At the end of every year, the Japan Kanji [i.e. Chinese character] Proficiency Certification Society solicits from the public the kanji that best sums up the past year.
A ceremony takes place at Kyoto’s Kiyomizu-dera Temple where the selected kanji is publicly put to parchment by a calligrapher.
The kanji selected this year was the character for “change,” pronounced “hen”. The reasons given for this year’s choice are the economic changes that happened this year with the plummet in the value of stocks and the soaring of the value of the yen, the change in the public’s consciousness regarding contaminants in food (presumably the Chinese milk powder scandal – not such a convincing reason when Japan has had no shortage of similar domestic incidents), and the political reforms that have happened in Japan, as well as in the United States with the election of Barack Obama.
Change was also posited as a theme in relation to the changing fortunes of Japan – for the better - in terms of Nobel prizes awarded and Olympic medals won.
Out of 111,208 proposals from the general public, “hen” (i.e. change) was the winner, making up 6,031 of them. In second place was “kin” (i.e. money), followed by “raku” (i.e. fall/drop), then “shoku” (i.e. food), then “ran” (i.e. confusion/disarray).
The character “hen” displayed above was kindly written by the Tokyo calligrapher Ransui Yakata for JapanVisitor.
Thursday, December 18, 2008