Head Priest of Kiyomizu Temple writing "ze" for "tax" to represent the concerns for 2023

Kanji Character for "Tax" Chosen to Represent 2023

On December 12th, the Kanji character specifically meaning “tax” was unveiled as the “Kanji of the Year” for 2023 in Kyoto, Japan. The annual tradition is run by the Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Society, which asks the Japanese public to vote on which single Kanji character best encapsulates the current social climate or most pressing issues.

Out of over 147,000 total submissions cast between November 1st and December 6th, the complex Kanji symbol for “tax” received 5,976 votes – the highest of any character for this year.

The Society cited tax-related current events in Japan as likely inspirations behind the public decision. From looming potential consumption tax hikes to the recent introduction of a controversial invoice system to increased auditing of the “Furusato tax” program, taxes have been at the forefront of policy debates and conversations in 2023.

The tax Kanji itself contains no less than 23 strokes in total and is considered a more advanced-level character even by Japanese standards. Its selection reflects a growing public awareness and concern around evolving tax policies that promise to impact most citizens’ bottom lines.

In an inaugural ceremony held at the Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto, the Kanji was inked by head priest Seinori Mori onto a large sheet of traditional washi paper to formally mark its selection for 2023.

Mori commented that the intense focus on taxes indicates the Japanese public is seriously considering the future and implications of impending tax legislation and reform.

Kiyomizu-dera temple's chief priest Mori on NHK

Kiyomizu temple's chief priest Mori on NHK: "The public is watching the tax situation very closely."

This same exact Kanji last earned the annual distinction in 2014, when Japan pushed forward a contentious hike in the national consumption tax rate. Almost a decade later, taxes have once again emerged as a priority in the national conversation, demonstrating their tremendous influence on daily life.

The Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Society, based in Kyoto, has organized the yearly vote since 1995 to promote appreciation of the intricate Kanji writing system. Tens of thousands of kanji exist in total, each composed of unique arrangements of strokes that form visually symbolic characters. High voter turnout stems from public enthusiasm for participating which Kanji best encapsulates the current cultural landscape.

Mori concluded the 2023 unveiling ceremony by expressing his aspirations for “peace” to instead emerge as the defining Kanji for next year. As war and instability plague many global regions in 2022, peace of mind continues to be tested for many Japanese citizens as well.

The Kanji of the Year selection not only recognizes pressing issues but also delivers insights into the hopes and priorities of people across Japan during different eras. As the country progresses into 2023 and beyond, taxes and peace promise to remain at the forefront of policy decisions and public discourse alike.

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