Ink, canvas and five elegant brush strokes. On Dec. 12, Japan tuned in to watch Chief Abbot Seihan Mori's practiced hand compose a single kanji, the artistic flourishes an essential component of his ぶっつけ本番 (buttsuke-honban, unrehearsed performance).

That kanji — 令 (rei, order; splendid) — has secured itself a year's worth of celebrity status as 2019's kanji of the year. It stands as the latest installment on a growing list of kanji that have been anointed annually since 1995, when the whole idea was first established by the Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation.

Mori, who resides at Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto, has been entrusted with the kanji's 揮毫 (kigō, commissioned calligraphy) every year. The pensive performance takes place on Kanji Day, the date of which was determined by a play on readings of the kanji 一二一二 (ichi ni, ichi ni, literally "one two, one two") read liberally as ii ji, ichi ji, or "good kanji, one kanji."