Some people in Japan are lamenting the fact that another kanji from the top 20 list wasn’t chosen instead.

Ever since 1995, the Japanese Kanji Proficiency Society has conducted annual nationwide polls to pick the kanji, or Japanese character, that best sums up the mood and events of each year.

This afternoon, the Kanji of the Year for 2018 was announced, with the unveiling conducted at Kyoto’s Kiyomizudera temple. As has become customary each year, head monk Seihan Mori drew the kanji on a large piece of traditional washi paper with ink and a giant calligraphy brush, as TV stations broadcast the event live on air.

▼ The Kanji of the Year for 2018 is , which is read as “sai“, or “disaster“.

As this year’s winning kanji suggests, 2018 was not a great year for Japan, with a string of typhoons, strong earthquakes, heavy rainfall, and an intense heat wave claiming hundreds of lives over the past 12 months. The Japanese Kanji Proficiency Society says that along with natural disasters, a number of man-made disasters made headlines this year as well, with scandals surrounding power harassment in the sports world, stolen cryptocurrency, and altered land sale documents by the Finance Ministry.

Last year, the kanji for “north” was selected as the winning character, following a year filled with concern for North Korea’s missile tests, a poor harvest of potatoes on the northern island of Hokkaido, and heavy rain in northern Kyushu.

With two years of strife highlighted in the kanji selected for the past two years, some online commenters expressed disappointment that a more positive kanji wan’t selected to help end the year on a more hopeful note.

According to the Japanese Kanji Proficiency Society, however, the kanji for “disaster” was the most popular kanji chosen by the public, receiving 20,815 votes, or 10.8% of the total 193,214 submissions sent in by postcard and online.

▼ The other kanji characters that made the top 20 can be seen in this image below.

The top 20 list gives a broader view of the general mood around Japan for the past 12 months, showing that this year’s destructive forces were still on the minds of many, as a number of other characters like rain, wind, big, typhoon, earthquake, extreme, and heat, also made the list.

1. 災 (disaster) 2. 平 (peace/the first kanji in the word “heisei”) 3. 終 (end) 4. 風 (wind) 5. 変 (change/transition) 6. 暑 (heat) 7. 大 (big) 8. 最 (extreme) 9. 新 (new) 10. 金 (gold) 11. 成 (complete/the second kanji in the word “heisei”) 12. 米 (rice/America) 13. 震 (earthquake) 14. 退 (renounce) 15. 天 (heaven/first kanji in the word for “emperor”) 16. 水 (water) 17. 雨 (rain) 18. 台 (typhoon) 19. 力 (power) 20. 楽 (comfort)

Many online commenters were surprised that a kanji relating to the word “Heisei” didn’t take the top spot, due to the fact that this year marks the end of the current Heisei era, as the Japanese Emperor will be abdicating the throne on 30 April 2019 after a thirty-year reign.

The kanji for “peace“, the first character in the word “Heisei“, which translates to “Peace Everywhere”, actually came in second on this year’s list, with 16,117 votes, or 8.34 percent of the total. A number of other characters, including “renounce“, “end” and “transition” (in fourteenth, third and fifth place respectively) show that along with this year’s disasters, the end of an era was also at the forefront of people’s minds.

Next year marks the first time for a new emperor to reign in Japan since the Kanji of the Year poll began, leading many to believe that a character related to the Chrysanthemum Throne will take the top spot in 2019. Regardless of what the future zeitgeist holds, however, everyone can agree it’ll be a good thing if a word like “disaster” doesn’t appear again.

Source: Net Lab
Featured image: Instagram/chieri0418
Insert images: Wikimedia Commons/William Ng