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TYJ Vertebrates

By Takasugi, May 22, 2017 | |
  1. Takasugi
    8.7. Vertebrates

    8.7.1. The Chinese zodiac

    You might have heard of the Chinese zodiac. Each year is associated to 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 to 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 order of importance at all.

    OrderAnimal/speciesDescription
    1ねずみ
    ne zu mi
    Rat, mouse
    2うし
    u si
    Ox, cow
    3とら
    to ra
    Tiger
    4うさぎ
    u sa gi
    Rabbit, hare
    5りゅう
    ryû
    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.
    6へび
    he bi
    Snake
    7うま
    u ma
    Horse
    8ひつじ
    hi tu zi
    Sheep. In China, the year of the goat (やぎ "yagi" in Japanese) is used instead of the sheep.
    9さる
    sa ru
    Monkey
    10にわとり
    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.
    11いぬ
    i nu
    Dog
    12いのしし
    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.
    Further readings:

    8.7.2. Mammals

    たぬき
    ta nu ki
    raccoon dog

    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.

    きつね
    ki tu ne
    fox

    Note: Foxes often appear in fairy tales as sly animals with magic power.

    おおかみ
    ô ka mi
    wolf

    Note: Coming from the adjective おおきい "ôkii" (big) and the noun かみ "kami" (god), this word literally means great god. Wolves were not considered evil in Japanese culture. Wolves went extinct a few hundred years ago in Japan.

    ライオン
    ra i o n
    lion

    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".

    ひょう
    hyô
    panther

    くま
    ku ma
    bear

    しか
    si ka
    deer

    ぞう

    elephant

    きりん
    ki ri n
    giraffe

    さい
    sa i
    rhinoceros

    かば
    ka ba
    hippopotamus

    らくだ
    ra ku da
    camel

    くじら
    ku zi ra
    whale

    いるか
    i ru ka
    dolphin

    あしか
    a si ka
    sea lion

    あざらし
    a za ra si
    seal

    8.7.3. Birds

    からす
    ka ra su
    crow, raven

    はと
    ha to
    pigeon, dove
    すずめ
    su zu me
    sparrow

    つばめ
    tu ba me
    swallow

    うぐいす
    u gu i su
    Japanese nightingale

    Note: Japanese nightingales are diurnal birds found in the spring.

    きじ
    ki zi
    pheasant

    For your interest: The pheasant is the symbol bird of Japan. They are so rare now that people scarcely see a wild pheasant.

    かも
    ka mo
    wild duck

    あひる
    a hi ru
    domestic duck

    がちょう
    ga chô
    goose

    いんこ
    i n ko
    macaw, parrakeet

    おうむ
    ô mu
    parrot

    かもめ
    ka mo me
    sea gull


    8.7.4. Reptiles and amphibians

    かめ
    ka me

    tortoise

    わに
    wa ni
    crocodile

    とかげ
    to ka ge
    lizard

    かえる
    ka e ru
    frog


    8.7.5. Fish

    Japan is famous for sea food, 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!)

    まぐろ
    ma gu ro
    tuna


    うなぎ
    u na gi
    eel

    さんま
    sa n ma
    mackerel pike
    あじ
    a zi
    horse mackerel

    ぶり
    bu ri
    yellowtail

    ふぐ
    hu gu
    fugu (balloonfish)

    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.

    さけ
    sa ke
    salmon

    さめ
    sa me
    shark

    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.


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    About Author

    Takasugi
    My name is TAKASUGI Shinji. TAKASUGI is my family name, and Shinji is my given name; a family name is placed before a given name in Japan, as in other Asian nations. My family name is capitalized to avoid misunderstanding.

    I have been living in Yokohama since I was born. Yokohama is the second largest city in Japan, which is just 30 kilometers away from the biggest city Tôkyô. It takes 30 minutes to go by train from home to Shibuya, which is the hottest town now in Tôkyô.

    I work as a display engineer.

    One of my hobbies is creating things with computers; creating programs, computer graphics and web pages is the thing I spent a lot of time doing. I am also interested in a wide range of sciences, and linguistics is my favorite. I like English and I like using it, but my focus is mainly on Japanese, which is my native language. I'm proud of knowing the language, and the difference between English and Japanese has been fascinating me. I have been thinking whether I can introduce it to people outside of Japan. My attempt of introducing Japanese with some Java applets has had more than 1 million visitors.


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