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Japan's Kanji of the Year for 2022: Video Introduction

This video, titled "The Announcement for the Kanji of the Year for 2022 at Kiyomizudera Temple, Kyoto, Japan (December 12, 2022)" (京都・清水寺で2022年「今年の漢字」発表(2022年12月12日 京都市東山区)), was uploaded by "Kyoto Shimbun" (京都新聞). Every year around December 12, Japan's Kanji of the Year is announced. When the announcement is made each year at Kiyomizudera, a famous temple in Kyoto, it attracts a large crowds and media outlets from all across Japan and is broadcast live on the news, making it a well-known event.
The powerful kanji written on Japanese paper and placed on a special stand on the stage of Kiyomizudera is both powerful and elegant.
The time has come for the announcement of Kanji of the Year for 2022. For many people in Japan, it's a year-end tradition to watch the announcement. It's become a symbol of the year's end. So, without further ado, let's take a look at 2022's Kanji of the Year.

The Kanji 戦 (Ikusa, 'War') and Why It Was Chosen

Image of the kanji for 'war'
Photo:The kanji for 'war'

The Kanji of the Year for 2022 was announced on December 12, 2022. The Kanji 戦 (Ikusa), meaning "fight" or "battle," received 10,804 of the total 220,000 votes that were cast. The following is the list of kanji that came in places 2 through 10:
2. 安 (An, Stable/Calm); 3. 楽 (Raku, Comfortable/Peaceful); 4. 高 (Taka, High/Expensive); 5. 争 (Arasou, Conflict); 6. 命 (Inochi, Life); 7. 悲 (Hi, Grieve/Sadness); 8. 新 (Shin, New); 9. 変 (Hen, Change), 10. 和 (Wa, Peace/Harmony).

This is the second time that 'War' has been chosen, as it was also chosen in 2001. What events in the year 2022 come to mind when you see this kanji? Themes that may come up when you hear the words "fight" or "battle" might be Japan's strong battle in the World Cup... However, that's not the reason why the kanji was chosen.

According to the Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation, the organizer of the event, the reason for 'War' being chosen is that the world was stunned while witnessing the horrors of the war caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and also because of the battle fought by people in their daily lives while trying to survive with a weakening yen and rising costs of living, as well as heated sports competitions.

Where Japan's Kanji of the Year Was Announced and Why

Image of autumn at Kiyomizudera
Photo:Autumn at Kiyomizudera

Japan's Kanji of the Year is usually announced around December 12 every year. Now you might be wondering, "What's the significance of December 12?" Well, there's actually a good reason for this.

December 12 is recognized as "Kanji Day" in Japan, and it's hoped that people will learn at least one kanji every year.

Since the headquarters of the organizer, the Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation, is located in Kyoto, the world-renowned temple Kiyomizudera is the setting for the presentation. Hopefully this helped you understand the significance of the date and location of this Japanese year-end tradition.

When the 'Kanji of the Year' Tradition Began in Japan, Who Writes Them, and More!

It's no exaggeration to say that the announcement of the Kanji of the Year is a year-end tradition, but, when did this tradition start exactly?

The first Kanji of the Year was announced in 1995, 27 years ago. The Kanji of the Year is a one-character description of the year. The person in charge of writing the kanji is Seihan Mori, the chief abbot of Kiyomizudera Temple, who is also the chief priest in charge of the temple.

The ceremony has been conducted by Seihan Mori since 1995, when it was first announced.

The kanji is written by chief abbot Mori on the famous stage of Kiyomizudera.
[Video] 0:00 - The Kanji of the Year Being Written

Kanji of the Year From Previous Years

Here is a list of Kanji of the Year from previous years.

1995 - 震 (Shin, Quake/Tremble)
The year 1995 was marked by a series of astonishing events. This kanji was chosen as a year of "trembling" due to natural disasters, such as the Great Hanshin Earthquake, and the Tokyo Subway Sarin Attack, as well as political turmoil.

1999 - 末 (Sue, End)
In this year, which marked the end of the century, events that seemed like the "end of the world" occurred frequently. The Tokaimura Nuclear Accidents, police scandals, the collapse of the myth of bullet train safety, restructuring due to economic downturn, and many other seemingly "end-of-the-century events" occurred in this year. However, the character "End" was chosen in the hope that the following year will be a year of "Sue-Hirogari" (末広がり, Prosperity).

2005 - 愛 (Ai, Love)
Despite the marriage and love (愛) of Princess Nori, the success of Expo 2005 Aichi (愛知), and the success of women named "Ai" (愛), the year was also marked by a number of incidents without love. While in Japan, people were taught the importance of both loving things close to them, and loving things on a global scale, 愛 (Ai, Love) was chosen because there were many incidents involving children and juvenile crimes where there was not enough "love."

Image of the Japanese era Reiwa
Photo:The Japanese era Reiwa

2019 - 令 (Rei, Order/Decree)
In this year when a new emperor acceded to the throne and a new era began, it can be said that the Kanji of the Year expressed people's joy at the dawn of a new era as well as their hope for brighter days. The character 令 (Rei, Order/Decree) was also chosen due to events related to order, such as the revision of laws and regulations and compliance with laws and regulations among other things.

2021 - 金 (Kin, Gold)
Up until this point, the character for "gold" had been selected three times. Its selection in 2021 marked the 4th time it was selected, making it the most selected since the tradition began. Amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics were held a year late, with many Japanese athletes winning gold medals. They provided courage and inspiration not only to the people of Japan but also to people around the world. It was also selected because of milestones reached in various fields and money-related topics, such as the announcement of a new banknote.
Despite the fact that the Kanji of the Year is in the news every year, many people don't know they can actually participate in the tradition.

How Are Japan's Kanji of the Year Chosen?

This year's Kanji of the Year will be chosen by the general public from all over Japan. Submitted kanji will be used as candidates, and the kanji with the most submissions will be selected and announced at Kiyomizudera around December 12.
The application process is very simple: access the website of the Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation and cast your voter using the Kanji of the Year Application Form. Postcard submissions are also accepted, so you can submit your entry through the application boxes located in bookstores and libraries throughout Japan, at Kiyomizudera, and the Japan Kanji Museum & Library in Kyoto.

The submission period is usually from November 1 to around December 5. You can submit any kanji you like. If you're interested in participating in 2023, give it a shot!

Summary of Japan's Kanji of the Year for 2022

Image of the Kanji Museum
Photo:The Kanji Museum

After seeing the Kanji of the Year being announced in the video, are you sad or excited that the year is over?

The Kanji of the Year is announced on or around December 12 every year. If you decide to participate your kanji might even be chosen!
Now that it has become a year-end tradition in Japan, the Kanji of the Year is an event loved by many people. For many people it's fun trying to guess what the kanji will be for that year!

The Kanji of the Year will be exhibited at Kiyomizudera and from late December at the Kanji Museum in Gion, Kyoto.
While it's wonderful to visit the photogenic spots in Kyoto during winter, consider stopping to take a photo of the Kanji of the Year for 2022 and sharing it on social media as a year-end greeting!

Written By
Last Updated : Dec. 13, 2022
平敷 篤(Atsushi Heishiki)
My name is Atsushi Heishiki, a writer who loves Japanese culture and lives in Okinawa.
'War' - Japan's 2022 Kanji of the Year! Why the Kanji Was Chosen and Kanji From Previous Years
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