After quakes and flooding, Japan picks 'disaster' as 2018 symbol


Japan on Wednesday selected the Chinese character for "disaster" as its "defining symbol" for 2018, a year that saw the country hit by deadly floods, earthquakes and storms.

Japanese TV stations broadcast the annual announcement live, with Seihan Mori, master of the ancient Kiyomizu temple in Kyoto, writing the character on a huge white panel with an ink-soaked calligraphy brush.

"Many people experienced the threat of natural disasters such as earthquakes, heavy rain, typhoons and heatwaves," the Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation, which organises the event, said in a press release.

At the end of every year, the general public votes for the Chinese character they think embodies the key news and events of the previous 12 months.

A total of 20,858 people out of 193,214 chose the character "disaster".

The country was hit by a series of natural disasters in 2018, starting with massive flooding in western regions that killed over 200 people.

It was also battered by a typhoon that inundated a major international airport, and an earthquake in the north that triggered landslides and disrupted supply lines.

An "unprecedented" heatwave also struck the country over the summer, causing more than 150 deaths, with over 80,000 people hospitalised.

The series of disasters hit GDP, with the country's economy shrinking in the three months to September.

"I was reminded of how scary natural disasters are," said a 42-year-old woman from quake-battered northern Hokkaido, who was cited in a statement from the organiser.

"The power went out immediately after the quake and I spent days for the first time without electricity," she said.

Last year, Japan picked "North" following a series of North Korean missile launches, and the year before the choice was "gold", in celebration of the success of Japanese athletes at the Rio Olympics.

Chinese characters, or Kanji, are widely used in Japanese, along with other types of alphabets.

Typhoon Jebi hits Japan

  • The strongest typhoon to hit Japan in 25 years made landfall Tuesday, the country's weather agency said, bringing violent winds and heavy rainfall that prompted evacuation warnings.
  • Typhoon Jebi, packing winds of up to 216 kilometres per hour, made landfall around midday in western Japan near areas still recovering from deadly record rains earlier this summer.
  • Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged people to "evacuate early" and ordered his government to take all necessary measures to protect residents.
  • Japan's weather agency has issued warnings about possible landslides, flooding and violent winds, as well as high tides, lightning and tornadoes in a swath of western Japan including the major cities of Osaka and Kyoto.
  • With winds of up to 162 kilometres per hour at its centre, Jebi is classed as a "very strong" typhoon, the weather agency's chief forecaster Ryuta Kurora told AFP.
  • Local media warned that the wind speeds Jebi is packing are strong enough to bring down traditional-style wooden houses and power poles, and urged people in affected areas to avoid non-essential travel.
  • Evacuation advisories have been issued for more than 300,000 people in western Japan -- including 280,000 in the port city of Kobe -- with local officials setting up some 1,500 shelters, the central and local governments said in statements.