The Kanji of the Year in Japan

Every year, on December 12th, the kanji of the year is announced at Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto. It is called “今年の漢字® (kotoshi no kanji)” in Japanese.

In December, there are many TV programs predicting this year’s kanji. Here is an explanation of the kanji chosen for this year (2022) and those chosen in the past.



– tax

This kanji was chosen because this year saw discussions on tax increases throughout the year, along with the introduction of new tax systems and the tightening of rules related to taxes.


sen; tataka(-i); tataka(-u); ikusa

– war
– battle
– fight
– match
– game

This character was chosen for 2022 because many people were conscious of war following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a series of missile launches from North Korea. Also, recently there were many opportunities to see this kanji in the soccer World Cup matches.


kin; kon; kane; kana; kogane

– gold
– metal
– money

Since there were many topics related to “金”, such as many Japanese athletes winning gold medals (“金メダル” [kinmedaru] ) at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (to be held in 2021) and the issuance of the new 500-yen coin (“お金” [okane]), so many people vote for this kanji this year.


mitsu; bitsu; hiso(kani); koma(kai) 

– confidentiality
– close (relationship); close to each other physically
– finely detailed

As a countermeasure to COVID-19, “3密” (san-mitsu), known in English as the 3Cs (Crowded places, Close-contact settings, Confined and enclosed spaces ), was often used. (The word 3C was invented using Japan’s 3密 as a model!) Since many people always consciously avoided “密” in their daily lives, it was chosen as the kanji to represent the year 2020.


rei; ryou; iitsuke; osa; yo(i)

– to tell someone to do something; to order
– rules
– good; honorable

*The kanji “令” can be written in two ways, as shown in the image above. Either way is fine.

In Japan, there is a period name associated with the Japanese emperor called “元号” (gen-gou). In 2019, the current emperor ascends to the throne and a new “元号” begins, whose name is “令和” (Rei-wa), and the kanji “令” was chosen to represent the year 2019. In anticipation and excitement for the new era, many products with the name “令和” were sold and people were in a festive mood.


sai; wazawa(i)

– disaster
– bad event
– misfortune

The year 2018 was a year of frequent major earthquakes in Japan, along with widespread rainstorms and typhoons that caused severe damage. In Japan, disasters are referred to as “災害” (sai-gai), and “災” was chosen as the kanji for 2018. Also in 2004, this kanji was chosen as the kanji of the year because many natural disasters occurred in 2004 as well.

How was your 2021? If you had to choose a kanji to represent it, which one would you choose?
We hope that 2022 will be a year in which the world can be represented by wonderful kanji. Have a happy new year!