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令 chosen as kanji character best representing 2019


The kanji character 令 (rei), meaning beautiful or graceful, has been chosen as the character best representing the sentiment and events in Japan in 2019. The character was one of two characters for 令和 (Reiwa), the new era that began when Emperor Naruhito ascended to the throne on May 1.

In an event held on Thursday afternoon and broadcast live by some TV stations, Seihan Mori, the head priest at the world-famous Kiyomizu Buddhist temple in Kyoto, drew the character 令 with a large calligraphy brush, whose bristles are the size of a bowling pin, on a huge piece of washi (Japanese paper).

The Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation, a Kyoto-based organization that promotes kanji, has conducted the survey nationwide every year since 1995. The foundation said 216,325 submissions were received this year online and by postcard, with 令 garnering 30,427 votes.

The second most popular kanji, with 14,850 votes, was 新 (shin), meaning new, followed by 10,281 for 和 (wa), meaning peace or harmony. Next were 変 (hen or strange) with 7,749 votes and the 2018 kanji of the year 災 (sai or disaster) with 7,302 votes.

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I feel better now, may I have a tax cut? Can my family live without constant pressure? I feel better now.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

Saw that one a mile away. Works, though.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

How utterly unsurprising, predictable and boring.

16 ( +18 / -2 )

The kanji character 令 (rei), meaning beautiful or graceful, has been chosen as the character best representing the sentiment and events in Japan in 2019

The primary meaning of 令 is command or instructions. The 'beautiful or graceful' meaning is archaic.

What exactly has been 'beautiful or graceful' about the first few months of Reiwa? The long and wet Rainy Season that soaked the ground and drowned the veggies? (and washed away my summer hols, but that wasn't national...) Typhoon Faxai, that killed 3, left nearly a million homes without power (leading to more deaths from heatstroke) and caused hundreds of billions of yen in damage? Typhoon Hagibis a month later, the most devastating typhoon to hit the Kanto region since the 1950s, with nearly a hundred dead, severe flooding, power outages, drowned Shinkansen trains and major sporting events cancelled? The 5.7 mag earthquake that struck Chiba Prefecture in the middle of Hagibis?The heavy rains a couple of weeks later, that brought burst riverbanks, severe flooding and landslides and that people are still trying to recover from?

Away from the weather, we had the politicians trying to squirm their way out of one scandal after another, tax increases....

The only thing 'beautiful or graceful' about 2019 was the hint-sama costumes at the ceremonies, if you're into that kind of thing.

Surely 災 would have been more appropriate. Or 辛 (bitter, hard to bear).

17 ( +18 / -1 )

Saw that one a mile away. Works, though.

How utterly unsurprising, predictable and boring.

yeah- my jaw didn't exactly drop either.

Funny how the English translations by Japanese media always leave off the "command; order; dictation​" interpretation of the character...


The primary meaning of 令 is command or instructions. The 'beautiful or graceful' meaning is archaic.

EXACTLY! well said cleo!!

4 ( +8 / -4 )

From Wiktionary:

 (hiragana れいrōmaji rei)

act, law, ordinance, rule

law, ordinance, regulation

(historical) high-ranking official or magistrate

(obsolete) admonition, teaching

(rare) excellent, fine, good

honorific prefix added before a term of kinship to show respect to someone else's relative

So it says - I've never seen the "rare" usage in action.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

I will choose "税" (zei, or tax).

17 ( +17 / -0 )

It's archaic rendering may be read as beautiful etc, but no one in modern Japan knew it other than command or order as well pointed out by others above.

And it's the modern reading that resonates in 2019, especially with the overbearing sense of rule, that's pushed upon the citizens and touted as rights.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

@Kazuaki - the word 令嬢 (reijou; someone's esteemed daughter) is still in use on occasion, isn't it?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

ThonTaddeoToday  05:38 pm JST

It is, but I lumped it with the sixth meaning: "honorific prefix added before a term of kinship to show respect to someone else's relative".

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I'm pretty sure the only reason the kanji was chosen was because of the year change. Because beauty and grace couldn't describe a year filled with political scandals, power abuses, corporate scandals, shrinking wages, increased taxes, and more.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Beautiful, graceful?

Like the increase in consumption tax?

Collapse of Nissan.

The Emperor throwing in the towel?



Let's get real!

6 ( +9 / -3 )

I was checking the news on the hour to find out the "kanji of the year". Now, at long last, I can go on with my life.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Its just half a kanji away from 冷 which is also rei in roman or western pronounciation.

And that rei 冷 is cold, chilled as in refrigerator

So beware of meanings if they sound so ancient or holy.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

it's very convenient that many kanji are interpreted in different ways depending on their use. This particular one means, to be ordered to do something. Therefore, 'reiwa' can be interpreted as, do as you are told and there will be harmony.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@Disillusioned & Jandworld

Exactly. harmony by who's standards and who is pulling the strings. passive aggressiveness.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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