Every year around this time, at Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto, one of Japan's most famous Buddhist temples and a World Heritage Site, the "Kanji of the Year" is announced.

Chosen by the Japanese Kanji Proficiency Society through a national ballot, the character is selected to express the year's events.

Last year, it was 令 rei, since the year marked the beginning of the Reiwa 令和 Era.

Today, on December 14th, the announcement for 2020 was made, and the kanji which had the most votes was 密 mitsu:

Around January 2020, the novel coronavirus began spreading around the world, giving rise to a pandemic. Here in Japan, Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike recommended avoiding crowds, avoiding confined and unventilated spaces, and avoiding close contact with others in conversations. These three, known as the "Three Cs" in English, were called the "Three Mitsu" 三密 san-mitsu in Japanese, from the three words 密集 misshū 密室 misshitsu, and 密接 missetsu.

As a result, the kanji 密 mitsu became a popular buzzword and was engraved into the public's consciousness, and the term san-mitsu was selected as 2020's Buzzword of the Year.

Throughout most of the year, many Japanese people have tried to exercise caution in their everyday lives, while heeding the advice to avoid the "Three Mitsu"

On social media, reactions to the news included comments such as:

  • "I knew it! That's the kanji I thought it would be."
  • "Just as expected..."
  • "I thought it would have been the kanji 家 ie (meaning "house" or "home"), since so many people began teleworking this year."

In a sense, it's ironic, since 2020's Kanji of the Year" describes something which everyone has been trying to avoid.

Let's hope that things will soon go back to normal, so we can enjoy some more mitsu in our lives.

By - Ben K.