Today we are going to talk about radicals.  Not this kind of Japanese radical:



(Those of you who live in Japan know what I am talking about!)


No, we are going to talk about the radicals you find in kanji characters.

This site: explains it very nicely, so I will copy and paste from it.  (Click the link itself for more helpful info regarding radicals!)

“What Are Radicals?

A radical (bushu) is a common sub-element found in different kanji characters. Every kanji has a radical or a radical itself can be a kanji. Radicals express the general nature of the kanji characters. A radical is the part of the kanji character that gives you a clue to its origin, group, meaning or pronunciation. Many kanji dictionaries organize characters by their radicals.

There are 214 radicals. Don’t worry about learning all of them! I doubt most Japanese can recognize and name them all. However, if you memorize some of the important radicals, they will help you to figure out the meanings of many kanji.”


So anyway, I was at the prefectural library and I found these nifty little books for learning radicals.  They are written and illustrated by acclaimed illustrator Gomi Taro.  Aren’t they precious?


It seems that there are four books in the little series.  Each book is devoted to a different radical.

Top:  Person     Water

Bottom:   Hand     Tree



It is so helpful to me.  One bad thing about Japanese is that it bears no relation to English, so the vocabulary can be hard to remember and the kanji can be hard to remember.  But if I see the “Person” radical, I know that the kanji probably relates somehow to a person.

人is person  犬 is dog

So we put the radical for person next to “dog” and get 伏せる ”Fuseru”

A person who is like a dog….?  Hmmmm………..what is that?  It’s a person lying down like a dog.  “fuseru” means to 1.) lie down 2.) keep secret/hide.

This is a handy way to remember difficult words and kanji!