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'Love' is the 2023 New Year Kanji: Shoko Kanazawa Declares From Tokyo Tower

Observing the first sunrise from the iconic Tokyo Tower, Kanazawa chooses "love" as the 2023 New Year kanji to overcome the pandemic and Ukraine war of 2022.

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"Love" is the 2023 New Year kanji for the fifth year of Reiwa. 

In the early morning of January 1, acclaimed calligrapher Shoko Kanazawa, who was born with Down syndrome, wrote the kanji for "love" in dynamic strokes, using her entire body to maneuver a huge calligraphy brush.

The ceremony took place in the observatory of the iconic Tokyo Tower in the capital city's Minato Ward in the presence of spellbound spectators.

Kanazawa called for "love," not war. Her choice was a powerful message against the backdrop of the continuing global battle against COVID-19 and Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which has had a massive impact on countries around the world, including Japan.

2023 New Year
Shoko Kanazawa shows her New Year Kanji in January 1, 2023 at Tokyo Tower (©Sankei, Photo by Koki Uemura)

Shoko Kanazawa's 2023 New Year Kanji

Six years ago in 2018, Shoko Kanazawa began writing a single kanji to express her wishes for the New Year. Her first New Year kanji was light (光, hikari). It was followed in successive years by prayer (祈, inori), harmony (和, wa), victory (勝, katsu), and fly (飛, tobu).

In 2022, she became the first cultural ambassador of Tokyo Tower. Kanazawa had previously written her New Year kanji at her home in Tokyo's Ota Ward. For the first time, in the 2023 New Year she showcased her kanji in front of visitors at Tokyo Tower.

Early in the morning of January 1, about 300 guests gathered to greet the sun from the landmark Tokyo Tower's observation deck. They were observing the hatsuhinode, the first sunrise of the New Year, welcoming the Year of the Rabbit. 

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Shoko Kanazawa draws the Kanji of the New Year 2023. (© JAPAN Forward by Arielle Busetto)

Afterward, dressed in a hakama, Kanazwa appeared in a special venue on the observation deck. First, she first offered a prayer for the New Year. Then, brimming with energy, she wrote the Japanese character for "love" [愛] with a huge calligraphy brush in one sweeping motion. Applause erupted from the crowd. 

After watching the event, Mika Hirano, a 50-year-old service industry employee commented: "Seeing Shoko Kanazawa's energetic kanji writing was really moving, tears filled my eyes with emotion!"

Kanazawa later repeated the ceremony for another group of visitors. One office worker who attended the event, said, "Love is such a good message. I really hope the war will end soon."

Yuko Uehara, a self-employed woman who was watching the event, later told JAPAN Forward how important the message of love was for people all over the world: "Love is an important message for everyone involved in the war. But even in Japan, the war is having an impact on the economy. I hope Kanazawa's message will resonate with people everywhere, also in Japan."

Calligrapher and artist Shoko Kanazawa at Tokyo Tower. (© JAPAN Forward by Shaun Fernando)

The Power of 愛

In the past, Kanazawa's mother Yasuko experienced deep despair over her daughter's disability. But one day, she came across a book of published letters attributed to the eminent physicist Albert Einstein. Among the letters to his first wife was one some said Einstein had written to his daughter. 

The letter says that love is the "universal force" that governs all others. Those words saved Yasuko many times.  "Only the power of love "can overcome war," she explained.

What is your New Year kanji for 2023?

Watch the 2023 New Year kanji ceremony as it was broadcast live from Tokyo Tower on Sankei News .

Calligrapher and artist Shoko Kanazawa at Tokyo Tower. (© JAPAN Forward by Arielle Busetto)

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Author: JAPAN Forward

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(Read the article in Japanese at this link.)

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