Japanese Radicals by Subject


Japanese phonetic components: River contains the KA phonetic 可
River contains the water radical

Natalie Hamilton is a writer, translator and lecturer in Translation Technology. She turned her focus to Japanese study while living and working in Japan’s rural Oita Prefecture on the JET Programme. She was awarded a Master of Japanese Translation in 2014, which included a linguistics dissertation entitled Cracking the ON Yomi Code. Her new kanji textbook The Kanji Code has been an Amazon #1 Best Seller on four continents.

The radicals or 部首 (bushu) are the components of kanji that give a hint to their meaning. There are 214 official radicals in both Japanese kanji and Chinese hanzi, and their meanings are roughly the same across both languages, with only small differences. You can find a list in the back of most kanji dictionaries and by doing an online search.

When I lived in Japan I decided to ‘challenge’ the 漢字検定 (kanjikentei), a kanji test that native Japanese people take throughout their school years, and some adults take just for the challenge of it. The test demands that you learn the meaning and names of the radicals, so I set about learning them.

As is my wont, I found it easier to learn them by breaking the list of 214 radicals down into sub-categories. While they are traditionally listed in order of stroke count, I found that separating them into subject sub-categories helped me to get a grip on their meaning and make sense of the world created by the radicals. These are categories that I decided on, and not ‘official’ as far as I know. I’m sure you could order them slightly differently, depending on how you look at them.

This list features as an appendix in my book The Kanji Code. I hope you find it useful!




My web stats tell me that quite a few people have been googling “the kanji code pdf”. Please be aware that I self-published this book with my own savings, paying the graphic designer a decent Australian rate. Even though the book is getting good Amazon rankings, this has not amounted to big bucks and I have not made a profit yet. I am certainly nowhere near being paid for the months of labour I spent in 2018 collating the lists of phonetic components, kanji examples and indexes. I get a very small proportion of the print book amount  as most of it goes to printing and the distributors.
I did a lot of the work for The Kanji Code after my 2 year old son went to bed each night, after a long day either teaching or parenting. I don’t have a university or large publisher helping with marketing because I am a casual academic and I published independently. All the marketing is up to little old me!
The print book is comparable in cost with similar textbooks, and the ebook is the cost of a cheap lunch in all regions. I have deliberately lowered the price in the emerging markets to make it more affordable. So please support our small press by paying for your copy https://amzn.to/2KWFQXD

Or if you really can’t afford it, please ask your teacher, school or library to order a copy. よろしくね!


Meaning Radical Japanese name
water, 3 water drops 水 氵 mizu/sanzui
tree ki
earth tsuchi
sun nichi
grass 艸 艹 kusa
fire 火 灬 hi
field ta
shell, money kai
big shell oogai
moon tsuki
stone ishi
river kawa
mountain yama
rain am
steam, air kigamae
ice, 2 water drops ni sui
cave ana
valley tani
branch shi nyou
mouth kuchi
hand 手 扌 te
heart 心 ⺖ sandzukuri
meat, organ 肉 月 niku
eye me
legs nin nyou
yawn, lack akubi
corpse shikabane
decay gatsuhen
foot 足 ⻊ ashi
footsteps hatsu gashira
body mi
skin kegawa
hair/3 sandzukuri
blood chi
tooth hane
person 人 亻 𠆢 hito
woman onna
old age 老 耂 rou
king, ball/ jewel 王 玉 uo tama
child ko
clan, family name uji
scholar, samurai samurai
official shin
myself mizukara
oneself onore
private, katakana mu mu
movement shin nyuu
sickness yamaidare
ma border (麻)/ dotted cliff madare
stepping gyounin ben
left village gifu no fu
right village gifu no fu
country enclosure kuni gamae
gate mon
U crown u kanmuri
pot lid nabebuta
long stride in nyou
cliff border gandare
wrapping tsutsumi gamae
inbox uke bako
C box/ box frame hako gamae
dot ten
katakana TSU/ small chiisai
wa crown wa kanmuri
bend, katakana NO 丿 no
hook hanebou
speech goto gen
eat 食 飠 shoku
worship, alter 示 礻 shimesu
again/ right hand mata
stand tatsu
stop tomeru
work, katakana E takumi
see miru
run hashiru
dry hoshi
say iwaku
compare kuraberu
live umareru
wrong, non- arazu
go gyou
bamboo take
thread 糸 幺 ito
metal kane
turban, scarf haba
clothes 衣 衤 koromo
hemp asa
tanned leather nameshi gawa
bolt of cloth ⽦ ⺪ hiki
one ichi
two ni
eight hachi gashira
ten juu
inch sun
big dai
small chiisai
long 長 镸 nagai
tall takai
second 乙 , 乚 otsu
slice, fragment kata
divide nogome
surface men
way hou
west 西  覀 nishi
boundary kon
even sei
winter fuyu gashira
evening yuube
rice kome
grain, two-branch tree nogi
dish sara
spoon saji no hi
sake, alcohol tori
wheat mugi
bean mame
horse uma
insect mushi
dog 犬 ⺨ inu
sheep hitsuji
bird tori
old bird furutori
cow ushi
fish uo
fur, wool kegawa
tusk/ fang kibahen
wings, feathers hane
sword, knife 刀 刂 katana
strike, activity ⽁ ⺙ boku dzukuri nobun
power chikara
bow yumi
arrow ya
halberd (spear-axe) kanohoko
axe ono
stick bou
door tobiranoto
net 罒 网 ⺲ ⺳) ami gashira
plow raisuki
desk tsukue
stamp, seal fushi dzukuri
vehicle kuruma
white shiro
blue ao
sound oto
zodiac dragon shin no tatsu
dragon 竜 龍 ryuu
demon oni
fortune-telling/ katakana TO boku no to

Order The Kanji Code for the Japanese phonetic components, kanji examples and vocabulary.


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