At the Kiyomizu-dera temple, on the heights of Kyoto (Japan), on December 14, master Seihan Mori writes the Chinese character “mitsu”, selected to symbolize the year 2020.

In a Japan facing a worrying third wave of Covid-19 contamination, the kanji – Chinese character used in Japanese – mitsu was chosen as best describing the past year. Unveiled Monday, December 14 from the famous terrace of Kiyomizu-dera temple, over the brush of Seihan Mori, the superior of the famous Buddhist enclosure in the heights of Kyoto (West), this character carries the senses of proximity and density.

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Throughout 2020, he featured in slogans calling for respect for barrier gestures. The best known remains san mitsu. Imagined in March by the Ministry of Health, it detailed “three” (san) habits to follow to avoid contamination: avoid confined places, congested sites and close contact.

Proof of its importance, san-mitsu was appointed on 1er December “Word of the year” by the Jiyû Kokuminsha Publishing House – which publishes the Dictionary of contemporary vocabulary – in partnership with the educational site U-Can.

Call to the army

The use of mitsu was also popularized by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike. At a press conference in the spring, Mr.me Koike told reporters: “Mitsu desu. “ (“You are too close.”) The reflection made people smile and gave rise, in April, to a video game titled, as it should be, Mitsu desu, in which a woman representing Mme Koike is moving to avoid close contact and receive masks from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in office until September.

Organized for twenty-six years by the Foundation responsible for kanji aptitude tests, the selection of the character of the year is made through a survey. Mitsu collected 13.65%, a level sufficient to come out on top of the votes cast by 208,025 voters.

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Its selection sounds like a reminder in a country facing a new wave of contaminations, after those of spring and summer. Japan registers an average of nearly 2,500 new cases every day, up from less than 1,000 at the start of November. On December 14, there were 183,017 cases and 2,662 deaths.

In several departments, the occupancy rate of intensive care beds exceeds 50%, yet considered a limit. Some departments, such as Osaka, in the west and Hokkaido, in the north, called in the medical units of the Self-Defense Forces (the Japanese army). The government announced the suspension from December 28 to January 11 of the “Go to Travel” campaign to encourage travel, and several cities, including Tokyo, have asked restaurants and cafes to close at 9 pm.

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