'Tax' says it all for Japan in 2014

Seihan Mori (left), the chief priest of Kiyomizu temple, displays his caligraphy of a kanji (or Chinese character),"zei" meaning tax which was chosen as the single best Chinese character symbolizing this year's national ethos in Japan at the Buddhist
Seihan Mori (left), the chief priest of Kiyomizu temple, displays his caligraphy of a kanji (or Chinese character),"zei" meaning tax which was chosen as the single best Chinese character symbolizing this year's national ethos in Japan at the Buddhist temple in Kyoto, western Japan on Dec 12, 2014. Japan has chosen the Chinese character for "tax" as the defining symbol of 2014, it was announced on Friday. -- PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan has chosen the Chinese character for "tax" as the defining symbol of 2014, it was announced on Friday.

Seihan Mori, master of the ancient Kiyomizu temple in Kyoto, artfully wrote the character on a huge white panel using an ink-soaked calligraphy brush.

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

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

This year's choice is perhaps unsurprising for a populace that is still reeling from a 3 percentage point rise in consumption tax that came into effect on April 1.

The levy rise, the first of its kind for 17 years, is widely blamed for tipping Japan into recession, after shoppers took fright at the sudden price hikes.

Depressing economic figures led Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to put off another increase, to 10 percent, planned for October 2015, and to call an early general election, scheduled for Sunday.

Abe is widely expected to win, and has pledged that part two of the tax rise will come into effect in April 2017, as Japan also tries to pay down the world's largest proportional debt.