辰年 Year of the Dragon
Tatsudoshi – Year of the Dragon.
2012 is the Year of the Dragon, the character 辰 here is the ‘sign of the Dragon’ as opposed to the kanji for dragon itself, 龍 or 竜. Japanese astrology is based, as with many things, on its Chinese counterpart. In Japan the term eto 干支 is used for Chinese astrology and the cycle of 12 zodiac animal signs for the years (eto is not to be confused with eeto (lengthened vowel ‘e’) frequently used as an interjection in spoken Japanese meaning errr, hmmmm, well…). In the 5 elements cycle of wood-fire-earth-metal-water 2012 is also a water year, so the year of the water dragon.
辰 Sign of the Dragon
Sign of the dragon 辰 is read as tatsu or shin, while Year 年 is toshi or nen. Combined they are read as tatsudoshi, changing the t to d to aid in vocalisation. This is the kunyomi reading, the native Japanese, as opposed to the onyomi reading of shinnen. Onyomi is the Japanese approximation of the Chinese pronunciation of a character at the time of its adoption into the Japanese language. The kanji used in Japan can have one or more of each of these pronunciations in addition to specialised readings when used in names, all adding to confusion and enabling interesting word games or double-meanings – of which Hatsumi sensei is keen.
龍 or 竜 Dragon
Of the two kanji used for dragon the older and more commonly used in relation to budō is 龍. In contemporary Japanese language 竜 is used. Both are read as tatsu or ryū depending on context. The kunyomi reading tatsu links these kanji with the tatsu of 辰.
Hatsumi sōke has said that this year we will be studying the sword (although will this be as ken or katana?). The ken or tsurugi 剣 as the older double-edged straight sword is linked with dragons in various legends and tales. For example, the three items that form the Imperial regalia of Japan include the sword Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi 草薙の剣 ‘mowing-down grass sword’ that was taken from the tail of a dragon by the god Susanoo 須佐之男.