Every December, the "kanji of the year" that represents the events and popular sentiments over the past 12 months is announced. In 2018, the character "sai" (meaning "disaster") was chosen because Japan was hit by a series of serious natural disasters that resulted in extensive damage — from the big earthquakes in Hokkaido, northern Osaka and western Shimane prefectures, to the torrential rains that hit western Japan and the devastating typhoons.

Big disasters were the top events that characterized Japan last year, but other important events also took place. When a reporter asked Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga what he would choose as his kanji of the year, Suga reportedly picked up the character "sei" — which means "accomplishing something."

Indeed, last year witnessed the enactment of several pieces of legislation in the Diet that had previously been deemed difficult — including a law lifting the ban on integrated resorts featuring casinos, the first amendment to the Labor Standards Law in 70 years, a revision to the immigration control law that opens the door wider to foreign workers and an amendment to the water supply law. The government managed to steer through the tight Diet schedule to get the legislation approved despite stiff opposition in the legislature.