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Saturday, Dec. 13, 2003

Character for tiger snags Kanji of the Year award


Staff writer

KYOTO -- "Tora" (tiger) has been voted the kanji most symbolic of 2003.

News photo
Seihan Mori, chief priest of Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto, draws the Chinese character "tora" (tiger) during a ceremony Friday to select the year's most symbolic kanji.

At a ceremony at Kiyomizu Temple here Friday, the Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation announced that tora was the overwhelming favorite of the 87,410 votes from around the country for the Kanji of the Year contest.

Tora won 17,709 votes, or 20.26 percent of the total. The second most popular choice, "sen" (fight), drew 2,540 votes, almost 3 percent of the total.

"The selection of tora obviously represents the victory of the Hanshin Tigers" in the Central League baseball championship, said Noboru Okubo, head of the foundation.

"But voters also noted that politicians who published campaign policies for the first time (in the House of Representatives election in November) sounded more tigerlike in their determination to change Japan," he said.

"Other voters for tora selected it wondering if Japan hasn't stepped on the tail of a tiger by sending the Self-Defense Forces to Iraq or if the SDF is walking blindly into a tiger's den," he said.

The contest has been held annually since 1995.

Kanji that made the top 10 choices included "ran," which can mean revolt or turbulence, and "sou," which can mean battle or dispute.

"Clearly the U.S. invasion of Iraq was on the minds of many voters," Okubo said.

When asked if the kanji for "taka" (hawk) might have been more appropriate than tora, given both the victory over the Hanshin Tigers by the Daiei Hawks and the presence of so many hawkish politicians who supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq, one person at Friday's gathering said it was the "tiger spirit" that was most important.



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