TOKYO: The linguistic symbol for “gold” was voted Japan’s character of the year on Monday in honour of the Tokyo Olympics, which went ahead despite virus postponement, sexism scandals and a near-total ban on spectators.
Japan won a record 27 gold medals at Tokyo 2020, including three of the four first-ever skateboarding victories. Gymnastics star Daiki Hashimoto and judo siblings Uta and Hifumi Abe were among the champions.
“The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics became bright news, a ray of light for a society that had been in the dark, suffering from the coronavirus pandemic for a long time,” the vote’s organisers said.
Public sentiment towards the Olympics has not always been celebratory, with media polls before the event showing the vast majority of people in Japan were against it going ahead in summer 2021.
Japanese TV stations broadcast Monday’s announcement live as Seihan Mori, master of the ancient Kiyomizu temple in Kyoto, painted the character on a large white panel with an ink-soaked calligraphy brush.
Unlike last year, when most of the top 10 characters were virus-related, this year’s contenders had positive meanings.
“Wa” or “rings” was in second place, followed by others such as “change”, “new” and “hope”.
The top kanji of 2020 was “mitsu” — meaning dense, crowded and close — evoking the three situations people in Japan were urged to avoid to prevent infection.
“Kin” or “gold”, which also means money, previously won the annual vote in 2016 and 2012, after the Rio and London Olympics.
Some people called this year’s choice unoriginal, with one person tweeting: “I want ‘kin’ (to) be banned from use in an Olympic year.”