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Japan: “Change”, the ideogram of 2008

Every year on the 12th of December, the Japanese Kanji Proficiency Society announces the Kanji of the year [en]. This year the kanji is 変 (hen), the ideogram representing “change”. Miki Tansho (丹所美紀 comments on the choice, writing that to many Japanese 変 by itself recalls the meaning “change for the worse”, as it is commonly used with the nuance “strange” or “something wrong”. This misunderstanding is highlighted this year, she writes, because many “strange things” actually happened: “the out-of-the-blue resignation of the PM, the million gaffes of the new PM, strange crimes, the changes [for the worse] inside the world of a martial art as sumo, in the world economy and in the activity of companies”.

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