Under the heading "better late than never", the 2013 Kanji of the Year - chosen back on December 12, also known as 'Kanji Day' - is the word 輪 - rin, which means 'ring' in English.
It was apparently chosen because of the success of Tokyo et al being chosen as hosts of the 2020 Olympics... you know... because the Olympic flag has five rings... each ring a different color... and I believe each flag in the world uses at least one of those colors.
Receiving a total of 9,518 votes, 輪 was also chosen because it represents the "circle of support" for the recovery of areas impacted by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The 2012 kanji chosen was also Olympic-related -金 (kin), gold - owing to Japan's respectable showing at the London 2012 Olympics with seven gold medals - a new high. Pretty weenie selection of kanji, in my opinion. The athletes get full credit for their efforts, but it was only seven gold medals, and it pales when compared to China's 38 or even South Korea's 13 - two of Japan's main Asian rivals in damn near everything.
Coming in second in 2013 for Kanji of the Year was 楽 (raku), with 8,562 votes... because the Tōhoku Rakuten Golden Eagles were the baseball champs. Raku means "ease"... which makes me wonder two things... WTF is up with the baseball team name? And... what is up with the voters for the Kanji of the Year? Hell... if the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants fans got together and voted for "Giants", they could easily have won, as the Giants are to Japanese baseball what the New York Yankees are to North American baseball, or what the Dallas Cowboys are to American Football or what Barcelona is to soccer.
To be fair, the word "raku" is also in reference to people hoping beyond hope that Japanese Prime Minister (just call me King) Abe will help make the life of the Japanese people easier economically with hope that Abenomics will ease their financial burden. Sure it will... especially if you like war.
In third place, we have 倍 (bai), which is taken from the expression 倍返し (baigaeshi), which means, in English, "Pay them back double!”. Hopefully that's not about yakuza loan sharks calling for repayment. Actually, it's supposed to be a catchphrase from a popular Japanese TV drama. Really Japan? WTF?!
So far we have television, politics and sports dominating people's choices for Kanji of the Year.
What was #4?
Number 4 was 東 (higashi), which means East... which is because Japan's eastern capital of Tokyo got the Olympics and because the Golden Eagles are from the Eastern part of Japan.
Oh... my... Godo.
Number 5... please let it be something with some thought.
The fifth biggest vote getter was 風 (kaze), which translates to "wind". Surely wind is a reference to politics?!
Well... Japan did get a lot of typhoons and tornadoes... but no sharknados for some reason... but definitely more of those nasty weather patterns than usual. Okay... I can see this as being an interesting word... but it's hardly Japan-specific, is it? Other countries also got the typhoons...
But... kaze is also to do with people hoping Abenomics will blow away Japan's economic troubles. Wow... these voters are reaching with this one.
Isn't the word supposed to have been representative of what has occurred in 2013? Abenomics has hardly changed the economic winds in 2013. You and I doing nothing could have changed the economic winds. Abenomics might still work in 2014... but it's hardly something that truly describes Japan in 2013.
These voters must not realize that the Kool-Aid being served by Abe is spiked with something.
Look... the 2013 Kanji of the Year,輪 - rin, is a decent choice.
I might have chosen "island" - shima - 島. Because of all of the troubles involving the southern islands and China, Taiwan and South Korea, as well as the northern islands and Russia. And Fukushima... I know it's not an island, but it is part of the kanji for the still troubled area that was devastated by the nuclear issues of the Dai-ichi nuclear power station.
I wonder if MY kanji choice even got any votes?
Well Japan... rin... congratulations on winning the Olympics... when was that again? Oh yeah... 2020. Getting the Olympics in Tokyo... that's something that effected everyone in Japan in 2013? No. It's cool... and it's an achievement of the Olympic Committee... but let's face it... if Japan did NOT get the Olympics... how would it have affected the people of Japan in 2013? Disappointment?
Hell.. if you really want to celebrate the a word for Tokyo getting the 2020 Olympics, we could have chosen: 同情 (Dōjō)... which means pity... as in pity vote.
Wow... I just read all this... I'm bitter. I'm actually bitter at the lack of thought put into voting for the real word... the real kanji word that defines Japan in 2013.
Whatever. Perhaps gaining the Olympics in Tokyo will kick-start Japan's sagging economy... and everyone will think it's because of Abenomics... and Prime Minister Abe can keep his job just long enough to take Japan into a battle with China... and, as everyone knows, war is good for the economy.
Maybe not so good if you're the one being shot at. Good luck, U.S.