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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Kanji Of The Year 2016 And Buzzword Of The Year

Every year, the Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation (財団法人日本漢字能力検定協会 Zaidan hōjin Nihon Kanji Nōryoku kentei kyōkai) - a kanji promotion group -  gets together and reveals at Kiyomizudera (清水寺, literally "Pure Water Temple") in Kyoto, Japan what voters have felt deserves to be the kotoshi no kanji (今年の漢字), literally 'kanji of the year'.

In Kyoto, as seen in the photograph above, the chief Buddhist priest Mori Seihan (surname first) of Kiyomizudera (Kiyomizu Temple) painted the kanji character with a giant calligraphy brush on a giant piece of paper at the famous temple where this year’s kanji was announced.

To me, this is an opportunity for Japan to take an inward look at itself and come up with a defining word or feeling... which I admit is difficult.

I just keep hoping that one day they will stop taking the easy way out... 

For 2016, the kanji that was deemed to best represent the world of Japan this past year, is:  - kin, which means gold, in this case...

Fug... really? Gold?

Why? The reason most cited by voters was the high number of gold medals won at the 2016 Rio Olympics, the shift to a negative interest rate (“interest rate” is “kinri” in Japanese), Donald Trump's U.S. presidential election victory (“blonde hair” is “kinpatsu”), and Piko Taro, singer of ‘PPAP’, who’s known for wearing a gold-colored animal print outfit.

Olympic medals? Japan won 12 Gold medals at the 2016 Olympics... a fine amount, sure, but that was good enough for sixth place. Well behind USA's 46, Great Britain's 27, China's 26, Russia's 19 (that will probably shrink), and Germany's 17.
One of 12.
Other reason's for choosing Kin was Japan's minus interest rate? Boring, but intriguing. Negative interest rates mean depositors pay money to save their money, a reversal of the normal rules of economics. It is seen as a way for Japan to kickstart its economy. By the way, 負の金利 (Fu no kinri) is Japanese for negative interest rate. Just sayin'.

One of four.
I could see Kinri/Interest rate being the kanji: 金利 - why not that?  It's not two kanji... it's a combined pair to make one kanji? Isn't it? Still... it's not about the interest rate so much as it is about a negative interest rate.

Trump's blonde hair? Really? The president elect's hair color is what drove Japan in 2016? Hell no... it might be what drives Japan crazy in 2017-2020... but not 2016. He hasn't done anything yet, because although he has been formerly elected president by the United States Electoral College - the only thing that actually matters when electing an American president (look it up), he is still only the president-elect until he is sworn in during his inauguration in January of 2017.

By the way, in the history of the U.S., only nine voters within the Electoral College have ever voted against the State's choice for president... none of which ever swayed a presidential outcome. The votes were counted as cast by US Congress... the group that has the job of counting the actual electoral votes. And now you know. 

Believe it or not, that's his real hair color. I don't see how it's gold, but sure... kinpatsu. Anyhow, one of thousands.
What else... a popular singer who wears gold-colored animal print clothing.
Piko Taro. One of one.
 Oh, that the race of man could sink so low.

This is the third time in the past 17 years that Kin has been chosen as the kanji of the year, including 2000 and 2012.

The Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation received a total of 153,562 entries for its kanji of the year, with Kin receiving a top 6,655 votes.

What other selections could have been No. 1?

Sen, meaning selection, following the U.S. presidential election and Britain’s decision in a referendum to leave the European Union. Again, interesting choices - but how does it affect Japan?

Hen, meaning change, came third. It was opined to reflect changes in: the global situation, and;  a series of natural disasters such as earthquakes in Kumamoto and Tottori prefectures.

Excellent! This one makes sense!

 A full list of the kanji chosen since 1995 can be found HERE.

To me, the selection of Kin, yet again shows a decided lack of imagination amongst the Japanese. Maybe the Japanese word for "boring" should have been the kanji of the year. 

Additionally, there is also a 'word' of the year, derived by Japanese publisher Jiyu Kokumin Sha, who offer a prize for the buzzword or phrase that captures Japan.

The shortlist of 30 nominees was announced last month and now we have the 10 finalists, including the winner.

Kamitteru is a slang phrase popular with kids that became more generally popular after the manager of baseball team Hiroshima Toyo Carp used it to describe the performance of one of his players in June of 2016.

The man, the myth, the utter of Kamitteru.
It means “godlike”, taking the Japanese word for god (kami) and adding a suffix to turn it into a verb in the present progressive tense. In English, one equivalent proposed is “godding”.

Hiroshima Carp manager Ogata Koichi (surname first) used the term (already coined and used years ago by Japan's youth), when in June of 2016 he used kamitteru to describe Suzuki Seiya's performance after the Carp outfielder hit sayonara home runs (walk-off game-winning home run by the Home team) in two consecutive games against the Orix Buffaloes.

It's impressive, to be sure... and the myth continued on when the Carp went on to win the championship later that year.

Other finalists for the word of the year included PPAP (the acronym for Piko Taro’s viral hit Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen) and Pokémon Go - Nintendo's video game that everyone played for about a month after it debuted.Do you know anyone who is still playing it?

Interesting how PPAP is mentioned in both 'word' contests.

The winning word or phrase for the 'word of the year' was chosen by a selection jury from a shortlist drawn up by the panel and publisher... a publisher best known for an annual book of modern terminology and slang.

Godlike... Kamitteru... that's the best you got? Because a baseball manager called a player that? That has to be the biggest exaggeration ever!

You get what I wrote, right? Still... if everyone starts using it, then it is indeed a buzzword worthy of the adulation.

Holy crap. Japan chooses a word because it won a lot of gold medals? That's what you think defines 2016 in Japan?

Or a word that was uttered by an over-caffeinated baseball coach? What if that coach's team didn't win the Pennant? They did - the Hiroshima Carp... but that's it? Still... I do think the kamitteru word is pretty decent.

Still... general sports and baseball? That's what defined Japan in 2016?

How about emotionally unstable? Sexless? Border dispute? China? Economy? Falling population? Zero population? Constitution? Military growth?

Sometimes all I can do is shake my head and be disappointed.

Banzai,
Andrew Joseph

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