Finding the one kanji that sums up the year

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:

An interesting look into Japanese culture:

Likewise, in 2008, the Association chose 変 (hen), which literally translates as “change.” From the “Change We Can Believe In” promised on Barack Obama’s campaign posters to the global economic changes wrought by the Lehman Shock, 変 seemed to be in the air in 2008.

With so much meaning condensed in so little space, kanji have the power to express an entire year’s spirit in just one character.

With so many candidates, things are bound to get interesting
But every year’s news cycle is bound to nominate a lot of candidates for Kanji of the Year. For most observers, choosing between them is where the fun really begins.

Aroung 2,000 “daily use” kanji designated by the Japanese government for use by mainstream publishers and media outlets and the nearly 1,000 additional characters used in personal names, voters have more than 3,000 kanji to choose from each year. (That number would get even bigger if we included archaic kanji that aren’t used anymore, or kanji used only in Chinese, but those 3,000 alone give the Association plenty to do.)

On top of that, the voting process can be interesting on its own. In 2015, sixteen different kanji, each supported by its own rabid constituency, captured at least one percent of the vote. After 安, the nominees were: 爆 (baku, explosion) 戦 (sen, war) 結 (ketsu, tie) 五 (go, five) 賞 (shō, prize) 偽 (gi, fake) 争 (sō, dispute) 変 (hen, change) 勝 (shō, victory) 命 (mei, life) 和 (wa, harmony) 平 (hei, peace) 闘 (tō, battle) 乱 (ran, chaos) 新 (shin, new).