Every year the Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation conducts a nationwide survey to choose the Kanji of the year. This year 北 (north) received the most votes because of the numerous missile launches from North Korea and the heavy rain that took the lives in the northern part of Kyushu, as well as the potato shortage in Hokkaido and the baseball star Shohei Ohtani who played for the Hokkaido team Nippon Ham Fighters.
Seihan Mori, the head priest at Kiyomizu Buddhist temple in Kyoto drew the character on a huge piece of washi (Japanese paper).
Last year's kanji of the year (2016) was 金 which means "gold".
In 2015, the kanji of the year was 安, which means safety or peace.
In 2014, the kanji of the year was 税, which means “tax”.
In 2013, the kanji of the year was 輪, which means “ring” or “circle.”