Wednesday, January 9, 2013

What Year is It?

It’s that awkward time of year, where everyone writes the wrong year on everything. For some of us it takes longer than others. The brute force of muscle memory, overpowers a weaker brain, and the first few weeks (months) serve as a constant reminder of how slow we are.

It’s 2013, we can all agree on that, but the Japanese have much more to say on that matter.

It is  Heisei 25. It is the 25th year of the Heisei era, or the 25th year of the reign of the current emperor, whom after death will be referred to as Emperor Heisei. 1987, the year I was born was Showa 62.  The Gregorian year (currently 2013) and the era year (Heisei 25), are used differently depending on the document or use. Any date that accompanies a Hanko (Japanese form of signature), uses the era year. Dates of things that happened in the past are usually referred to by their era year, future dates seem to generally use the Gregorian year, though there doesn’t seem to be any steadfast rule. For those of you who have done the math, and are now wondering how the calendar transitions, 1989 is both Showa 64, and Heisei 1, the Heisei period started on January 8th 1989, the day after the last reigning emperors death.
Today’s date (January 9th, 2013)

 (the order in Japan is written Year’Month’Day, you cannot truncate 2013 to 13 as this could be confused with an era year)

This is the year of the snake.

The animals of the Chinese zodiac are observed here. Depending on that years animal, different fortunes follow you throughout the year. This year is to be a great year for finances. For those of you who are familiar with the Chinese zodiac, you might feel that I am jumping the gun, Chinese New Year is not until mid-February. That may be true, but Japanese start the new year with the Gregorian calendar, though the animals of the zodiac came here from China, they have adopted them as part of their own culture. As far as I’m concerned those lucky few who were born between January 1st, and Chinese new year (usually around mid-February) have a choice of two animals to associate themselves with. Babies born this month can either choose to be year of the dragon, or year of the snake.
What’s the significance of the Animal for Japanese people? It’s a symbol of the year, at the beginning of the year it is traditional to send post cards to friends and family, and give money to children, snakes are the mascot of the new year. Card stores have a wide array of New Year’s cards, most of which have an image of a snake on them. People also enjoy hearing their fortune, depending on when you were born, you will be affected differently by it now being the year of the snake.
Due to the nature of the snake, this year is predicted to be a year of prosperity and peace. Saving money and being thrifty should be your top priorities. Delusion and deception are common in the year of the snake, so caution is necessary. Be cautious and thoughtful of your money, and this year will be in your favor.

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