Japanese Radicals by Subject

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

Natalie Hamilton is a translator and teacher. 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 am a teacher and I self-published this book to a professional standard using my own savings.
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 research student and casual academic. 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 my 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!
I have shared my list of radicals below for people who can’t afford to spend any money. よろしくね!

Meaning Radical Japanese name
water, 3 water drops 水 氵 mizu/sanzui


tree ki  き
earth tsuchi  つち
sun hi  ひ
grass 艸 艹 kusa  くさ
fire 火 灬 hi  ひ
field ta  た
shell, money kai  かい
big shell oogai  おおがい
moon tsuki  つき
stone ishi  いし
river kawa  かわ
mountain yama  やま
rain ame  あめ
steam, air kigamae きがまえ
ice, 2 water drops ni sui にすい
cave ana  あな
valley tani  たな
branch shi  し
mouth kuchi  くち
hand 手 扌 te   て
heart 心 ⺖ kokoro こころ
meat, organ 肉 月 niku  にく
eye me  め
legs nin nyou / hito ashi



yawn, lack akubi あくび
corpse shikabane しかばね
decay, death gatsuhen がつへん
foot 足 ⻊ ashi あし
footsteps hatsu gashira


neck kubi  くび
body mi  み
skin kegawa けがわ
hair/3 sandzukuri
blood chi  ち
tooth ha  は
person 人 亻 𠆢 hito  ひと
woman onna  おんな
old age 老 耂 rou  ろう
king, ball/ jewel 王 玉 ou tama おうたま
child ko  こ
clan, family name uji  うじ
scholar, samurai samurai さむらい
official shin  しん
myself mizukara みずから
oneself onore  おのれ
private, katakana mu mu   む
movement shin nyuu


sickness yamaidare


ma border (麻)/ dotted cliff madare まだれ
stepping gyounin ben


left village kozatohen


right village oozato おおざと
country enclosure kuni gamae くにがまえ
gate mon  もん
U crown u kanmuri

う かんむり

pot lid nabebuta なべぶた
long stride en nyou


cliff border gandare がんだれ
wrapping tsutsumi gamae


inbox uke bako うけばこ
C box/ box frame hako gamae


dot ten てん
katakana TSU/ small tsu  kanmuri

つ かんむり

wa crown wa kanmuri

わ かんむり

bend, katakana NO 丿 no  の
hook hanebou はねぼう
speech gen  げん
eat 食 飠 shoku  しょく
worship, alter 示 礻 shimesu しめす
again/ right hand mata  また
stand tatsu  たつ
stop tomeru とめる
work, katakana E takumi たくみ
see miru  みる
run hashiru はしる
dry kan  かん
say iwaku いわく
compare kuraberu くらべる
live umareru うまれる
wrong, non- arazu / hi


go gyou  ぎょう
bamboo take  たけ
thread 糸 幺 ito   いと
metal, gold kane  かね
turban, scarf haba  はば
clothes 衣 衤 koromo ころも
hemp asa  あさ
tanned leather nameshi gawa

なめし がわ

bolt of cloth ⽦ ⺪ hiki  ひき
one ichi  いち
two ni   に
eight hachi はち
ten juu  じゅう
inch sun  すん
big dai  だい
small chiisai ちいさい
long 長 镸 nagai ながい
tall takai たかい
second 乙 , 乚 otsu おつ
slice, fragment kata かた
divide nogome のごめ
surface men  めん
way hou  ほう
west 西  覀 nishi  にし
boundary kon  こん
even sei  せい
winter fuyu gashira

ふゆ がしら

evening yuube ゆうべ
rice kome  こめ
grain, two-branch tree nogi  のぎ
dish sara  さら
spoon saji no hi さじのひ
sake, alcohol tori  とり
wheat mugi  むぎ
bean mame  まめ
horse uma  うま
insect mushi むし
dog 犬 ⺨ inu  いぬ
sheep hitsuji ひつじ
bird tori  とり
old bird furutori ふるとり
cow ushi  うし
fish uo  うお
fur, wool ke  け
tusk/ fang kibahen きばへん
wings, feathers hane  はね
sword, knife 刀 刂 katana かたな
strike, activity ⽁ ⺙ boku dzukuri nobun

ぼく ずくりのぶん

power chikara ちから
bow yumi  ゆみ
arrow ya   や
halberd (spear-axe) hoko  ほこ
axe ono  おの
stick bou  ぼう
door to  と
net 罒 网 ⺲ ⺳) ami gashira


plow raisuki らいすき
desk tsukue つくえ
stamp, seal fushi dzukuri

ふし ずくり

vehicle kuruma くるま
white shiro しろ
blue ao  あお
sound oto  おと
zodiac dragon shin no tatsu


dragon 竜 龍 ryuu りゅう
demon oni  おに
fortune-telling/ katakana TO boku no to


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


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