Fun Link Friday: Original Kanji Contest

Everyone knows that there’s nothing fun about the pandemic and it’s certainly been on all of our minds for months and months now. This past year Grape brought to our attention that there has been a contest for ten years+ to create original kanji reflecting our current times, and what times they are. The contest, titled 創作漢字コンテスト (Original Kanji Contest) is sponsored by Sankei Shimbun newspaper and The Shirakawa Shizuka Institute of East Asian Characters and Culture at Ritsumeikan University.

For 2020, undoubtedly one of the biggest topics in and outside of Japan was coronavirus and how it has affected our daily lives. And, appropriately, the winning entry of the original kanji contest was a modified version of 座:

As Grape writers described:

This new kanji still has the on’yomi za, but the kun’yomi has changed to: はなれてすわる(ソーシャルディスタンス)hanarete suwaru (sōsharu disutansu), meaning “to sit at a distance (social distance)”

Wen you consider that the etymology of the kanji 座 is “two people facing each other inside a house.” The genius of this new kanji is that the two people, each represented by the kanji for person 人, are no longer side by side. One of them has moved down beneath the line, which now functions as a partition. Simple, elegant, and very appropriate for 2020.

That said, there are many more kanji that are just as clever, and the contest website has a cool archive of past submissions and winners that you can check out! Any kanji lover will find a nice rabbit hole here to dive into. Happy Friday!

About Paula

Paula lives in the vortex of academic life. She studies medieval Japanese history.
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