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New Year’s Special Feature: The Japan Self-Defense Force’s Horses

New Year’s Special Feature: The Japan Self-Defense Force’s Horses

2014 is the Year of the Horse according to the Chinese zodiac and with that in mind this New Year’s special feature will introduce a horse-related topic from the Japan Self-Defense Force.

*Japan introduced the 10 calendar signs and 12 zodiac signs from China long time ago. This combination is referred to as the Oriental Zodiac and every year that particular year’s animal symbol becomes a hot topic. This zodiac can be traced back to the time of the Yin dynasty in China. During the Yin Dynasty the 10 calendar signs and 12 zodiac signs were combined into 60 patterns to express the day, month, year, and direction, while the 12 zodiac signs were also used to tell time. Later, animals were assigned to the 12 zodiac signs. The 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac are arranged according to the following order: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. Up until the Edo period the Chinese zodiac was often used to express the time or direction, but today it is mainly used to show the year.

In fact, there are actually horses at Camp Asaka in Saitama Prefecture that belong to the SDF Physical Training School. The same school has produced a number of Olympic athletes and medalists. Horses are stabled here because of the equestrian component in the modern pentathlon. The modern pentathlon is an official Olympic sport that comprises five events: fencing, swimming, show jumping and a final combined event of pistol shooting and cross-country run. Some of Japan’s most prominent modern pentathlon athletes train at the SDF Physical Training School. Currently there are 16 pentathlon athletes (including three female athletes) working out here with the hopes of making it to the Olympics.




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