ETO 2023 Year of the Rabbit

by Sugimoto Tea Company
Japanese Culture, Sugimoto Tea News

You may have heard of the “Chinese Zodiac,” the series of twelve animals that are used in Asia to represent the year. These symbolic animals are also used in Japan, where they’re called eto. People in Japan often say the animal you’re born under will have an influence on your personality, such as people born in the year of the dog being loyal like dogs.

Originally used to keep track of the passing years, the animals that make up the zodiac have come to be associated with times of day, compass directions, and even fortune telling. While they originated in China, Japan has its own traditions related to eto. Among the most important of these traditions is the belief that tokens of the year’s animal bring good luck. Because of this belief, many people in Japan buy New Year’s postcards or stamps with that year’s eto to send out to family ans friends for good luck. They also sometimes wish on wooden tablets with the animal on one side when they pray for good luck at the temple.

The story of the zodiac animals goes that the twelve eto animals and the cat were told to come to decide the order of the animals for the years to come. However, the sneaky rat told the cat the meeting was another day and jumped from where he was riding on the ox to be the first animal in the cycle. Because the rat told the cat a different date, all of the other animals settled into their order and the cat slept on. This is the reason why cats hate rats now.

While other places celebrate the Lunar New Year as the beginning of the year, people in Japan celebrate it on January 1st just like people in America. Almost, anyway. Americans celebrate New Year’s Eve, while Japanese people celebrate the day of the New Year instead and often serve tea during the day as family members stop by. Sometimes this tea is specially selected specially for luck and sometimes the selection is related to the eto of the year.

This year’s eto is the rabbit, which represents significant progress and the well-being of family. If you wanted to pick a tea for good luck in those areas, genmaicha would be good since rabbits in Japan are closely associated with mochi. Of course, you can always drink whatever tea you feel is special for the occasion—be it the same sencha you drink every day or the shincha you’ve been saving since April.

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