The Chinese calendar -which existed there already since around 2000 BC- was adopted by Japan from around the 6th century AD, together with Buddhism. The Zodiac has an influence on the character of mankind. Each of the 12 ‘animals’ has specific characteristics. Persons born in the year of the Dragon (tatsu or ryu) are healthy, energetic, excitable, but also short-tempered and stubborn. However, they are honest, sensitive, brave and can inspire trust in most anyone. They are the most peculiar of the 12 signs of the Zodiac cycle.
During the last century, years of the Dragon were in 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988 and 2000. In each 60 year cycle, the 12 zodiac animals are repeated 5 times, representing 5 elements Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water.
Of course it is not that simple; 60 is merely the most common denominator of 10 x 12, the ten being the 5 elements but in order to make it ten, the Japanese have adopted a big (elder) brother and small (younger) brother of each of the five stated elements. In all eastern languages, big brother and younger brother is one noun each, and not formed by a noun (brother) plus an adjective (younger or bigger [elder]) like in western languages. Actually, the year of the Dragon starts on January 23, 2012 and lasts till February 9, 2013.
As the 5th animal in the Eastern zodiac, the Dragon indicates the hours between 7 am and 9 am.
Best wishes to all for a splendid Year of the Dragon, 2012!