At the end of every year, the Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation announces the selection of a kanji, or Japanese character, that embodies the national mood and sums up the atmosphere and major events of the year known as the Kanji of the Year. 2017's kanji was "North" due mostly to heightened tensions with North Korea (as well as potato shortage in Hokkaido) and "Gold" was selected for 2016 because of Japan's performance at the 2016 Rio Olympics and a shift in interest rates.

After all votes from the general public were tallied, Chief Buddhist priest Seihan Mori unveiled 2018's kanji by writing it on a sheet of paper with a large calligraphy brush. 2018's character is "災" (sai), meaning disaster, calamity, or misfortune.

If you've followed news about Japan this year, the reasoning is apparent. 2018 saw Japan suffer a string of natural disasters and struggles such as strong earthquakes in Osaka and Hokkaido, torrential rainfall and snowfall, typhoons, and a deadly record heatwave. One of the top 10 buzzwords on Japanese social media this year was "disaster grade heatwave".

While many may see Japan as a country susceptible to natural disasters, 2018 was a year where their frequency and devastation were of grave concern as many lost their lives. Hopefully 2019 will be a year that results in a far less somber characterization.

By - Big Neko.