The kanji for "zei," meaning tax, was picked as the Chinese character most representative of the social mood in Japan this year, a Kyoto-based organization said Tuesday.

Initiatives by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's government, including proposed tax cuts to help households struggling with high inflation and the introduction of a new invoice system that means freelancers and the self-employed may have to shoulder higher tax burdens, were cited as reasons for the selection.

Seihan Mori, chief Buddhist priest of Kiyomizu temple in Kyoto, writes the kanji character "zei," meaning tax, with a calligraphy brush on Dec. 12, 2023. The character was selected as the best single kanji to symbolize the national mood for the year as tax-related issues hit headlines, including the government's temporary income tax cut of 40,000 yen per person planned next fiscal year. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

The decision in the 29th annual poll run by the Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation was based on votes cast by the general public.

The kanji was written with a giant calligraphy brush on a roughly 1.5-meter-high, 1.3-m-wide "washi," a special kind of Japanese paper, by chief Buddhist priest Seihan Mori of the renowned Kiyomizu temple in Kyoto.

"I feel as though Japanese people are watching the tax situation seriously," Mori said.

It is the second time the kanji for tax has been chosen since 2014.

Running in second place was the kanji for "sho," meaning heat, amid record-breaking heat waves in Japan earlier in the year, while the character for "sen," meaning war or battle, was voted in third place amid the conflict in the Gaza Strip and Russia's ongoing war against Ukraine.

The kanji for "sen" was the top choice last year in light of Moscow's invasion of its Eastern European neighbor, as well as the heated contests at the football World Cup held in Qatar.

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