In the same way that much of Western culture comes from ancient Rome and Greece, Japan was greatly influenced by China, and many elements of their society can be traced back to the Middle Kingdom. For two millennia Japan used the old Chinese Lunar calendar to record time, and they inherited the Chinese Zodiac system as part of that tradition. There are twelve animals in the so-called Chinese Sexegenary Cycle, which rotate through year after year. 2006 was the Year of the Dog, for example, and 2007 is the Year of the Pig, and various characteristics are attributed to people born in each animal year. For example, those born in a Pig Year are supposedly honest, straightforward and sometimes aloof around others. Each time the Chinese Zodiac cycles around to your year (at the ages of 11, 23, 35 and so on) its another landmark in your life.
There's an interesting story of how the Chinese Zodiac came to be. On the day of the New Year the Gods (or Buddha, depending on which version you read) declared a race among thirteen animals to come and offer New Year's Greetings. The Ox knew he was the slowest animal, so he started out before the others. The Rat noticed this and hopped on his back, jumping off at the last minute to claim first place. The Ox came in second, followed by the fleet Tiger. The Rabbit was next, with the kind-hearted Dragon behind, who was delayed by helping the Rabbit across the river. The Horse ran along then, but the Snake slithered between his legs and startled him, beating him in the race. The Sheep, Monkey and Rooster were working as a team to get across the river, and arrived next. Then came the Dog, delayed because he stopped to take a bath along the way, with the Pig coming in last -- he'd gotten confused and climbed the wrong mountain, forcing him to backtrack. The thirteenth animal was the Cat, who had forgotten what day the race was held and asked his friend the cunning Rat, who told him the wrong date, which is why there's no Year of the Cat, and why cats hate mice today.
What's that clicking sound? It's the sound of another J-List customer buying the second-to-last copy of the cool 2007 Japanese calendar you've had your eye on. Japan is a very seasonal place, with different activities held at different times of year, and right now is Calendar Season. Why not spend a few minutes browsing our amazing selection of 2007 anime, JPOP, sexy idol and other calendars from Japan, or our many other products?
J-List is taking the day off today, of course, but we'll be back tomorrow to
process everyone's orders quickly and efficiently. Feel free to browse our
extensive selection of wacky and wonderful things from Japan. Thanks!
More random pics from Guam. We thought this burglar warning was worth snapping a shot of.
Yes, this is a yak.
The kids, playing by an old Spanish fort.
The dolphins were fun to play with, but I wanted them to stop the boat, dump a bunch of food in the water and let us frolic with them. The captain explained that the dolphins were actually kind of shy and didn't like people.
There was some bad renditions of Japanese and Chinese food in Guam.
Sitting in the drive thru in McDonald's, we looked up to see about 100 of these weird little lizards (Geckos, someone told us) crawling on the outside of the building and threatening to fall into our convertible car.
In keeping with section 7 of the American Expat Code, we made sure to bring back plenty of Taco Bell sauce, which is pretty darned good on the Twisters you get at "Kentucky."
Daughter Rina hides the McDonald's food she's smuggled in to Taco Bell.
The other reason Guam is good for us, we can buy American cereal!
I know the evil food producers of the West have put corn syrup in everything (replacing sugar, which may be partially responsible for everyone getting so fat), but I'd never seen it for sale as-is.
We made our Japanese-style Christmas Cake on Dec 25th. It was good, although it didn't feel much like Christmas.