Japan’s annual celebration of buzzwords is always a good way to kick off the month of reflection that will follow. For followers of Japan, it’s the year in a nutshell and, yeah, we were there … reporting on the stay-at-home movement, the remote everything (job interviews, after-work drinking, you name it).

And the one to rule them all? That would be “sanmitsu,” known in English as the three nasty Cs: crowds, confined spaces and close-contact situations. Popularized by Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, the face of the capital’s battle against COVID-19, the expression even spurred a surprisingly cathartic video game.

With the exception of the list’s dark horse — yahho Fuwa-chan!!! — you could say almost all of the 10 buzzwords that made it to the final stage are somehow connected to the pandemic (yes, even “Demon Slayer,” whose box-office success many attribute to a lack of blockbuster rivals).

We had a soft spot for “amabie.” You know, that scaly, long-haired, three-legged birdlike creature that been popping up everywhere? Alex Martin dived deeper into the folklore critter that’s even been adopted as a mascot for the health ministry’s public safety campaign. Said one expert: “What’s fascinating is how the image of amabie as a monster capable of repelling plagues was largely created by the media — there are no direct references to the creature having such powers in the original source material.”

The annual list also invariably includes a few head-scratchers. Maybe you read about “jishiku keisatsu” — the self-appointed vigilantes of the state of emergency — but did you know about the social ill of “kagopaku.” Basically, due to the new ban of free plastic bags, some customers are waltzing out of supermarkets with their plastic grocery baskets and then taking them home. What they’re actually using them for is an unexplored mystery.