The Japanese Kanji of the Year

The Japanese public has spoken and has chosen the kanji for ‘disaster’ (災 pronounced as sai or wazawai) as the character that best summarises 2018. Western politics aside, it seems like the Japanese people unanimously agreed that 2018… has been a train-wreck for all. About 20,000 out of the 190,000 people who were polled instructed the master of the ancient temple in Kyoto, Seihan Mori to powerfully scribe sai in dark ink on traditional white washi paper, and many wondered why. But after a careful evaluation of the year, it strangely made sense.

(Image from The Telegraph)

Earlier this year in July, 200 people died from floods, while many lost homes and were forced to evacuate. On the other side of the country, it was the peak of summer, where 65 people died from the heatwave and over 20,000 people were hospitalized. If you thought that was enough to call 2018 the year of disaster, then you were wrong. Japan was also hit by an enormous earthquake that shook the core of Sapporo, resulting in landslides and giant potholes, and hosted the strongest typhoon in 25 years at Kyoto and Osaka. Following this disastrous front, a massive rift in the Japanese economy came as result, gradually shrinking Japan’s GDP over the last three months by 1.2 percent.

(Image from The Guardian)

(Image from The Guardian)

On top of that, the Japanese Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation recognized many other man-made disasters such as rising instances of power harassment in the sporting and working culture– particularly in the world of wrestling and over sexism in medical institutions.

(Image from CNBC)

So yeah, it kind of makes sense that this year’s kanji of the year was “disaster”, and we can only hope that this year’s runner-up kanji can potentially be what 2019 will be for everyone: ‘平’ (hei) meaning, peace.

(Sources: Livedoor, Telegraph)

Elise Meng