List of Phonetic Components

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

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 components that indicate meaning in Japanese – the radicals or 部首 (bushu) – are a known quantity. There are 214 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 two good online lists can be found at Kanji Alive and Wikipedia. Personally, I found it useful to learn the radicals by subject category. I’ve created a list of the most common radicals by subject which you might find helpful.

The components that indicate sound – the phonetic components or 音符 (onpu) – are more shifty than the radicals. There is no official list, even though many people agree that they exist and that they do provide a great hint to the ON readings of kanji. One reason for this is the many exceptions to the phonetics. A phonetic that appears in one kanji may indicate a different sound in another. For this reason phonetic components sometimes falls into the ‘too hard basket’ in Japanese language education. However, this is changing and as my recent conversation with Hiroko Townsend showed, the phonetics are now believed by teachers and academics to be a vital weapon in your kanji learning armory.

The absence of an official list was frustrating when I was studying kanji intensively.  I intuitively knew that learning them would help me to master more kanji ON readings. So  I attempted to catalogue the most useful phonetic components while I was living in Japan in 2006,  and in 2011 I made this exercise formal in a linguistics dissertation at Macquarie University. In 2018 I revisited my list and expanded on it by going through the Joyo Kanji in order, looking for kanji with the same reading that shared a certain component. To this list I added 41 phonetics from Townsend’s 2011 dissertation, finally arriving at 150 components, which includes 20 rhyming phonetics – where the final sound is the same, rather than the whole ON reading. The full references for my research can be found in The Kanji Code.

YOUSo here you have it. The first ‘official’ online list of the Japanese Phonetic Components that explicitly lists the components and the sounds they represent, as well as providing a name to help you remember them. The radicals give you a hint to the meaning of kanji, and these phonetics will give you a hint to the reading or pronunciation.

For each of the components listed below, my book  The Kanji Code includes the following information:

  1. the component e.g. 可
  2. the ON reading it represents, written in romaji e.g. KA
  3. the meaning in English e.g. possible
  4. the type (either a kanji in its own right, a radical or a component) e.g. kanji
  5. at least two and up to seven kanji that contain it and their meaning

e.g. 可 possible

河 river

歌 sing, song

6. at least one example word per kanji that uses the reading associated with this phonetic, with an English meaning and the reading written in romaji

e.g. KANOU possible

KASEN river, stream

KASHI song lyrics

A version of this list that links to the WWWJDIC was created by Dr Jim Breen in September 2019. It allows you to click on each kanji and see its full entry in the WWWJDIC including radicals, meaning in Japanese and English and more. Click the link below to visit the clickable link. It’s also listed on Dr Breen’s Japanese Page.

Kanji Phonetic Components linked to WWWJDIC


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 spent about nine months working on The Kanji Code, and that doesn’t include 18 months I spent on a linguistics dissertation several years earlier. I did a lot of the work after my two 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 some 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

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 phonetics below for people who can’t afford to spend any money. よろしくね!

Kanji Phonetic Components (Standard)

Phonetic component names are Copyright Natalie Hamilton 2019.

kanji phonetic componentThose marked as creative components have an original name that was created by the author, because the component is not known to have a clear meaning in Japanese. a detailed explanation of the creative component derivation can be found in the book.

Those marked Power Phonetics appear in at least five kanji.

The list is provided for research and study purposes. If you reproduce it, please credit Ocha Press and provide a link to this page.

Cite this resource (APA style): Hamilton, N. (2019). The Kanji Code. Sydney: Ocha Press. Retrieved from

Order The Kanji Code for the full list including kanji examples and vocabulary.

Phonetic Component ON reading Name Type Power Phonetic
1 EI eternal kanji
2 KA possible kanji
3 KA add kanji
4 KA change kanji
5 KA fruit kanji
6 KA open mouth component
7 GA tusk radical
8 GA myself, obstinate kanji
9 GI morality kanji
10 KAKU each kanji
11 KAN dry radical
12 KAN bureaucrat kanji
13 KAN gate radical
14 𠦝 KAN 10AM creative component
15 KI desk radical
16 KI oneself radical
17 KI step ladder creative component
18 KI strange kanji
19 KYUU reach kanji
20 KYUU want kanji
21 KYO Enormous*

The capital E is deliberate, as it resembles 巨

22 KYOU big brother kanji
23 KYOU nosy neighbour creative component
24 KYOU share kanji
25 KYOU pinch component
26 KU ward kanji
27 GUU fasten together creative component
28 KUTSU bend kanji
29 KEI thread radical
30 KEI jade kanji
31 KEI straight component
32 KEI respect kanji
33 KEN ticket component
34 KEN dog radical
35 KEN everyone, all component
36 KEN prefecture kanji
37 KEN solid kanji
38 KO old kanji Power Phonetic
39 GO five kanji
40 KOU katakana E, work radical
41 KOU old age radical
42 KOU mix kanji
43 KOU flood kanji
44 KOU combine component
45 KOU tall radical
46 KON boundary radical Power Phonetic
47 SA left kanji
48 SA a few kanji
49 SAI dice kanji
50 ZAI talent kanji
51 SAI even radical
52 SAKU craft letter F creative component
53 SATSU festival kanji
54 SAN participate kanji
55 SHI manage kanji Power Phonetic
56 SHI scholar radical Power Phonetic
57 SHI next kanji
58 SHI spoon radical
59 SHOKU direct kanji
60 JI temple kanji
61 SHAKU long ago kanji
62 SHU bright red kanji
63 JUU ten radical
64 JUN ten days kanji
65 SHOU small radical
66 SHOU similar kanji
67 SHOU summon kanji (honorific)
68 SHIN say kanji (honorific)
69 SHIN zodiac dragon radical
70 SHIN rash creative component
71 SHIN relative component
72 SEI life radical
73 SEI correct kanji
74 SEI blue kanji
75 SEI become kanji
76 SEN fountain kanji
77 SEN thinly sliced creative component
78 ZEN kind kanji
79 SO moreover kanji (formal)
80 SOU mutual kanji
81 SOU great grandma kanji
82 SOU sergeant kanji
83 SOU Christmas tree/
pine cone
creative component
84 SOKU rule kanji
85 DAI little brother kanji
86 TAN dawn kanji
87 TAN single kanji
88 CHI wisdom kanji
89 CHIKU bamboo radical
90 CHUU centre kanji
91 CHUU main kanji
92 CHOU long radical
93 CHOU omen kanji
94 TSUU pack elephant creative component
95 TEI nail kanji
96 TEI bolt of cloth radical
97 TEI ancient tribe kanji (rare)
98 TEI court kanji
99 TEKI stem component
100 DOU same kanji
101 DOU child kanji
102 NIN crying baby creative component
103 NIN endure kanji
104 HAKU white radical
105 HAN half kanji
106 HAN opposite kanji Power Phonetic
107 HI certainly, must kanji
108 HI skin radical Power Phonetic
109 HI non- radical
110 FU attach kanji
111 FUKU full box creative component
112 FUKU lathe, repeat component
113 FUN minute kanji
114 HEKI heckler, punish kanji creative component
115 HEN knitting creative component
116 HO piercing sword/needle creative component
117 BO sundown creative component Power Phonetic
118 HOU wrapping kanji Power Phonetic
119 HOU sewing needle/
bee sting
creative component
120 BOU dead kanji
121 MA hemp radical
122 MI not yet kanji
123 MITSU hidden treasure creative component
124 MEI name kanji
125 MEI bright kanji
126 MEN surface kanji
127 REI order kanji Power Phonetic
128 ROU good kanji
129 YO look ahead kanji
130 YOU sheep radical

Order The Kanji Code for the full list including kanji examples and vocabulary.

Kanji Phonetic Components (Rhyming)

Rhyming phonetic components appear in kanji that don’t have the same first sound, but have the same final sound. For example, HOU/BOU and BEI/MAI.

Phonetic Component ON Reading Name Type Power Phonetic
PR1 ~OU movement radical
PR2 HOU/BOU way radical Power Phonetic
PR3 ~AI/EI rice radical
PR4 ~AN single kanji
PR5 ~IN goods kanji
PR6 ~EN fortune-telling kanji
PR7 ~EN evade kanji
PR8 ~EN also kanji
PR9 ~IN/ON cause kanji
PR10 ~AN/EN origin kanji
PR11 ~N number kanji
PR12 ~AKU each kanji
PR13 ~AKU sundown creative component
PR14 ~AKU fun kanji
PR15 ~UTSU exit kanji
PR16 ~OKU valley radical
PR17 ~OKU direct kanji
PR18 ~OKU chisel/tea harvest (catch) creative component
PR19 ~ATSU/ETSU sword radical
PR20 ~ITSU/ETSU axe radical

Order The Kanji Code for the full list including kanji examples and vocabulary.


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