The Japan Kanji Aptitude1 Testing Foundation, or JKATF, announced on Thursday that "rei" was the public's top choice, reaping 30,427 votes among 216,325 suggestions received through online surveys and postcards.
Comments from voters indicated that the main reason for their choice was the new era name, "rei" is the first of two characters in the name of the new imperial era, Reiwa, that began this year with the enthronement of Emperor Naruhito.
The character also features in terms like 法令改正 (hōrei kaisei), the "legal revision" that bumped the consumption tax rate from 8% to 10% on October 1, and 避難命令 (hinan meirei), the "evacuation orders" that reached many residents when typhoons or other natural disasters threatened their communities.
The Kyoto-based Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation has run the competition every year since 1995.
Japan has chosen the symbol meaning "disaster" to define the year 2018.
"North" won in 2017, and "gold" in 2016 after the Rio Olympics.
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