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‘Kin’ (gold) chosen as the kanji character of 2021

The kanji character for kin (金), which means gold or money, has been selected as the character that best summarizes the year, a Kyoto-based academic organization announced Monday.

The kanji points to the gold medals of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, which proceeded this July after being postponed for a year and then held without spectators due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Japan’s athletes won a record number of gold medals — 27 in all — at the Games, smashing the country’s previous record of 16 set at the 1964 Tokyo Games and again in Athens in 2004.

Since 1995, a kanji has been selected to represent the year. For the fourth time, the kanji character kin (gold) was chosen. | KYODO
Since 1995, a kanji has been selected to represent the year. For the fourth time, the kanji character kin (gold) was chosen. | KYODO

Los Angeles Angels two-way player Shohei Ohtani winning the 2021 American League MVP was another reason for the choice, said the Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation, which organizes the event. Last but not least, news about cash handouts in the headlines also helped push the kanji to the top of the list, the foundation said.

Of the 223,773 votes cast by the public, kin received 10,422 votes, or 4.6% of the total votes. Wa (輪), which means ring, was a close second, garnering 10,304 votes. Other characters in the top 10 were:

  • raku/tanoshii 楽, which means joy or fun
  • hen 変, which is one of the kanji characters used to describe new variants of the coronavirus
  • shin 新, which means new
  • sho 翔, one of the kanji characters for Shohei Ohtani’s first name
  • ki 希, a character that describes hope
  • tai 耐, a kanji which means to tolerate or endure
  • ie 家, which means home
  • yamai 病, which means disease

In making the announcement at the 27th annual year-end event, chief Buddhist priest Seihan Mori of the Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto drew the character on a large piece of paper with a giant calligraphy brush.

This is the fourth year that the kanji character for gold has been chosen. The previous years were 2000, 2012 and 2016. The chief priest’s calligraphy will be displayed at the temple until Dec. 22 and at the Kanji Museum and Library from Dec. 23.

Last year, mitsu (密) was selected as the kanji of the year. Meaning close or dense, the meaning of mitsu was often invoked in warnings about the novel coronavirus.

The foundation began naming a kanji of the year in 1995. The first kanji was shin (震) meaning “quake” or “shiver,” which reflected the fear people felt at the time following the Great Hanshin Earthquake and the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.

Gold medal-winning skateboarder Yuto Horigome poses on the podium at Ariake Sports Park in Tokyo in July. The kanji of the year referenced the number of gold medals won by Japan's athletes at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. | AFP-JIJI
Gold medal-winning skateboarder Yuto Horigome poses on the podium at Ariake Sports Park in Tokyo in July. The kanji of the year referenced the number of gold medals won by Japan’s athletes at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. | AFP-JIJI

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