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2020's Kanji of the Year Revealed

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Every December 12, all eyes are on Kiyomizudera Temple in Kyoto where the "Kanji of the Year" is revealed, voted on by the whole country. Seihan Mori, the head abbot of the temple, took his usual place in front of a blank board on the site’s famous balcony, raised a large brush, and began the strokes that revealed the top character for 2020.

A moment so important it was broadcast on Japan’s national broadcaster, NHK. As the video above reveals, the Kanji of the Year for 2020 is 密 (mitsu).

For people in Japan, 密 was always the clear frontrunner for the top spot in the contest, as it’s a buzzword that’s been used by the government since the pandemic first took a hold of the country earlier this year. The character for mitsu literally translates to "density," and at a time when the rest of the world was getting used to the phrase "social distancing," here in Japan, we were told to avoid the "Three Mitsus" or "Three Cs" as it was translated in English: Closed Spaces; Crowded places; Close-contact settings.

Mitsu has been the keyword used over and over again in messaging from the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, and Tokyo’s Governor Yuriko Koike as a way for people to keep themselves safe while still going out as normally as possible without a lockdown.

Governor Koike used the word so much during her press briefings that she became the star of a web browser game called Mitsu Desu back in April. A sample from the game below shows Koike saying "mitsu desu" as she clears people from her path to maintain social distancing. Word of her viral stardom reached Koike herself, who made news again when she waved her arms in front of reporters saying "mitsu desu" like her game character.

The call to avoid mitsu situations has hung over everyone’s heads this year, crushing travel plans, spoiling parties and get-togethers, and putting a dampener on live music and sporting events, including the Tokyo Olympics. So it’s apt that this kanji, which people have seen more of this year than any other year, was chosen as Kanji of the Year, receiving 28,401 votes out of a total of 208,025 to be named the winner.

So what were the other words in the top ten? You'll have to head over to SoraNews24 to get all the deeper details and even learn about a few more Kanji of the Year winners from the past.

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