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!

YOU

 

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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 didn’t run a Kickstarter campaign, I just used my own funds and I would just like to receive some payment for all the hard work I put in which will hopefully help lots of people learn kanji. I don’t have a university or large publisher behind me yet because I am a casual academic so this is not considered the university’s book. All the marketing is up to little old me! If one day a big publisher decides to buy the book, I will remove this message.

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Meaning Radical Japanese name
NATURE    
water, 3 water drops 水 氵 mizu/sanzui
tree ki
earth tsuchi
sun hi
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 ame
steam, air kigamae
ice, 2 water drops ni sui
cave ana
valley tani
branch shi
BODY PARTS
mouth kuchi
hand 手 扌 te
heart 心 ⺖ kokoro
meat, organ 肉 月 niku
eye me
legs nin nyou / hito ashi
yawn, lack akubi
corpse shikabane
decay gatsuhen
foot 足 ⻊ ashi
footsteps hatsu gashira
neck kubi
body mi
skin kegawa
hair/3 sandzukuri
blood chi
tooth ha
PEOPLE
person 人 亻 𠆢 hito
woman onna
old age 老 耂 rou
king, ball/ jewel 王 玉 ou tama
child ko
clan, family name uji
scholar, samurai samurai
official shin
myself mizukara
oneself onore
private, katakana mu mu
ENCLOSURES
movement shin nyuu
sickness yamaidare
ma border (麻)/ dotted cliff madare
stepping gyounin ben
left village kozatohen
right village oozato
country enclosure kuni gamae
gate mon
U crown u kanmuri
pot lid nabebuta
long stride en nyou
cliff border gandare
wrapping tsutsumi gamae
inbox uke bako
C box/ box frame hako gamae
dot ten
katakana TSU/ small tsu  kanmuri
wa crown wa kanmuri
bend, katakana NO 丿 no
hook hanebou
VERBS/ LANGUAGE
speech 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 kan
say iwaku
compare kuraberu
live umareru
wrong, non- arazu / hi
go gyou
NATURAL MATERIALS
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
MATH & MEASUREMENT
one ichi
two ni
eight hachi
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
FOOD
rice kome
grain, two-branch tree nogi
dish sara
spoon saji no hi
sake, alcohol tori
wheat mugi
bean mame
ANIMALS
horse uma
insect mushi
dog 犬 ⺨ inu
sheep hitsuji
bird tori
old bird furutori
cow ushi
fish uo
fur, wool ke
tusk/ fang kibahen
wings, feathers hane
WARFARE
sword, knife 刀 刂 katana
strike, activity ⽁ ⺙ boku dzukuri nobun
power chikara
bow yumi
arrow ya
halberd (spear-axe) hoko
axe ono
stick bou
MAN-MADE TOOLS
door to
net 罒 网 ⺲ ⺳) ami gashira
plow raisuki
desk tsukue
stamp, seal fushi dzukuri
vehicle kuruma
SENSES
white shiro
blue ao
sound oto
SUPERNATURAL
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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