Well, happy new year, akemashite omedeto, welcome to the year of the Rooster. If you turn 12, 24, or 144 this year you are officially a rooster.
Which means that you "are a bit eccentric and often have rather difficult relationships with others." Which pretty much describes all the 12 year olds I know. But since these things can't be all negative you are also a "deep thinker, capable and talented." The web site I got these from doesn't specify the talents. Bronco busters? Amateur magicians?
I myself am a ram (sheep if you wanna be rude about it). People born in the year of the... ram, are, ahem "elegant and highly accomplished in the arts", and in addition "Ram people never have to worry about having the best in life for their abilities make money for them, and they are able to enjoy the creature comforts that they like." Hey, I just copied it off the web site. I'm afraid any of you thinking of having kids missed your chance in 2003 and will just have to wait til 2015. Every last kid born this year is growing up to be an antisocial goth who draws unbelievably detailed fantasy art.
Although all the barnyard imagery is all, like, cool and Asian, I haven't met a Japanese person yet who actually knows this animistic personality stuff. The Western Zodiac never really caught on here either; I suppose all the moons, cusps, scales and scorpions were a bit confusing. No, the official method of determining people's personality before you know them is... blood type.
This is something you catch onto fast as a newcomer to Japan, because the first question after name and birthplace is invariably "what's your bloodtype?". None of my Japanese textbooks included this in the greetings section. I didn't know the answer for a while, but dug out my American Red Cross blood donor card to find I am AB positive. Forget universal receiver, this is the blood type of geniuses baby.
I'm not exactly sure how the whole blood type theory got started, but I have to say that from sheer exposure to this I have started to give it a little credence. The basic outline is: "A's are neat freaks and sticklers for the rules, B's are relaxed, artistic types who will passionately work on one thing while forgetting to wash their socks, AB's are brooding geniuses who go their own way but always finish what they start, and O's are natural born leaders, who always keep the broad picture in mind. There is an ocean of pseudo-scientific evidence to support this. For example, it's common knowledge in Japan that the majority of Japanese are type A (the neat-freak rule-sticklers) and that the majority of Americans are type O (the American empire, it's in the blood man).
I once saw this amazing special on television that tested the blood type theory with a battery of pseudo-science. My favorite test was when the show divided a series of 1st graders into blood type groups and gave them an assignment: carry a bouquet of flowers to a teacher through a downtown shopping area. They placed three distractions along the way: free cotton candy, a busker with a dog doing tricks, and a guy in an anime character suit giving away free balloons. One by one the kids were launched onto the course, with reactions corresponding exactly to blood types. All the A's wavered indecisively before each distraction but pressed on. None of the B's ever reached the goal, most wandering off the course. The O's tried to get the best of both worlds, enjoying the free stuff but reaching the goal, albeit a little late. My fellow AB's kicked ass, not even glancing at the distractions, all heading straight to the goal.
Although lately I've been going through a rough patch, earlier this year I was predicting blood types at about 75% accuracy. Basically whether I believe in it or not is moot; this is the greatest small talk topic ever. No wonder the weather has been so freaky lately, it's just trying to get popular again.