© Sankei Shimbun Co., Ltd.

Every Year Has A Character: Japan Chooses Its “Kanji of the Year” 2017

For the last 23 years, people in Japan have turned on the evening news on December 12 (Kanji Day) to learn which "kanji of the year" was chosen. A tradition established by the Japanese Kanji Proficiency Society, the kanji character which best represents the events of that year is chosen through a national ballot and announced in a ceremony at the famous Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto.

Source: © Sankei Shimbun Co., Ltd.

2017's Kanji: 北 (kita, north)

The choice of "north" in 2017 is likely due to the following events:

  • In April, leading snack maker Calbee announced it would stop manufacturing potato chips due to a poor potato harvest in Hokkaido. The northernmost prefecture of Japan, Hokkaido (北海道) is written with three kanji characters, the first of which is "north."
  • In July, heavy rains pounded Northern Kyushu, resulting in flooding and mudslides which claimed victims and ravaged homes.
  • North Korea conducted missile tests and nuclear tests which seriously raised the anxiety level of Japanese citizens this year.
  • Two baseball stars from the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters were in the news this year, high school sensation Kotaro Kiyomiya for entering the team and star pitcher-slugger Shohei Ohtani for exiting in order to make his MLB debut with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Most frequent Kanji of the Year

In case you're curious, the most frequently chosen Kanji of the Year is 金 (gold / money), which was unveiled at Kiyomizu-dera Temple a total of three times, once in 2000, once in 2012 and just last year in 2016. As you may have guessed, gold medals won by Japanese athletes at the Olympics were largely responsible.

Will 金 be chosen again in 2020? It's too early to tell, but there is definitely going to be pressure on the host nation to bring home the gold, so it's quite possible!

By - grape Japan editorial staff.