Saturday, June 6, 2015

Population Decline and the Year of the Fire Horse - Hinoeuma

Americans have no shortage of superstitions, but I’m more interested in the new and different (to me) Japanese superstitions.  I was reading the English newspaper in the university library the other day and I came across an article about the population decline in Japan. The article covered the usual things – people getting married later or not getting married at all, the high cost of everything and not being able to afford to have a second or third child, etc. One thing I had never even heard of before as a reason for the population decline was Hinoeuma, the year of the Fire Horse.

You may already know about the twelve years of the Chinese zodiac calendar – this year is the sheep, last year was the horse, the year before the snake, the year before that the dragon, etc. I hadn’t heard about the combination of those animals with the five elements (fire, wood, earth, metal, and water) to make the wood dragon or the metal snake, etc. Each of these occur once every 60 years or five cycles of the twelve signs. Some are considered good, others not so good.  The really bad one in Japan is the Fire Horse or Hinoeuma. People born during this year have the worst bad luck.  Women are especially unlucky.  The article I read said these women make disastrous wives.

This superstition is so powerful that men avoid marrying Fire Horse Women and couples avoid giving birth to children that year. The last Hinoeuma was in 1966.  Birth rates in Japan that year declined by 26%, according to the Japan Statistical Yearbook, or by 15% according to some other sources. Women who were actually born that year will often claim to have been born the previous or the next year.

In 2010, researchers from Osaka University and Japan’s Gender Equality Bureau found that these Fire Horse Women completed less formal education, had household incomes that were less, and were divorced more often than women a few years older or younger.

Do you know anyone born in 1966? What do you think?  Is someone born in the year of the fire horse more unlucky than anyone else?


rosey175 said...

I like superstitions too but I don't hold much stock in them! Does the year of the golden pig hold a lot of sway in Japanese culture? I know 2007/8 was huge for Chinese though I didn't feel like I had a much luckier year haha. :D

KimM said...

Wow. What an interesting post. Never heard of the Fire Horse saga. Guess I'm glad I wasn't born in 1966. ;0)

Lin said...

Fascinating - I had never heard of this. Fortunately I was born some years before 66!

Janie said...

Life is so sweet and beautiful to me, to put a 'curse' on anyone because of their conception, which they had no
control over in the first place, seems cruel and unusual punishment.
Have a great day!

Anna van Schurman said...

My father--and my niece--are Golden Dragons, so I did know about the elements. I am a Fire Horse: I have a PhD, make an upper middle class salary, and have only been married the one time. I think I was able to succeed because no one knew I was supposed to be cursed. There's probably a lot of self-fulfilling prophecy involved. I bet if you extended the study to other developed countries, the results would change dramatically.