8.7.1. The Chinese zodiac
You might have heard of the Chinese zodiac. Each year is associated with 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 with 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 an order of importance at all.
ne zu mi
u sa gi
|Dragon. This is an imaginary animal, of course. The word たつ "tatu" also means the dragon and is more commonly used for the year of the dragon.|
hi tu zi
|Sheep. In China, the year of the goat (やぎ "yagi" in Japanese) is used instead of the sheep.|
ni wa to ri
|Chicken. The word にわ LH "niwa" means yard, and とり "tori" means bird. The latter is more commonly used for the year of the chicken than にわとり.|
i no si si
|Wild boar. In China, the year of the pig (ぶた "buta" in Japanese) is used instead of the wild boar.|
ta nu ki
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
Note: Foxes often appear in fairy tales as sly animals with magic power.
ô ka mi
Note: Coming from the adjective おおきい "ôkii" (big) and the noun かみ "kami" (god), this word 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
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".
ki ri n
ra ku da
ku zi ra
i ru ka
a si ka
a za ra si
ka ra su
su zu me
tu ba me
u gu i su
Note: Japanese nightingales are diurnal birds found in the spring.
For your interest: The pheasant is the symbol bird of Japan. They are so rare now that people scarcely see a wild pheasant.
a hi ru
i n ko
ka mo me
8.7.4. Reptiles and amphibians
to ka ge
ka e ru
Japan is famous for seafood, and probably Japanese has more words for さかな 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 stomach-ache after eating fish!)
ma gu ro
u na gi
sa n ma
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.
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 ふか "huka" also means shark, and it is more often used for shark fins for the soup.