National

Kanji of the year, meaning 'disaster,' symbolizes 2018 amid natural and human calamities

Kyodo

The kanji sai (災, disaster) was picked as the Chinese character best describing this year’s social mood in Japan, amid a string of natural and man-made calamities, a Kyoto-based kanji promotion organization announced Wednesday.

Chief Buddhist priest Seihan Mori of the Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto wrote the character 1.5 meters in length and 1.3 meters in width with a giant calligraphy brush on traditional washi paper at the temple’s annual year-end event, where the kanji of the year was revealed.

The selection came after Japan was buffeted this year by torrential rains in the country’s west and an large earthquake in Hokkaido, heightening public awareness of the importance of disaster prevention measures.

Japan was also rocked by man-made calamities such as stolen cryptocurrencies and the uncovering of harassment by coaches in the athletic world.

The selection of the word was based on characters put forward by the general public. Among a total of 193,214 entries received this year, “sai” ranked first with 20,858, according to the Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation.

Last year, “north” was selected, reflecting heightened tensions amid North Korea’s nuclear and missile provocations.