The story goes that a long time ago, Buddha ordered some animals to come see him on New Year’s Day. It was at that point he told the group that he would nominate 12 animals to be the leaders of all the animals, and that they would take turns each year. This is how the Chinese zodiac came to be.
In Japan, New Year’s greetings cards are important, so knowing which animal to adorn your card with is important.
Nogeyama Zoo in Yokohama is celebrating this aspect of the culture by displaying floral sculptures of the animals of the zodiac at their main entrance. The gates of the zoo will also be specially decorated so that visitors can take pictures to use on the front of their New Year’s cards.
The animal for 2011 is the rabbit. It represents gentleness and, of course, jumping. Thus, greetings will take the form of wishing for a safe leap into 2011.
Also, on Dec. 23, the zoo’s director will take 100 lucky visitors on the rounds to feed the animals, which includes giraffes, condors, tigers and lions. The director, dressed as Santa Claus will offer the creatures a special Christmas snack.
Nogeyama Zoo is open from 9:30 a.m. till 4:30 p.m. (closed Mon. and from Dec. 29-Jan.1) in Nishi Ward, Yokohama. Admission is free. For more information, call (045) 231-1696 or visit www.nogeyama-zoo.org.