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Senseis’ Voices

WHAT’S HAPPENING IN JAPAN?

2018年 今年の漢字

We wrap up 2018 with the Kanji of the Year and why it was chosen.

The 2018 Kanji of the Year is 災, which is read as わざわ(い) in kun yomi (Japanese reading) and さい in on yomi (Chinese reading). The components of this character represent people unable to move or escape anywhere because they are blocked by a furious fire.

Kiyomizu temple, where the Kanji of the Year is announced.

The Kanji of the Year is chosen by popular vote. 193,214 votes were collected this year (including online votes by some J-Teacher readers!). At the announcement ceremony, some reasons given by voters for the choice of 災 were revealed. Reasons included an abundance of man-made ‘disasters’ or calamities such as problems relating to online currencies and social security. Another voter mentioned the increase in natural disasters experienced this year both in Japan and overseas. The Chief Buddhist priest Mori agreed, commenting that the kanji represents 2018 well by reflecting upon a number of man-made and natural disasters all over the world.

While the kanji 災 contains negative impressions, there is an old saying that ‘good comes out of evil’. One voter conveyed his feeling that “through the disasters, communities have come closer together to both prevent disasters and to support each other in the event of a disaster”.  Let’s hold on to that positive attitude!

Chief Buddhist priest Mori, who unveiled the kanji in a calligraphy display during the ceremony, says that the monks of Kiyomizu temple pray for peace and a peaceful life for all in 2019.

For your information, the second most popular kanji for 2018 is 平 meaning ‘peace’ (as in the word 平和), and the third most popular choice is 終 which means ‘the end’.

Which 漢字 (かんじ; kanji) represents 2018 in your 感じ (かんじ; feelings)?

The Kanji of the Year was started by The Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation (日本漢字能力検定協会) in 1995. Every year, the Kanji of the Year is announced by the Chief Buddhist priest through a calligraphy performance on 12 December at Kyoto’s Kiyomizu Temple. They also broadcast the announcement live through the internet.

Overseas votes are accepted, so why don’t you vote in 2019?

Contributed by Michie Akahane
JPF Sydney

December 2018

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