Some of our readers may recall when we introduced the Original Kanji Contest when submissions opened for this year's contest several months ago.

The 創作漢字コンテスト sōsaku kanji kontesuto (Original Kanji Contest), sponsored by Sankei Shimbun newspaper and The Shirakawa Shizuka Institute of East Asian Characters and Culture at Ritsumeikan University, announced the winners for 2020. Here is the kanji which won the grand prize:

If you know kanji, then you'll surely see the resemblance with a common kanji, 座 (On'yomi reading: za) meaning "seat," and immediately understand what happened. Here is 座 and the contest winner side by side, for comparison. To make things as clear as possible, we've circled the part that's relevant:

This new kanji still has the on'yomi za, but the kun'yomi has changed to: はなれてすわる(ソーシャルディスタンス)hanarete suwaru (sōsharu disutansu), meaning "to sit at a distance (social distance)"

Wen you consider that the etymology of the kanji 座 is "two people facing each other inside a house." The genius of this new kanji is that the two people, each represented by the kanji for person 人, are no longer side by side. One of them has moved down beneath the line, which now functions as a partition. Simple, elegant, and very appropriate for 2020. It's not hard to see why this kanji was the winner.

According to the press release, the proud owner of the winning concept, Akinobu Yamaguchi (29) from Yokohama, commented on winning the prize: "Thank you for giving me such a wonderful award. Even now, the novel coronavirus pandemic is still firmly seated within our lives. I came up with this kanji as I sat in a circle with members of my family at home. I hope we will soon be able to return to the kind of life in which (even) four 人 will fit in the 座 kanji (let alone two)."

For more information about the Original Kanji Contest, visit their official website here.

By - Ben K.