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税 (Zei) – 2014 Kanji of the Year

Every year since 1995, the Japanese Kanji Proficiency Society (財団法人日本漢字能力検定協会, Zaidanhōjin Nihon Kanji Nōryoku Kentei Kyōkai), chooses a Kanji of the Year (今年の漢字, Kotoshi no Kanji). The selection is done through national ballot. The character with the most votes, usually related to events happened that year, is announced in a ceremony on December 12 (漢字の日, Kanji no Hi or Kanji Day) at the Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto.

kanji of the yearThe Kanji of the Year

Last year, 2014, the winning kanji is 税 (zei) which means “tax”. The 2014 Kanji of the Year took a total of 8,679 votes or 5.18% of the total 167,613 votes. The main reason for its selection is clear: starting April 1, 2014, the government raised Japan’s consumption tax for the first time in 17 years, bringing it to 8% from the previous 5%. The tax increase was meant to bolster funding for the country’s future social security needs but before its implementation, it brought about drastic swings in the economy as a whole. This is because consumers front-loaded major appliances, vehicles, and home purchases and limited their spending after the increase went into effect.

Other Nominees

In second place for the 2014 Kanji of the Year was 熱 (netsu, atsui) meaning “hot/fever” with 6,007 votes. Most possible reasons for its selection include the steamy weather in Japan last summer, as well as dengue fever and Ebola hemorrhagic fever, both of which use the character for the “fever” part of their names: デング熱 (dengu netsu) for dengue andエボラ出血熱 (ebora shukketsu netsu) for the latter. The third-place character was 嘘 (uso) meaning “lie”, chosen for its connection to news stories like politician Nonomura Ryūtarō’s explanations for his repeated travel to hot-spring resorts using public money, scientist Obokata Haruko’s papers on STAP cells, and the revelation that the deaf composer Samuragōchi Mamoru had relied on another composer (a ghostwriter) to craft his popular tunes and may not even be deaf.

The announcement of the Kanji of the Year is every December 12 of the year. Why that day? As with many promotional events in Japan, the reason comes down to goroawase, a numerical wordplay using readings of numbers. In this case, December 12 or 1212, can be pronounced as “ii ji ichi ji” (良い字一字) which can be translated as “one good character”.

Since 1995, here are the winning kanji:

Year Kanji
1995 「震 shin
(quake)
1996 「食 shoku
(food, eat)
1997 「倒
(collapse, knock down)
1998 「毒 doku
(poison)
1999 「末 sue
(end)
2000 「金 kin
(gold)
2001 「戦 sen
(war)
2002 「帰 ki
(return)
2003 「虎 tora
(tiger)
2004 「災 sai
(disaster)
2005 「愛 ai
(love)
2006 「命 inochi
(life)
2007 「偽 nise
(deception)
2008 「変 hen
(change)
2009 「新 shin
(new)
2010 「暑 sho
(hot)
2011 「絆 kizuna
(bonds)
2012 kin
(gold)
2013 rin
(wheel)

What are your thoughts about this year’s Kanji of the Year? Share it with us in the comments section below!

References:

1. Kanji of the year. Wikipedia.

2. The 2014 Kanji of the Year: “Zei” (Tax). Nippon.com.

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