Frederik L. Schodt | フレデリック・L・ショット



Fred's New Year's Cards

Since 1980, I've been drawing nengajo (Japanese New Year's cards, or 年賀状, and sending them to friends. It's traditional to create them based on the animals of the Chinese zodiac, but I also draw them as little cartoons. I rarely get my cards done on time (they're supposed to be received on New Year's day), but I've drawn them over thirty years, so it's now a personal tradition that I enjoy continuing. You can see from the images how the technology has changed. When I first started doing this color cards were expensive, so everything was printed in black and white. Later, I started hand-coloring the cards. Now, I draw the cards by hand and color them on the computer. Also, in the beginning of the World Wide Web, small files were important, so I deliberately used low-resolution images. I have gone back and re-scanned many of the images for clarity, but I probably should do it again, since we all have much better monitors and more bandwidth today.

The zodiac is based on a twelve year cycle, and each year is assigned a specific animal with various good and bad qualities. I was born in the year of the tiger, which has nothing but good qualities, of course! What year were you born in? Knowing that it's a twelve year cycle, with a little math you should be able to figure out your sign from the following list...

1980 MONKEY, 1981 ROOSTER, 1982 DOG, 1983 BOAR, 1984 RAT, 1985 OX, 1986 TIGER, 1987 RABBIT, 1988 DRAGON, 1989 SERPENT, 1990 HORSE, 1991 SHEEP ,1992 MONKEY, 1993 ROOSTER, 1994 DOG, 1995 BOAR, 1996 RAT, 1997 OX, 1998 TIGER, 1999 RABBIT, 2000 DRAGON, 2001 SERPENT, 2002 HORSE, 2003 SHEEP (Slightly delayed!), 2004 MONKEY, 2005 ROOSTER, 2006 DOG, 2007 BOAR, 2008 RAT, 2009 OX, 2010 TIGER, 2011 RABBIT, 2012 DRAGON, 2013 SNAKE, 2014 HORSE, 2015 SHEEP, 2016 MONKEY, 2017 ROOSTER.

A warning to those born in early January. If you are in the Japanese orbit of things, you may have been told you are one sign, only to find out from Chinese people that you are another sign. This is because Japan no longer uses the old lunar calendar, but China does (at least for the zodiac). For example, I have always considered myself a Tiger, but in China I am an Ox. Two signs for the price of one!

Also, when I am late in drawing my cards, as is often the case, they become lunar New Year cards, because the Lunar New Year comes a bit later than that on the Western calendar.

Have fun looking at my cards...

For more information on the Chinese zodiac, click HERE and you'll find the extraordinarily detailed Wikipedia page dedicated to it.