Monks at Kyoto’s Kiyomizu Temple this week announced the Japanese public’s choice for the kanji character that best represents the year 2022. In a narrow vote, the winning character was sen or ikusa, meaning battle — or war.

It’s an appropriate choice not just because of the conflict in Ukraine, the threat of a missile barrage from North Korea and the other stories that have defined the year: it comes just as the country is starting to take seriously the idea of fighting for itself. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has ordered a doubling of the defense budget to 2% of the country’s gross domestic product in the next five years, an outlay of some ¥43 trillion ($312 billion) that would lift the ostensibly pacifist nation into the ranks of the world’s biggest defense spenders.

Another reason the selection of the kanji (one of the 2,000 or so Chinese characters commonly used in Japanese writing) works is because of the fight currently taking place over how to pay for it. Kishida doesn’t want to raise deficits further to pay for it and has suggested future increases in corporate and other taxes as funding sources instead. That led to an unusual public rebuke from two of his Cabinet ministers, emboldened by the prime minister’s low public popularity, who reject the idea of crimping the economy by boosting taxes.