2023's word of the year, according to Japanese voters


“Zei” (“税”), or “tax,” has been voted as the word of the year in Japan in 2023, reflecting people’s frustration over rising costs of living and discussions on taxes among policymakers.

Announcing the word: The Kyoto-based Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation unveiled the word of the year at an event at the Kiyomizudera temple on Tuesday, according to The Asahi Shimbun. As part of the ceremony, chief priest Seihan Mori drew the word on a large sheet of paper using a calligraphy brush.

How it was chosen: Of 147,878 voters, 5,976 chose the word “tax” as this year’s top word. At second place — and only 405 votes short — is “sho” (“hot”), reflecting the record-breaking summer temperatures Japan had experienced this year.

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“Tax” was also chosen as word of the year in 2014 after the Japanese government raised consumption taxes for the first time in 17 years. That year, those taxes rose from 5% to 8%.

The big picture: “Zei” became a widely reported topic across Japanese media this year due to talks about price hikes on food and services as a result of inflation. A tax reform panel of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party announced on Thursday that it would forego tax hikes for defense spending in the next fiscal year in support of tax cuts for households.

“The selection of tax reminded me of financial challenges facing Japan, and how taxes are spent is under intense public scrutiny,” Mori told The Asahi Shimbun. “I hope taxes are used to serve people’s well-being.”

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