What is the Japanese Word Toshi Onna and Toshi Otoko?

I don’t know if you’ve heard of the Japanese saying “Toshi otoko/Toshi onna(year man/year woman)”. Toshi otoko/Toshi onna refer to people who were born in the same year as the current year’s stem. Men are called Toshi otoko,  and women are called Toshi onna. In Japan, there is a saying of luck, and many Japanese people believe in luck, so if you become a Toshi otoko/Toshi onna, will it be lucky this year? Will it be good or bad?

Only once every twelve years you get to be a Toshi otoko/Toshi onna

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The Chinese term “Ganzhi(干支)” refers to the heavenly stems and earthly branches, that is, the ten heavenly stems, such as 甲乙丙丁(like A, B, C and D in English), and the twelve earthly branches, such as 子丑寅卯(Zi, Chou, Yin and Mou), also known as the Twelve Branches. The modern term for the Twelve Branches is often directly adopted from the more modern term,like rat(Zi), cow(Chou), tiger(Yin) and rabbit(Mou).

In Japanese, the term “eto”(干支)  refers only to the twelve branches. Also, in Japanese, the way that the words are written is the same as the Chinese way, while the pronunciation is the same as that of Rat, Cow, Tiger and Rabbit, so Japanese people also call 2022 the year of Tiger. Therefore, if you were born in the Year of the Tiger, then you are the Toshi otoko/Toshi onna. Because one of the 12 branches belongs to one year, there is a 12-year cycle, so the age of Toshi otoko/Toshi onna this year must be a multiple of 12, such as 12/24/36/48/60.

However, you are not called the Toshi otoko/Toshi onna in the year of birth.

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There is another type of person who is called a Toshi otoko

In Japan, there is another definition of a Toshi otoko, which is a male head of a family who takes charge of important family affairs at the end of the year. Such a person is also called a Toshi otoko.

For example, in Japan, at the end of the year, there are various festivals and preparations, such as cleaning, decorating for the New Year, collecting water for the gods or for the family to drink on New Year’s Day morning, “Wakamizutori”, and preparing the Osechi cuisine, all of which are carried out by Toshi otoko.

These days, it seems that there are fewer such men, but they are still a part of Japanese culture.

A Toshi onna is simply a woman whose year’s stem is the same as her birth year.

I am a Toshi otoko/Toshi onna this year, is that a good thing?

If your year is exactly a multiple of 12, then you are a Toshi otoko/Toshi onna.

In Japan, Toshi otoko/Toshi onna usually act as performers for important events. For example, it is customary to scatter beans to expel ghosts at the “Setsubun” in March. The person who is responsible for scattering beans at this time is usually the year’s Toshi otoko/Toshi onna. It is also said that the god of the year will take better care of Toshi otoko/Toshi onna, so it is believed that the man and woman will have very good luck in this year.

However, in Japan, there is a saying that “Yakudoshi(the year of bad luck)” exists, so if the year of bad luck happens to the man or woman, then the luck is not known.

What is the so-called “Yakudoshi”? What does it have to do with Toshi otoko/Toshi onna?

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To clarify what is a “Yakudoshi”, we have to start with the Japanese way of calculating age.

Generally speaking, there are two ways to calculate age in Japan. One is called “満年齢(Mannenrei)” and the other is called “數え年(Kazoedoshi)”.

満年齢(Mannenrei) means you are 0 years old on the day of birth, after which a year is added for each birthday.

The “number of years” is taking the day of birth as 1 year old, meaning the first year in the world, after each birthday plus a year.

To put it in a formula, it means “満年齢(Mannenrei)” + 1 = “數え年(Kazoedoshi)”.

In Japan, it is common to use 數え年(Kazoedoshi) to calculate which year is your Yakudoshi. In addition, the year before the Yakudoshi is called the Maeyaku and the year after is called the Atoyaku.

If we use “満年齢(Mannenrei)” as the basis for calculation, the year of Yakudoshi is 24, 41 and 60 for males, and 18, 32 and 36 for females.

The so-called “Yakudoshi” is a year in which it is more likely to encounter disasters, and is generally considered to be a year that requires particular attention. However, there are now some sayings that the “Yakudoshi” is the “year of service”(in Japanese, the two words sound the same), that is, if this year is the year of Yakudoshi, it means that the person also will be in this year to make great achievements.

Through the age, we can see that the 24 and 60 year old men and 36 year old women are exactly in the year of Yakudoshi.

So will the blessings brought by Toshi otoko/Toshi onna overwhelm the disasters brought by Yakudoshi, or will the disasters brought by the Yakudoshi overwhelm the blessings of the Toshi otoko/Toshi onna? There is no exact answer, but if you are careful and diligent, you will never go wrong.

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