As the Year of the Ox trudges into view and the Year of the Rat scampers back to whatever hole it crawled out of, T5 looks Janus-like at the 12 months ahead and behind us:

  • Were you born in a Year of the Ox? So too were Naomi Osaka, Hakuho and actor Masato Sakai — and 10.66 million people in Japan. In a stark illustration of Japan’s shrinking problem, 2.11 million “oxen” were born in 1949 in the “first baby boom” generation, while those born in 2009 number just 1.06 million.
  • In the On:Design column, Mio Yamada looks to the Year of the Ox (or cow, depending on who you ask), with a few design collaborations featuring the auspicious bovine, from eco-friendly Holstein Friesian cow print masks with added good luck. If you enjoy cow puns, this article is for you. If not, best steer clear.
Reuters pictures of the year 2020 | REUTERS
Reuters pictures of the year 2020 | REUTERS
  • In a year marred by delays and cancellations, anime still managed to become more popular than ever in 2020 thanks in part to streaming, writes Roland Kelts. While the stereotype of Japanese studios filled with fax machines and paint-stained, underpaid illustrators is not wholly inaccurate, anime firms were already relying on tech before the pandemic, enabling them to pivot relatively easily when it hit.
  • From looking at the bumper editions of Japan’s magazines released at the end of 2020, you’d never have guessed what a crazy year it’s been, writes Mark Schreiber in Big in Japan. One of the questions tackled: What would have happened if the people snowbound for up to 52 hours on the Kan-Etsu Expressway in mid-December had been driving electric vehicles?
  • And finally, the JT has assembled three sets of photos to illustrate the way things were in 2020, one focusing on the year’s turbulence — shifts in power and politics — and another on the year’s biggest story, which needs no introduction. Last of all are images that showcase the fact that despite the pandemic, some moments of hope managed to shine through.