The kanji character most symbolic of this year was “sai” (disaster), according to the Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation in Kyoto.
On Wednesday, Seihan Mori, the head priest of Kiyomizudera temple, wrote the kanji in calligraphy at the UNESCO World Heritage-designated temple in Kyoto.
The kanji testing foundation publicly solicits suggestions for the most suitable kanji character for each year, with 193,214 submissions this year. “Sai” garnered the largest number of submissions with 20,858. This year, a series of natural disasters hit Japan, including an earthquake in northern Osaka Prefecture in June, heavy rain in western Japan in July, Typhoon No. 21 (Jebi) in September and an earthquake the same month in Hokkaido.
The second most popular character was “hei” as in the first character of the Heisei era, followed by “shu” (end), apparently because many voters were thinking of the end of the Heisei era, as a new emperor will be enthroned next year.
It was the second time since 2004 that “sai” was chosen.
“I pray that next year will be free from disaster,” Mori said.