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Play: The Juunishi Story

Students act out this story about the origin of the Juunishi (Chinese/Japanese zodiac). The play can be used by students not only in the classroom but also as a presentation for a school event. There are 15 parts.

Story Outline

Once upon a time, God wrote a letter to all the animals and said, “The first twelve animals to greet me on the morning of New Year’s Day can be king of the animals for one year in turn.” All the animals except the cat read God’s letter. The cat asked the rat what the letter had said, and the rat lied and said that the first twelve animals to greet God on January 2 could be king of the animals.

New Year’s Day arrived. The ox started out at midnight, but the cunning rat climbed on the back of the ox and the ox carried the rat without realising it.

When they arrived at the gate of God’s house, the rat jumped down just in front of the ox and thus became the first to arrive, with the ox second. Then the tiger and rabbit arrived third and fourth. The dragon and the snake were neck and neck but finally the dragon won by its long whiskers, so the dragon was fifth and snake sixth.

Then the horse came seventh, the sheep eighth, the monkey ninth and the rooster tenth. The boar was coming next, but as he rushed forward he hit the gate and fell, and was overtaken by the dog. This made the dog eleventh and the boar twelfth.

After the twelfth animal was settled, the cat rushed into God’s house, and was very angry with the rat for lying about the date. The cat has been chasing the rat ever since!


ナレーター narrator
かみさま God
ねずみ  rat
うし cow
とら tiger
うさぎ rabbit
たつ  dragon
へび  snake
うま  horse
ひつじ  sheep
さる  monkey
とり  rooster
いぬ  dog
いのしし  boar
ねこ cat

Cast Pictures

Cast Pictures (PDF 419KB)

The provided cast pictures can be made into finger puppets or enlarged to make masks or ‘hats’ for use in the performance of the skits.


Script Juunishi (PDF 582KB)


There are instructions provided for making vests, happi and kimono out of plastic bags.

Props Vest and Happi (PDF 98KB) Props Kimono (PDF 104KB)
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