- The twelve Chinese 'branches'. The twelve signs of the zodiac, the symbolism and motifs of which are widely used in Japan in connection with calendar customs, almanacs and religious items such as ema. The branches are used for years (e.g. 'the year of the snake'), for horary (hour) signs (e.g. 'the hour of the hare') and in conjunction with the 'ten stems' (jikkan) in the counting system of eto or kanshi (stems and branches) or with the five elements (go-gyo; wood, fire, water, earth, metal) to make a cycle of sixty. Each of the twelve divisions is named after a creature, as follows: 1.rat (ne), 2.ox (ushi), 3.tiger (tora), 4.rabbit or hare (u), 5.dragon (tatsu), 6.snake (mi), 7.horse (uma), 8.sheep (hitsuji), 9.monkey (saru), 10.cock (tori), 11 .dog (inu), 12.wild boar (i).
A Popular Dictionary of Shinto. Brian Bocking.