Dec 29

WIT Life #292: 今年の漢字

WIT Life is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

Well, it’s the end of the year already, and if you’re like me you’re wondering where 2015 went.  The last time I checked in here was four months ago, which was pre-Paris attack and pre-Presidential candidate madness so a bit of a different world.  We’ve certainly had our share of recent turbulence, and there is a big question mark as to what 2016 will bring.  All of this uncertainty is part of why 安 (an or peaceful/cheap) was picked as 2015’s 今年の漢字 (kotoshi no kanji or kanji of the year) at Kyoto’s Kiyomizu Temple earlier this month.

It could refer to the 安 in 安全保障 (anzen hoshou or security), since the controversial 安全保障関連法 (anzen hoshou kanren hou or Security Related Bill) was approved back in September.  It could also be reflecting the unstable environment in which we find ourselves experiencing information leaks and terrorist attacks, expressed by the word 不安 (fuan or anxiety/insecurity).  安’s selection could also be touching on the fact that Japan’s economic situation is one of 円安 (enyasu or weak yen).  The conversion rate is currently hovering around 120 yen to the dollar, but the yen depreciated to as much as 125 at one point this year.  安 came in at 5632 votes or around 4.3% of the 129,647 ballots submitted.  Other candidates for 2015’s kanji were 爆 (baku or explosive), 戦 (sen or battle), 結 (ketsu or tie), 五 (go or five), 賞 (sho or reward), 偽 (gi or deceive), 争 (so or dispute), 変 (hen or change), and 勝 (sho or victory).

In positive news regarding the 従軍慰安婦問題 (juugun ianfu mondai or comfort women issue), progress was made between Japan and South Korea.  An agreement was reached where Japan apologized and promised an $8.3 million payment to provide medical, nursing and other care for the 46 remaining survivors via a foundation that the South Korean government will establish.  A fund previously existed, but it was not comprised of money that officially came from the Japanese government as this compensation does.  Japan’s contribution ended up being about double what it was initially offering, and concessions were made on the Korean side as well.  Seoul promised not to criticize Tokyo over this issue again, as well as to discuss with survivors the potential removal of a statue of a girl symbolizing comfort women that a civic group installed in front of the Japanese Embassy.

Leaders from both nations were eager to forge an agreement, as 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the treaty normalizing relations between the two countries and the 70th anniversary of the war’s end.  Many survivors aren’t satisfied, calling it “humiliating diplomacy” as the accord falls far short of their longstanding demand that Japan admit legal responsibility and offer formal reparations.  Hiroka Shoji, a researcher on East Asia at Amnesty International, commented: “The women were missing from the negotiation table, and they must not be sold short in a deal that is more about political expediency than justice.”




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