Kanji of the Year


Convert your name or your favorite word into Kanji! Why not use it for T-shirts, stamps, stickers or tattoos?

Column of Japanese Culture

Last updated : 22.12.2015
Author : Akira Katakami

Japan has several interesting New Year’s traditions, one of which is the Kanji of the Year. The Kanji of Year is decided by a nationwide ballot and the kanji with the most votes is declared the winner. The winner is then officially announced each year on Dec. 15, also known as Kanji Day.

Last year, in 2014, the chosen kanji was “zei” (税) meaning “tax” in Japanese. This was due to the sales tax in Japan being increased from 5% to 8%. There was a lot of opposition to this measure, especially because the sales tax was originally planned to go from to 10% in 2015. This, however, was put to a fervent stop. This is an example of how the Kanji of the Year can be chosen for political reasons.

Kanji of the Year Kanji of the Year can also be more heartwarming as well. For example, in 2011 after the Tohoku Earthquake, the kanji chosen was “kizuna” (絆) which means “bonds”. Although Japan was devastated after experiencing the earthquake and tsunami, many people came together in order to bring relief and hope to the affected area. All these people working together for a common purpose was the reason that “kizuna” was chosen in 2011.

Some Kanji of the Year can also be rather bleak. In 1997, Japan’s bubble economy burst and the country went through an economic crisis. The Kanji of the Year this time was thus “to” (倒) meaning “collapse”. This is a depressing but honest choice.

Kanji of the Year essentially summarize the passing year into one simple Kanji. The meaning of the chosen kanji can be either positive or negative depending on the overall atmosphere of the year. The 2014 Kanji of the Year “zei” was a quite serious, but what do you think the kanji this year will be?

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Seigakudou(静岳堂), a working calligrapher and native Japanese, will write your name in Kanji. Rather than a computer font, your kanji name will be hand-brushed by a professional calligrapher.


Akira Katakami(片上明)

The translation from English to Japanese will be undertaken by a professional native Japanese translator with a kanji proficiency qualification, you can be sure of an error free standard. Also, an explanation of your kanji name will be provided in English.