On Dec. 13, people around Japan waited with bated breath (well, maybe) for the announcement of 今年の漢字 (kotoshi no kanji, kanji of the year) at Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto. Last year’s pick, “密” (mitsu, close/crowded) was, of course, a key component of Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike’s signature phrase: 「密です!」 (“Mitsu desu!”), which extolled the public to avoid the “Three C’s” of closed spaces, crowds and close-contact settings. What would 2021’s choice be?
Maybe it would be “同” (dō/ona, same), as in, 今年は去年と同じように感じる (Kotoshi wa kyonen to onaji yō ni kanjiru, This year feels the same as last year). Or perhaps it would be “株” (kabu, variant), seen frequently in mentions of the デルタ株 (deruta kabu, delta variant) and オミクロン株 (omikuron kabu, omicron variant).