On December 12th, the Japanese Kanji Proficiency Society announced that the kanji of the year — the Chinese character which best represents the year — for 2011 is “kizuna (絆),” the character for bond.
The Japanese Kanji Proficiency Society, the NPO responsible for the Japanese Kanji Aptitude Test, has picked one kanji every year on December 12th, which they designate as “Kanji Day,” since 1995. The kanji is chosen by popularity among all the suggestions submitted to the society at the end of the year. The Society began this tradition to spread awareness and interest in the profundity of kanji.
Previous year’s kanji have included: kawaru (change) in 2008, reflecting Obama’s election victory; tatakau (war) in 2001, reflecting the 9/11 terrorist attacks; and taosu (bankrupt) in 1997, reflecting the bankruptcies of several major Japanese banks.
This year’s kanji, kizuna, was chosen because of the many bonds people became aware of through natural disasters such as the March 11th earthquake and tsunami, the New Zealand earthquake, and the Thailand flood. Bonds were discovered between family and friends, community members, and between people of different nations. Also, the tremendous growth in social media connected people like never before.
The list of runner-ups this year was dominated by disaster-related kanji — such as #2: wazawai (disaster), #3: furueru (shake), and #18: gen (nuclear) — attesting to the impact that the March 11th disaster had on Japan.
However, the list also contained kanji such as #7 kyo (cooperate), #8 sasaeru (support), #10 chikara (strength), and others, expressing Japan’s optimistic and forward-looking mood.
The kanji of the year is an educational and fun annual tradition. The contest allows people to reflect upon the year and tests their wit. Of course, you can always contemplate what your personal kanji of the year was as well. For myself, I would choose “hajime (beginning)” since this year marks the year I started working for Japan Flix.
Full list of top 20 runners-up for kanji of the year 2011
- Kizuna 絆 – Bond, connect
- Wazawai 災 – disaster
- Furueru 震 – shake, tremble
- Nami 波 – wave
- Tasukeru 助 – help
- Fuku 復 – restore, reconstruction
- Kyo 協 – cooperate
- Sasaeru 支 – support
- Inochi 命 – life
- Chikara 力 – strength
- Mizu 水 – water
- Yurugu 揺 – sway, reel
- Fushi 節 – end of an era or period
- Ki 希 – hope
- Ikiru 生 – life
- Kokoro 心 – spirit
- Chi 地 – earth, as in earthquake
- Gen 原 – nuclear power
- Katsu 勝 – win
- Hitotsu 一 – one