Japan’s “Kanji of the year” was just released, revealing that the recent achievements by Japanese experts were largely influential in the year-long feelings of the country. The character last year was “bonds,” because of the bonds that Japanese people were so ready to keep, create, and remember, after the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake. This year, the character is 金 “KIN” which means gold (and also means money).
The kanji (Chinese character) of the year is a tradition where they sum up the whole year in one character. Depending on what happens during the year, the kanji may reflect social conditions in and/or outside Japan. It seems that this year, they were mostly about Japan.
For one thing, there were many political discussions in the news about tax reform, welfare, and monetary scandals throughout the year.
There was also the golden ring of the solar eclipse, seen in May. That was the first time one had been seen in 932 years.
One of the more easily understandable reasons for this character is that the Japanese athletes of the London 2012 Olympics came back with 38 medals in total – more than they have ever won at an Olympic games.
The last reason is one that was largely the pride and joy of Japanese people throughout the nation. Shinya Yamanaka, the brilliant stem-cell researching scientist, won this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
This tradition is a great way to show the diversity of meanings of a single character (characters in Japanese are not simply one-to-one translations of English words) as well as summing up the year in as brief a way as possible.