Every year, Japan reviews what has gone on for its people as a nation. It citizens vote on a word that they best feel reflect their general sentiments. For 2018, they chose the word “Disaster.”
The yearly contest, which started in 1995, is managed by the Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation with the selection being officially read out at a temple in Kyoto, the home of the foundation, and televised across the entire country.
Japan has plenty of reason to express such a sentiment. The stormy season between July and September was particularly horrific this year.
From torrential downpours and tempestuous hurricanes to devastating earthquakes to slippery, treacherous landslides, and killer heatwaves, the nation has been blasted with misfortune and danger. Hundreds of people lost their lives while hundreds upon thousands found themselves displaced from their homes with local governments struggling to rebuild infrastructure between each tragedy.
In fact, 2018’s natural disasters may even have contributed to economic damage as well with Japan’s market dropping by 1.2% this year.
The Japanese kanji for disaster is “wazawai,” also occasionally pronounced like the English word “sigh.” Wazawai achieved a small majority of 20,858 votes out of 193,214 entries. The term also previously found itself the winner of 2004’s contest in the wake of Niigata Chuetsu Earthquake.
Submitters of “wazawai” also cited their growing concerns about political and societal corruption and decay, including the doctoring and rigging of test scores and admissions against female medical school applicants and scandals in cryptocurrency.
2018’s word runner-up was the kanji for “peace.”
Previous winners have undoubtedly been swayed by Japan’s political landscape. 2017’s word was North, a reference to the growing danger of North Korea’s missile tests. 2016 had “gold,” at a time when the Japanese public eagerly wished for Tokyo to be chosen for the 2020 Olympics. The first word to win in 1995 was the character “shin,” which means “earthquake.”
Hopefully, 2019 brings the peace Japan’s people are hoping for.