A 'gold' year for some but not for many


Kin (gold) – was it really so golden a year? Japan won a record 27 gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics this past summer, which explains the Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation’s choice of kin as kanji of the year, but other observers emerge from the past 12 months in a less glittering mood. 

Spa! (Dec 14-21), instead of summing things up in a single character, serves up a list of hit phrases, as they might be called. Every year spawns them. Here this year and gone the next, culled largely from social media, they are as expressive as they are ephemeral. Leading the list of Olympic allusions is not gold but a sarcastic shot at Yoshiro Mori, whose resignation in disgrace as head of the Games organizing committee was one of numerous pre-Games scandals lowering the tone of an event plagued to begin with by a pandemic that refused to leave the stage. Mori’s open contempt for women, expressed in such comments as,  "If we increase the number of female (committee) board members, we have to make sure their speaking time is restricted somewhat, they have difficulty finishing, which is annoying,” was deemed in serious contravention of the Olympic spirit, with its stress on human dignity. 

Spa! is by and large not an optimistic magazine. COVID-19, poverty, anxiety and hopelessness are persistent themes. They dominate the list. “Ghost hospital beds” is a sharp bit of irony. Japan has more hospital beds per capita than any other country. Why were virus-infected people being turned away, particularly in the “third wave” that hit early in the year, killing an estimated 100 a day? The beds were there – in small hospitals unequipped for the task at hand. And so a first-world, first-rate medical establishment sank for a critical time to third-world capacity, 

“Tower mansions” – high-rise condominiums – increasingly dominate Japan’s urban skyline. Closer to ground level is what’s become known as a “gap society.” The widening gap between the very rich and the very poor, the middle class between them shrinking, is a grave social concern. The poor look up to the top stories and muse, “They must need oxygen masks up there.”  

There are many “gaps” in Japan. The rich-poor gap generates an education gap – rich children tend to be better education – which perpetuates the rich-poor gap into the next generation.  Spa! identifies a “remote gap” – the rich better equipped for remote work and remote study; therefore better equipped to survive the pandemic, which imposes both remotes on rich and poor alike. 

Another neologism: “menstrual poverty,” a reference to women driven to stringent household economies that make sanitary napkins an unaffordable luxury.  

A sense of futility is palpable as one runs down the list. “I should never have been born” is a recurring lament from workers who’ve lost jobs or earnings due to the pandemic. In the same vein: “I am useless.” More extreme still, characteristic of mostly elderly people sidelined and bewildered by rapid digitalization: “Is there anything left for me to do but die?” 

A gold year for some, no doubt. It just depends on how you look at things.

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A sense of futility is palpable as one runs down the list. “I should never have been born” is a recurring lament from workers who’ve lost jobs or earnings due to the pandemic.

Leave it to the tabloids to reflect the reality of Taro Everyman that doesn't come from NHK and Kyodo.

"Oya-gatcha" is a trending word in Japan, how the luck of being born to the right parents determines one course in life.

All the pandemic related misery to the populace has been ignored by the ruling LDP.

They have been busy bailing out hotel and business owners who were mostly born into capital holdings and would have suffered a downturn in their investment and maybe a slight reduction in their standard of living if not bailed out by the public treasury.

While those who relied on wages for their livelihood were mostly left to manage the consequences for themselves, whether that would lead to living under a blue tarp and searching in garbage bins or not.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Pretty poor choice for the kanji of the year.

Dagon - good & accurate post.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Until now I often thought about another Kanji than the one we ultimately got, but this year's Kanji for "gold" seemed like a real poor choice at first.

But again, maybe it was not about celebrating the "Kin (gold)" of a handful of medals but highlight the "Kane (money)" tossed at the games, or the "money" a lot of people lack to survive or the "money" tossed around by the government (the Abenomask being one of these bodies who simply does not want to stay dead or the trillions spaffed by the government at, well, what exactly nobody knows for sure).

I doubt the priest / temple will clarify this and leave it to everybody's own interpretation.

As for me "Kin (gold)" is a no-go. I will go for "Kane (money)" for all of the above reasons. "Kane" may unfortunately be a fitting choice...

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I suppose you cannot have two: 不安

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I don't think there was anything particularly "golden" about this year. How about 疲 for tired?

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Japan won a national record 27 gold medals. Everyone I know has survived the year so far, so I guess it is golden.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

This year has been.......weird.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

‘Kin’ seems to have become tarnished.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

This strikes me as them taking yet another opportunity to ram the Olympics down our throats, before they're off again hyping Sapporo and telling blatant lies about how much (o-kane) its going to cost.

There is absolutely no way the Olympics was the big story that represents 2021 in Japan. With Matsuyama winning the Masters and Ohtani doing wonders, it wasn't even the biggest story in Japanese sport (!) Kanji are strongly intertwined with Japanese culture, and it is saddening and infuriating to see cultured people supposedly sensitive to the mood of the country push such a simple nationalist narrative, which is completely lacking in originality or imagination.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Nauseating thinking about the waste? - Try watching BS1 on a weeknight, replaying ‘highlights’ of actual events. The closeups of the elated winning athletes’ faces contrasted with completely empty arenas in the background and the ridiculous ‘piped in’ sounds of pre-recorded crowds cheering. - How much longer with the common people of Japan be pounded into believing the national charade that was the 2020-2021 Tokyo Olympics ?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I would have thought  would have been the most appropriate considering our leadership and their decision making.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

@Aly Rustom

Err, the Kanji is supposed to be different every year... ;)

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Gold Metal Disaster is much more accurate.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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