This week’s featured article


The character “rei” (令) — as used in the era name of Reiwa, which has been translated to mean “beautiful harmony” — was chosen as kanji of the year, the Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation announced Dec. 12.

The character garnered 30,427 votes, the largest share out of the 216,325 cast in a poll that covered 1,600 locations nationwide, the foundation said.

Rei, on its own, means “order,” “command” or “auspicious.” But this year’s choice was derived from the name of the new era that began after Emperor Naruhito ascended to the throne on May 1. The era name was based on the “Manyoshu,” the oldest known anthology of poetry in Japanese.

In the poll, voters select a kanji character that they believe best represents the breadth of all that transpired in the country over the past 12 months.

Revealing the choice on Thursday, Seihan Mori, chief priest of Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto, used a massive brush to write the kanji in traditional Japanese calligraphic style on a large piece of washi paper 1.5 meters in length and 1.3 meters in width.

The foundation began naming the kanji of the year in 1995. The first kanji chosen was “shin” (震), meaning “quake” or “shiver,” and it reflected the fear people felt during that year following the Great Hanshin Earthquake and the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system by a religious cult. Last year, the kanji “sai” (災), meaning “disaster,” was chosen after a string of calamities devastated large parts of the country. Torrential rains hammered western Japan, there was a large earthquake in Hokkaido and increasingly severe typhoons made for a difficult year but inspired heightened public awareness and better disaster prevention measures.

In 2018, “kita” (北), meaning “north” was chosen in reference to North Korea’s repeated missile tests.

First published in The Japan Times on Dec. 12.

Warm up

One minute chat about kanji.


Collect words related to the end of the year,

e.g: cleaning, returning home, new year.

New words

1) garner: gather or collect approval or information, e.g. “He garnered the support of his colleagues in the union election.”

2) auspicious: a sign of good fortune, e.g. “She was born in an auspicious year, the Year of the Dragon.”

3) anthology: a literary collection, e.g. “The anthology will take a long time to read.”

Guess the headline

Rei,’ the first c_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ of new era name ‘Reiwa,’ is picked as k_ _ _ _ of the y_ _ _


1) How is the kanji of the year chosen?

2) What was the first-ever kanji of the year?

3) Where is the kanji announced to the public for the first time?

Let’s discuss the article

1) How was the year 2019 for you?

2) If you could choose a kanji of the year, what would you pick?

3) What are you looking forward to in 2020?

4) Have you thought of a new year’s resolution yet? What is it?






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