性的なものやオーダーメイドのものまで購入することができます。素焼きの招き猫にペンで彩色する絵付け体験や、かわいい猫のスイーツを楽しむこともできます。

Yanaka area in Taito Ward, Tokyo still has the atmosphere of an old town. A shop named Yanaka-do, which might make maneki-neko lovers cry with happiness, was in the area. The shop is full of various original maneki-neko: standard ones, unique ones and custom-made ones. You can also enjoy painting an unglazed porcelain maneki-neko with pens and eating cute cat-shaped sweets.

招き猫は日本だけでなく海外でも有名です。たとえば、台湾や中国でもたくさんの招き猫を見かけます、そして欧米でも「welcome cat」(歓迎する猫)とか「lucky cat」(幸運の猫)として知られています。もしあなたが商売に成功したいと思ったり、運が悪いと感じたりしたら、招き猫を手に入れて、お宅の玄関に飾ってみませんか。

Maneki-neko are popular not only in Japan but also in other countries. For example, we can see many maneki-neko in Taiwan and China, and they are also known as “welcome cat” or “lucky cat” in the West. If you want success in your business or you feel unlucky, why not get a maneki-neko and display it in the entrance of your house?

 

The Giant Leap from Friendly to Friend

フレンドリーからフレンドへの大きな一歩

“What are you doing this weekend?” I ask my student, a senior businessman approaching retirement, at the end of our lesson. “I’m having dinner with some of my old friends from elementary school!” he tells me. It’s remarkable to me that the man is still friends with people he must have first met as a child more than fifty years ago. I have no contact with any of the people I was even at high school with, and I don’t know where they are or what they are doing…nothing!

Japanese people take friendship quite seriously. As the previous example illustrates, friendships once made are held for decades, even a lifetime. I find it admirable that in Japan, in the franticly-paced, disposable world we live in, friends will be friends through thick and thin, and they will share the highs and lows of an entire life: graduations, births, deaths and marriages, retirements, grandchildren and finally each other’s funerals. Here friendships are carefully cultivated and nurtured. From my western perspective, it appears that in Japan, relationships between two peers are approached like a marriage they worked on and cultivated through a combination of mutual respect, responsibility, trust and dependence.

I have been in Japan for six years and I have only two Japanese friends. Both of them live several hours away by train and I haven’t seen either in years although we often communicate by phone. It’s not that the Japanese aren’t friendly or that they aren’t open to making friends with non-Japanese -they are, very much so. In general, people here seem to be concerned that I am happy in their country. In everyday life, people will go out of their way to make things easier for me with my lack of Japanese language and unfamiliarity, even after six years, with the complexity of life here. Offences are forgiven, and allowances are made on account of my foreignness. And yet, as I have found during my years in Japan, often to my confusion and disappointment, to move from friendly to friend is a giant leap that I have almost never managed to make. And in fact, the two friends I do have I met at home in New Zealand where they were studying and working. Both of them had lived abroad and travelled extensively, so they were familiar with western concepts of friendship and perhaps that’s why we became friends in the first place, and why we have maintained that friendship ever since.

Part of the difficulty in making friends here lies in simple logistics. Like myself, anyone of a similar age as me is working full time; they have families, children who take up their weekends with sports events and outings, parents who need their help and company on a Sunday, and their own Japanese friends with whom they also want to spend time with. I have experienced the early demise of possible friendships simply because we were never able to organize the time to go out for a beer, a meal or a hike. One or the other has always been busy when the other was free and eventually the time between invitations to catch up or have a night out get longer and longer until they cease altogether.

Aside from that, I have felt myself, when trying to initiate a friendship in Japan, enter into the minefield of Japanese social etiquette. My casual comment of “hey, you up for a beer on Friday?” can be taken as a formal invitation that must be accepted at the risk of causing deep offence. From my western cultural background, I’d be completely content and unhurt with a response of “nah, got something else on, next time?” but it has happened that my ‘invitation’ has been accepted only for me to find out later that my acquaintance had to cancel another arrangement with his family to be able to join me. This has made me feel guilty; have I spoiled his precious family time? And uncomfortable; perhaps he didn’t really want to join me at all? And finally confused; why couldn’t he say “sorry, I’m busy, but next time?” So, when next time comes, I hesitate to ask him knowing that he’ll say yes even if he had already promised to be elsewhere. Conversely, when I have been invited for an evening out by a local and haven’t been able to make it due to prior arrangements and despite my promise of ‘next time’, another invitation never comes. Is he thinking ‘oh, I won’t ask him again, he doesn’t want to go’? This leads to constant and tiring second guessing, over-analyzing and reluctance, to the point where I sometimes think that it’s too difficult and complicated and I just give up.

All this doesn’t mean I don’t have any friends here, as I have several good non-Japanese friends. In most cases we became friends quickly and naturally; we come from familiar cultural backgrounds, we are all sharing the similar experience of a gaijin living in Japan, and most of my friends and colleagues here, like myself, have Japanese wives and children. None of us take ‘nah, I’m busy, next time?’ as a slight or read anything more into it than is intended at face value. We will ask them again, and if they are still busy next time, we’ll ask them another time! However, I feel I’m missing something from my experience of life in Japan by not forming close friendships with Japanese. Spending time with other foreigners is enjoyable and often cathartic but it also serves to isolate me from the Japan I am surrounded by. Perhaps my western cultural point of view causes me to see friendships as something far more fluid and transitory than the traditional Japanese perspective; after all, I’m living in a foreign country, I probably won’t be here forever, so what’s the point of making deep friendships that will one day and inevitably be broken by circumstance and distance? And perhaps, quite rightly, it could be argued, the friendly Japanese I meet see it the same way?

 

 

Junishi: The Twelve Animal Signs of the Oriental Zodiac

十二支

日本では60年を1周期とする、特有の年の数え方をしました。この概念は6世紀に中国から日本へ伝わりました。 60という数字は5組の要素と12の異なる動物の組み合わせからなります。 5組の要素は10個のサインが2つ1組になってできています。 これらの10個のサインは甲(こう)、乙(おつ)、丙(へい)、丁(てい)、戊(ぼ)、己(き)、庚(こう)、辛(しん)、壬(じん)、癸(き)です。 12の動物は子(鼠)、丑(牛)、寅(虎)、卯(兎)、辰(竜)、巳(蛇)、午(馬)、未(羊)、申(猿)、酉(鳥)、戌(犬)、亥(猪)です。 60の時間の分割は羅針盤の方位や、時刻、日付、月を表すのにも使われましたが、今日は年を示す場合や占いの際に方位を表す場合のみ使われます。
Each year in Japan was once considered to be a unique segment inside a 60-year cycle. This concept was introduced to Japan from China in the sixth century. The number 60 comes from the product of 5 pairs of elements and 12 different animals. The 5 pairs of elements are the combination of 2 signs out of the 10 following signs. These 10 signs are Ko, Otsu, Hei, Tei, Bo, Ki, Ko, Shin, Jin, Ki. The twelve animals are Ne (Rat), Ushi (Ox), Tora (Tiger), U (Rabbit), Tatsu (Dragon), Mi (Snake), Uma (Horse), Hitsuji (Sheep), Saru (Monkey), Tori (Chicken), Inu (Dog), and I (Wild Boar). The 60 divisions of time were also used to divide the compass for directions, and to indicate the time of day, days, and months, but nowadays they are only used to indicate years and fortune telling directions.

これらの12の動物の組み合わせは十二支、または干支と呼ばれ、その周期は12年ごとに繰り返され、順番が変わることはありません。その年と同じ動物の年に生まれた人々を年男(男性)、年女(女性)と呼びます。 生まれ年によって相手の年齢が推察できます。 人々が最も十二支を話題にする時は新年を迎える時です。 多くの人は年賀状にその年の動物の絵を使ったり、新年を迎える際にその年の動物の人形や絵を家に飾ります。 いたるところでその年の干支をさまざまな形で目にします。
The combination of these twelve animals are called Junishi, or Eto (the twelve signs of the oriental zodiac) whose cycle repeats every twelve years and does not change sequence. We can guess a person’s age through his or her animal. People born in a year of the animal that is being observed are called Toshi-otoko (for men) and Toshi-onna (for women). People talk about Junishi most when a new year comes. Pictures of the animal of the year are often used for their New Year cards, and dolls or pictures decorate houses on New Year’s Day. Various representations of the animal of the year are seen in many places.

中国発祥の十二支がシルクロードを通って、アジア諸国、ロシア、ブルガリア、アラブ諸国にまでに伝わりましたが、動物の組み合わせは国によって少し異なります。日本以外の国では十二支の最後は猪ではなく豚です。 ベトナムでは牛が水牛、羊が山羊、兎が猫になっています。 タイ、チベット、ベラルーシュは兎の代わりに猫になっています。 インドでは酉は鶏ではなく、ガルダと呼ばれるヒンズー教と仏教の神話に登場する金色の神鳥です。 カザフスタンやモンゴルでは虎が豹に変わる場合があります。
Through the Silk Road, the concept of Junishi was introduced to many countries such as Asian countries, Russia, Bulgaria and Arab states, but some of them assign different animals. All the countries except Japan place the Pig at the end of the Junishi instead of the Wild Boar. In Vietnam, the Water Buffalo replaces the Cow, the Goat replaces the Sheep, and the Cat replaces the Rabbit. In Thailand, Tibet and Belarus, the Cat replaces the Rabbit. In India, the Chicken is substituted by the Garuda, a sacred golden bird in both Hindu and Buddhist mythology. In Kazakhstan and Mongolia, the Tiger is sometimes changed into the Leopard.

60年周期を達成する、つまり60歳の時に還暦と呼ばれる長寿のお祝いをします。 60年周期の後、再び始まるという発想から、赤ちゃんが着るような赤いちゃんちゃんこと帽子を贈る伝統があります。 しかし、近年では寿命も伸び、60歳で年寄りとは言えなくなってきました。 それ故に、年寄り扱いを敬遠して、還暦のお祝いはあまりしなくなっています。
After a person has gone through the entire 60-year cycle, at the age of 60, he or she has a celebration of longevity called Kanreki. Because of the idea of making a fresh start after a 60-year cycle, a red vest and a red hat similar to what a baby wears are traditionally given to the person celebrating his or her 60th birthday. However, as the life expectancy has recently become longer, 60-year old people are no longer considered to be elderly. Therefore, people dislike treating 60-year old people as elderly, and 60-year old people dislike being treated as elderly, so the celebration of Kanreki has been passing gradually.

人々は自分の生まれた年の動物の性格に似ると言われています。 私は猪年で性格も体形も似ていると家族に言われます。 確かに私は行動力があり、頑固で、ダイエットの必要もあります。 私の守護神である猪の肉は決して口にしません。
It is said that people share character traits with the animal of the year they were born. I was born in the year of the Wild Boar, so my family told me that both of my character and figure are similar to the Wild Boar. Indeed, I am an active and obstinate person and need to lose weight. I never eat the meat of the Wild Boar, my guardian animal.

<子 Ne, Rat>

◆【長所】 愛想が良く、気配りができ、清潔です。
【Good Point】 The Rat is an amiable, considerate, and clean person.

◆【短所】 欲深い面もあり、色事で失敗することもあります。
【Bad Point】 The Rat can be greedy and sometimes tends to fail in its life because of love affairs.

<丑 Ushi, Ox>

◆【長所】 真面目で、忍耐強く、働き者です。
【Good Point】 The Ox is earnest, patient, and a hard worker.

◆【短所】 時々強情になり、口下手な人もいます。
【Bad Point】 The Ox is sometimes stubborn, and can be a poor talker.

<寅 Tora, Tiger>

◆【長所】 大胆で思慮深く、慈悲の心があります。
【Good Point】 The Tiger is courageous, thoughtful, and charitable.

◆【短所】 ときおり自信過剰で、我儘なところが少しあります。
【Bad Point】 The Tiger is occasionally overconfident and can be a little selfish.

<卯 U, Rabbit>

◆【長所】 情にもろく、愛嬌があり、才覚があります。
【Good Point】 The Rabbit has a tender heart, and is charming and witty.

◆【短所】 時に根気が無くなることもあり、男女間のトラブルがあるかもしれません。
【Bad Point】 The Rabbit is sometimes thought of as impatient and may have some trouble with its love life.

<辰 Tatsu, Dragon>

◆【長所】 自尊心が強く、機敏で、一途です。
【Good Point】 The Dragon is proud, quick, and sincere.

◆【短所】 愛想があまり良くなく、短気な人もいます。
【Bad Point】 The Dragon is sometimes said to be unsociable, and can be short-tempered.

<巳 Mi, Snake>

◆【長所】 思慮分別があり、冷静沈着で、金運があります。
【Good Point】 The Snake is deliberate, cool-headed, and has luck with money.

◆【短所】 やや猜疑心が強く、嫉妬深い面があります。
【Bad Point】 The Snake can tend to be a little suspicious and jealous.

<午 Uma, Horse>

◆【長所】 陽気で、人気者、そして面倒見が良い人です。
【Good Point】 The Horse is a merry, popular, and obliging person.

◆【短所】 軽率な面が時にあり、やや短絡的かもしれません。
【Bad Point】 The Horse is sometimes considered thoughtless, and may be a little simple.

<未 Hitsuji, Sheep>

◆【長所】 温和で親切、慈悲心に富んだ人です。
【Good Point】 The Sheep is gentle, kind and merciful.

◆【短所】 少し臆病で、マイナス思考になる傾向にあります。
【Bad Point】 The Sheep can be a little timid and tends to be negative.

<申 Saru, Monkey>

◆【長所】 器用で利口、そして財運があります。
【Good Point】 The Monkey is dexterous, clever, and fortunate with money.

◆【短所】 時々飽きっぽく、時に意地悪なところがあるでしょう。
【Bad Point】 The Monkey sometimes loses interest in things and is a little mean at times.

<酉 Tori, Chicken>

◆【長所】 賢明で世渡り上手、弁舌が立ちます。
【Good Point】 The Chicken is sensible, worldly-wise, and has the gift of the gab.

◆【短所】 移り気なところがあり、多忙なわりに結実しないこともあります。
【Bad Point】 The Chicken can be changeable, and on occasions has difficulty bearing the fruits of its labor though it is very busy.

<戌 Inu, Dog>

◆【長所】 義理堅く、正直で、勤勉です。
【Good Point】 The Dog has a strong sense of duty, is honest and industrious.

◆【短所】 偏屈なところもあり、時々くよくよします。
【Bad Point】 The Dog can be eccentric and sometimes worries too much.

<亥 Inoshishi, Wild Boar>

◆【長所】 潔白で、決断力があり、侠気があります。
【Good Point】 The Wild Boar is an innocent, decisive, and chivalrous person.

◆【短所】 短気で、頑固者が多いとされています。
【Bad Point】 The Wild Boar is thought of as being irritable and obstinate.

干支早見表
The Chart of the Twelve Animal Signs

1920 大正
7年
Saru さる Monkey
1921 大正
8年
Tori とり Chicken
1922 大正
9年
Inu いぬ Dog
1923 大正
10年
Inoshishi いのしし Wild Boar
1924 大正
11年
Ne
(Nezumi)
ねずみ Rat
1925 大正
12年
Ushi うし Ox
1926 昭和
元年
Tora とら Tiger
1927 昭和
2年
U
(Usagi)
うさぎ Rabbit
1928 昭和
3年
Tatsu たつ Dragon
1929 昭和
4年
Mi
(Hebi)
へび Snake
1930 昭和
5年
Uma うま Horse
1931 昭和
6年
Hitsuji ひつじ Sheep
1932 昭和
7年
Saru さる Monkey
1933 昭和
8年
Tori とり Chicken
1934 昭和
9年
Inu いぬ Dog
1935 昭和
10年
Inoshishi いのしし Wild Boar
1936 昭和
11年
Ne
(Nezumi)
ねずみ Rat
1937 昭和
12年
Ushi うし Ox
1938 昭和
13年
Tora とら Tiger
1939 昭和
14年
U
(Usagi)
うさぎ Rabbit
1940 昭和
15年
Tatsu たつ Dragon
1941 昭和
16年
Mi
(Hebi)
へび Snake
1942 昭和
17年
Uma うま Horse
1943 昭和
18年
Hitsuji ひつじ Sheep
1944 昭和
19年
Saru さる Monkey
1945 昭和
20年
Tori とり Chicken
1946 昭和
21年
Inu いぬ Dog
1947 昭和
22年
Inoshishi いのしし Wild Boar
1948 昭和
23年
Ne
(Nezumi)
ねずみ Rat
1949 昭和
24年
Ushi うし Ox
1950 昭和
25年
Tora とら Tiger
1951 昭和
26年
U
(Usagi)
うさぎ Rabbit
1952 昭和
27年
Tatsu たつ Dragon
1953 昭和
28年
Mi
(Hebi)
へび Snake
1954 昭和
29年
Uma うま Horse
1955 昭和
30年
Hitsuji ひつじ Sheep
1956 昭和
31年
Saru さる Monkey
1957 昭和
32年
Tori とり Chicken
1958 昭和
33年
Inu いぬ Dog
1959 昭和
34年
Inoshishi いのしし Wild Boar
1960 昭和
35年
Ne
(Nezumi)
ねずみ Rat
1961 昭和
36年
Ushi うし Ox
1962 昭和
37年
Tora とら Tiger
1963 昭和
38年
U
(Usagi)
うさぎ Rabbit
1964 昭和
39年
Tatsu たつ Dragon
1965 昭和
40年
Mi
(Hebi)
へび Snake
1966 昭和
41年
Uma うま Horse
1967 昭和
42年
Hitsuji ひつじ Sheep
1968 昭和
43年
Saru さる Monkey
1969 昭和
44年
Tori とり Chicken
1970 昭和
45年
Inu いぬ Dog
1971 昭和
46年
Inoshishi いのしし Wild Boar
1972 昭和
47年
Ne
(Nezumi)
ねずみ Rat
1973 昭和
48年
Ushi うし Ox
1974 昭和
49年
Tora とら Tiger
1975 昭和
50年
U
(Usagi)
うさぎ Rabbit
1976 昭和
51年
Tatsu たつ Dragon
1977 昭和
52年
Mi
(Hebi)
へび Snake
1978 昭和
53年
Uma うま Horse
1979 昭和
54年
Hitsuji ひつじ Sheep
1980 昭和
55年
Saru さる Monkey
1981 昭和
56年
Tori とり Chicken
1982 昭和
57年
Inu いぬ Dog
1983 昭和
58年
Inoshishi いのしし Wild Boar
1984 昭和
59年
Ne
(Nezumi)
ねずみ Rat
1985 昭和
60年
Ushi うし Ox
1986 昭和
61年
Tora とら Tiger
1987 昭和
62年
U
(Usagi)
うさぎ Rabbit
1988 昭和
63年
Tatsu たつ Dragon
1989 平成
元年
Mi
(Hebi)
へび Snake
1990 平成
2年
Uma うま Horse
1991 平成
3年
Hitsuji ひつじ Sheep
1992 平成
4年
Saru さる Monkey
1993 平成
5年
Tori とり Chicken
1994 平成
6年
Inu いぬ Dog
1995 平成
7年
Inoshishi いのしし Wild Boar
1996 平成
8年
Ne
(Nezumi)
ねずみ Rat
1997 平成
9年
Ushi うし Ox
1998 平成
10年
Tora とら Tiger
1999 平成
11年
U
(Usagi)
うさぎ Rabbit
2000 平成
12年
Tatsu たつ Dragon
2001 平成
13年
Mi
(Hebi)
へび Snake
2002 平成
14年
Uma うま Horse
2003 平成
15年
Hitsuji ひつじ Sheep
2004 平成
16年
Saru さる Monkey
2005 平成
17年
Tori とり Chicken
2006 平成
18年
Inu いぬ Dog
2007 平成
19年
Inoshishi いのしし Wild Boar
2008 平成
20年
Ne
(Nezumi)
ねずみ Rat
2009 平成
21年
Ushi うし Ox
2010 平成
22年
Tora とら Tiger
2011 平成
23年
U
(Usagi)
うさぎ Rabbit
2012 平成
24年
Tatsu たつ Dragon
2013 平成
25年
Mi
(Hebi)
へび Snake
2014 平成
26年
Uma うま Horse
2015 平成
27年
Hitsuji ひつじ Sheep
2016 平成
28年
Saru さる Monkey
2017 平成
29年
Tori とり Chicken
2018 平成
30年
Inu いぬ Dog
2019 Inoshishi いのしし Wild Boar
2020 Ne
(Nezumi)
ねずみ Rat
2021 Ushi うし Ox
2022 Tora とら Tiger
2023 U
(Usagi)
うさぎ Rabbit
2024 Tatsu たつ Dragon
2025 Mi
(Hebi)
へび Snake
2026 Uma うま Horse
2027 Hitsuji ひつじ Sheep
2028 Saru さる Monkey
2029 Tori とり Chicken
2030 Inu いぬ Dog
2031 Inoshishi いのしし Wild Boar

 

 

 

 

 

Shichi-fukujin: The Seven Lucky Deities

七福神

これらの七体の神の像、人形、絵などを日本で目にしたことがありますか。室町時代(1392-1573)より多くの人々が信仰してきた七福神と呼ばれる七柱の神様です。これらの神々は仏教、神道、道教の中の、インド、中国、日本の神々を合わせたものです。7人の神々の名前は、恵比須、大黒天、布袋、弁財天、毘沙門天、福禄寿、そして寿老人です。それぞれは様々な徳を表わします。(詳細は後述しています。)

Have you ever seen these seven deities or one of them in various representations such as statues, dolls or pictures in Japan? They are Shichi-fukujin; the Seven Lucky Deities or the Seven Deities of Fortune, which many people have worshiped since the Muromachi period (1392-1573). These deities are a combination of Indian, Chinese and Japanese deities originating from Buddhist, Shinto and Taoist religions. They are named Ebisu, Daikokuten, Hotei, Benzaiten, Bishamonten, Fukurokuju and Jurojin. Each deity represents a different virtue. (Details are described below.)

福禄寿と寿老人はともに長寿の神なので、同じ神とみなす人もいるので、福禄寿の代わりに美の女神の吉祥天が加えられます。または弁天の代わりに加えられることもあります。またはお多福や達磨を加えて八福神とすることもあります。

Since Fukurokuju and Jurojin are both considered to be deities of longevity, some think of them as one and the same deity. Otafuku or Daruma is sometimes added to the Seven Lucky Deities and in this case, they are called Hachi-fukujin (the Eight Lucky Deities).

日本各地に、七福神巡りの名所があります。七福神巡りとはそれぞれの神様を祀る合計7カ所(まれに8~10カ所)の神社や寺を半日から2、3日で巡り、福を求めてお参りをして御朱印を授かります。七福神巡りはところによっては通年行われますが、元旦から1月15日までに行うともっとも御利益があるとされています。

There are various famous Shichi-fukujin-meguri routes all around Japan. The Shichi-fukujin-meguri is a pilgrimage of half a day or a few days to visit seven (occasionally from 8 to 10) shrines or temples, where each deity is worshiped, praying for good luck and collecting Goshuin (a sacred vermilion temple or shrine seal). Generally, it is said that prayers of the Shichi-fukujin-meguri from January 1st to 15th are the most likely to be answered, though the Shichi-fukujin-meguri is held all year round in some shrines and temples.

七福神は宝船と呼ばれる縁起の良い船に乗っていることがよくあります。民間伝承によると正月に枕の下にこの宝船の絵をひいて寝ると、縁起のよい初夢を見ると言われています。

Shichi-fukujin are often represented aboard a ship, called Takara-bune (the treasure ship). According to folklore, this ship will make your first dream of the year auspicious, if you sleep with its picture under your pillow on New Year’s Day.

<恵比須 Ebisu>

恵比寿は七福神の中で唯一日本由来の神様で、商売に幸運をもたらすと信じられています。右手に大きな鯛、左手に釣り竿を持っているので、漁業の神様としても信仰されています。隠しだてしないで正直に話す力、率直の徳の象徴でもあります。恵比須の幸せそうな笑顔は「えびす顔」として有名で、人々に愛されています。

Among Shichi-fukujin, Ebisu is the only deity who has his origin in Japan, and he is believed to bring good fortune to business. He is represented holding a fishing rod in his right hand and a big sea bream in his left; therefore, he is also worshiped as the patron of fishermen. In addition, he represents candor; the ability to speak openly and honestly. His happy smiling face is widely recognized and loved as “Ebisu-gao” (Ebisu’s smiling face).

<大黒天 Daikokuten>

大黒天は家庭に幸せや富をもたらすと信じられているので、大変人気のある神の一つです。打出の小槌と宝物の入った大きな袋を背負っています。インドのヒンズー教のシヴァの神が密教に取り入れられ、最澄(18世紀の日本の僧で天台宗の開祖)が日本に伝えました。

Daikokuten is one of the most popular gods because he is believed to bring fortune or wealth to a household. He has an uchide-no-kozuchi (a magic mallet) and carries a big bag full of treasure on his back. His origin was as Shiva in Hinduism, and later he was incorporated into esoteric Buddhism and was introduced into Japan by Saicho (a Japanese Buddhist monk in the 18th century, a founder of the Tendai sect).

<布袋 Hotei>

布袋は中国の唐(688-907)で実存したとされる禅僧です。お腹がまん丸に出て、名前の由来となった大きな袋を持った陽気な神様です。彼は寛大の神様で、人の運命や天気を予知します。

Hotei is supposed to have existed as a Zen priest in Tang China (688-907). He is a jolly deity with a very rotund stomach and carries a big cloth sack after which he was named. He is the deity of generosity and can predict one’s fortune and the weather.

<弁財天 Benzaiten>

弁財天の発祥はインドのヒンズー教の河神(かしん)です。琵琶を持つ、音楽の女神です。雄弁、優美、優しさを擬人化したものでもあります。

Benzaiten originated from the Hindu goddess of rivers in India. She carries a lute (a small harp); she is the goddess of music. She also personifies eloquence, grace and kindness.

<毘沙門天 Bishamonten>

毘沙門天は鎧甲を身に付けた武神ですが、その起源はインド神話の財宝の神でした。インドから中央アジアを経て中国に伝来する過程で闘いの神になりました。四天王の一人で多聞天とも呼ばれ、北方の守護神です。荒々しい姿をしていますが、特に貧しい人々を助け、品位にあふれています。

Bishamonten is a warrior deity, wearing armor and a helmet, however, he originated from a deity of fortune in Indian mythology. Brought from India to China by way of Central Asia, some characteristics were added to him and he became a patron of battles and wars. He is one of Shi-tenno (the Four Heavenly Kings), he is also called Tamonten, and is a guardian of the northern direction. Despite his rough appearance, he is full of dignity, and is especially kind to the poor.

<福禄寿 Fukurokuju>

禄寿は福禄人とも呼ばれ、長寿と人望の神様です。中国の道教で理想とされる幸福、俸禄、長寿の三星を神格化した神です。頭が長く、杖をつき、白鶴を従えています。

Fukurokuju, also called Fukurokujin, is a deity of longevity and popularity. He is enshrined as a deity of three stars of Taoist beliefs in China; happiness, remuneration and longevity. He has an elongated head, walks with a cane and is accompanied by a white crane.

<寿老人 Jurojin>

寿老人は福禄寿と共通点が多く、たとえば長寿の象徴の道教の神で、頭が長く、杖をついています。それ故に、二人は混同されたり、同一の神様と考えられることもあります。彼は酒を好み、鹿を連れています。

Jurojin and Fukurokuju have a lot in common such as being deities of Taoism in China, the symbol of longevity, a tall head and a cane. Therefore, the two are sometimes confused or are identified to be the same deity. He likes alcohol and is represented leading a deer.

<吉祥天 Kichijoten>

毘沙門天の妻である吉祥天は容姿端麗の女神で、宝冠をかぶり天衣を着て、手には如意玉を持っています。多くの人々に福徳を与えます。元々はヒンドゥー教の女神で、仏教に取り入れられた後に日本に伝わりました。

Kichijoten, Bishamonten’s wife, is an attractive deity in a jeweled crown and a heavenly garment and with a nyoi-dama (a magic wish-fulfilling gem). She brings happiness and virtue to a lot of people. Kichijoten, who was originally a goddess of Hinduism, was imported into Japan after she was introduced into Buddhism.

 

 

 

 

Marriage across Culture

異文化結婚

“How did you meet?”
This is a question my Japanese wife and I have often been asked in Japan. I often make a joke that I won her in a poker game with gang members! The real story of how our now fifteen year relationship began is much less exciting. My wife was studying English in New Zealand where I am from and we first met at a yoga class. We started dating, decided to live together in Auckland, New Zealand and then got married in 2011.

“What language do you use with each other?”
This is the next question we are usually asked. Again, I make a joke; ‘We don’t talk!’ In fact, for the most part, English is the lingua franca of our relationship. Her English is far, far better than my Japanese language skills and it always will be, and so our daily conversations (if we have any!) and day to day exchanges of necessary information about what time we’ll be home, who’s cooking dinner and who’s turn it is to pick up or drop off our four-year-old son, Bodhi, from his kindergarten are all conducted in English.

“Do you ever misunderstand each other?”
Naturally the answer is ‘yes’. There are times when we have completely missed the meaning of what the other was trying to say and it sometimes leads to tension and arguments. However, having spent a lot of my life travelling in places where English isn’t spoken at all, I have developed a skill for communicating with others who speak little or no English. And it’s simple; speak directly, clearly, without nuance, and use words that are unlikely to be confused or misunderstood: ‘Yes, I will take our son to kindergarten in the morning’ or ‘No, I can’t pick him up, you have to.’ Phrases like this, blunt though they may sound, are far more effective and less likely to cause complications than what I might say if my wife were a native speaker: ‘Yip, I’ll swing by after I knock off and grab him.’

Being direct and clear is especially important in a romantic relationship where a single careless word or sentence, even within couples of the same culture and language, can have dramatic results! This became particularly important when she and I started talking about making the biggest decision of our lives, having a child. It was an emotional topic for both of us and we agreed from the start that we would both speak openly and frankly on the subject, that we would avoid saying things that might cause the other to try and guess what was meant, to guess what the other was feeling, and what we thought or wanted. I had experienced the Japanese concept of ‘chimmoku’, silent communication, where meaning, desires and intent can be inferred from a response of silence and which is pretty much alien to direct-and-to-the-point westerners. This was banned from any baby discussions!

“Are there cultural differences?”
Despite being from opposite hemispheres and from very different upbringings and cultures, we don’t experience many problems. Again, having travelled a lot, mostly in Asian regions, most points of Japanese culture that I encounter in daily life are not such a mystery for me, taking off my shoes at the door, bowing, using a Japanese bath and eating with chopsticks aren’t a big deal. I like these customs, I’m happy to use them and after nearly seven years in Japan, they have become second nature to me. I hardly spare them a second thought.

Certainly, our home life is not typically Japanese. I spend more time in the kitchen than she does, I don’t hand over my salary to her every month and she doesn’t give me weekly pocket money. I don’t go out drinking with my company friends three or four nights a week, I don’t expect her to do all the house work as we share that more or less evenly, and we split the bills at the end of the month more like roommates than a married couple.

The reason why the above situations work for us is likely due to the fact that she has also spent a considerable amount of her life living in other countries; she lived in New Zealand for ten years where she embraced, enjoyed and appreciated the much slower paced, more laid-back and individualistic Kiwi way of life. And for this I’m lucky. I have foreign friends married to Japanese who met their wives in Japan, and those women, while obviously open minded and progressive enough to marry someone outside their culture, have not lived abroad or perhaps even travelled that much. From what I’ve heard some of these friends talk about over after-work beers on a Friday night they experience more instances when cultural differences become a problem.

Of course, there are times when I am frustrated with life in Japan, but these times are usually due to factors outside our relationship:
‘Why do I have to get up at six in the morning to put the garbage out? Why can’t I put it out the night before like we do in New Zealand?’
‘Because this is Japan and in Japan that’s what you have to do!’

“What did your parents think when you told them you were getting married?”
Again, we were lucky that this wasn’t an issue for us. Both our families were comfortable with us marrying and certainly after we had both met our respective in-laws we were welcomed into each other’s families and we quickly became friends, comfortable and familiar. This isn’t always the case from what I’ve heard from my friends here. There can often be apprehension from Japanese parents when they find out their adult child is going to be living a future possibly quite different from the typical Japanese home life they had always imagined: ‘How will we communicate? Where will they live? Does he know how to use chopsticks? Can he eat rice?’ Though, like she and I, most of these doubts are laid to rest once parties have met each other and it’s obvious the stranger isn’t so strange after all.

Any marriage is hard work, and a marriage across cultures is, of course, no exception. I have always felt that the difficulties we do experience due to language and customs aren’t insurmountable and with a little more patience and care perhaps, an open mind and respect for each other’s backgrounds and heritage, a happy, fruitful and harmonious family life is easily achievable. By the way, just to mention, today is our seventh wedding anniversary and I’m pretty sure she has forgotten! Again!