Japanese mythology attaches a lot of importance to animals, in fact they take on various symbolic and mystical meanings.

One sign that indicates the high regard in which they are held in Japan is the fact that the zodiac signs are really animals.

The otherworldly depictions of animals are clearly visible in Japanese art, in the decoration of fabrics and upholstery.

The symbolic meaning of animals is not always understandable to Western culture.


The Japanese and Chinese follow a zodiac system based on the lunar calendar, which has been in use in Asia since 4000 BC. The zodiac is made up of 12 animals: the mouse, the ox, the tiger, the rabbit, the dragon, the snake, the horse, the sheep, the monkey, the rooster, the dog and the pig. Each animal has its own characteristics. According to Japanese tradition, the person assumes the characteristics of the animal that governs the year in which she was born.

A person born in the year of the dog, for example, should be loyal and friendly. People born in the year of the monkey are playful and fun.


Dragons in Japan are a benevolent force, unlike dragons found in Western fairy tales. Dragons in Japan are thought to bring wealth and success. The Japanese dragon is similar to the Chinese dragon. The only difference is that the Japanese dragon is represented with three claws and not five like the Chinese one. People born under the sign of the dragon are thought to be proud, fiery and intellectual. In Japan, the dragon is a symbol of prosperity.

The rooster is considered sacred in Japan, in fact it can roam free and enter Shinto temples, where their morning verse is believed to be a reminder of the goddess Amaterasu.

In Japan, the giraffe is named after a mythological creature called "Kirin". It was believed that Kirin had magical powers and could give well-being and serenity. Symbolically, the giraffe in Japan is the equivalent of the western unicorn, so sighting a kirin brings good luck.

The butterfly represents the spiritual path, the cycle of life and death as well as, of course, transformation and change. The Japanese believe that the farlalle also represent the souls of the dead and that they transport them to the realm of the dead.