Kanji Radicals and Variants: Understanding Bushu Structures

Kanji are classified in dictionaries according to their main components. These components are called Radical (roots) in English and 部首 (bushu) in Japanese. Its original Japanese name is composed with the Kanji which means division, section, group and with kanji which means head or neck.

Radicals are kanji or elements that are found in the structure of an ideogram. Many think that a kanji is made up of several radicals, to a certain extent yes. However, each kanji has only one radical which is its head. This stem may or may not have a bearing on the final meaning of the kanji word. The radicals are not named and not all have a meaning of their own, currently there are about 214 radicals.

How is a Kanji formed using Radicals? See below radicals being applied and forming different Kanji:

  • 時 - The root of this kanji is "sun" 日 - The kanji meaning is "time";
  • 詩 - The root of this kanji is "word" 言 - The meaning of the kanji is "poetry, poem";
  • 持 - The root of this kanji is "hand" 扌 - The kanji's meaning is "to hold",

Note that the hand stem 扌 is not the same as 手. This is because not all radicals are being used in the Japanese language, most are just used to form the kanji. You should also know that Japanese is full of ideograms that have the same meaning.

Classification of Radicals - Position

Radicals are usually classified by the position they are in the kanji, knowing this position will make them easier to use.

Japanese Position
hen left side
tsukuri right side
かんむり (kanmuri) -> Crown on top
Leg below
かまえ (kamae) surround the kanji from the outside in
たれ (tare) covers the kanji from top to bottom.
にょう (nyou) left side also encompassing the underside of the kanji.

The image below will show examples of kanji and the positions of their stems.

Bushu - radicals - structures of kanji and their variants

What are the benefits of knowing Japanese Radicals?

It is important to have knowledge of these elements that make up the kanji, so that it is easier to find a particular kanji in a dictionary and even understand the essence of its meaning.

Another advantage is that over time, you will be able to identify meaning in the ideograms and you will no longer see only traces. Knowing these elements helps you remember kanji and its meaning.

We know that several words in the Japanese language are the junction of kanji, for example: 手紙 (carta) is the junction of the ideograms of hand (手) and paper (紙). The same thing happens with radicals. See some examples:

  • The Kanji and Radical 木 (tree) can become 林 (grove) and 森 (forest);
  • The Kanji and Radical 木 together with 几 (table) form the kanji 机 (desk / work table)

Imagine that you found a kanji and you don't know its meaning or how to look for it. You can use site radical search jisho or from windows itself in a resource that calls IME Pad which can be accessed by right clicking on the Japanese language keyboard icon in the windows bar.

Table with Japanese Radicals

Below we have a table with the main radicals, the number of dashes, a meaning and their position in Japanese. Remembering that the meanings of the radicals are quite varied, don't get attached to it's just an informative meaning.

traits Radical Position Meaning Grades
1 one, horizontal stroke
1 vertical stroke
1 Score
1 stroke diagonal scan
1 the second
1 the second variant of ⼄(おつ)
1 vertical stroke with a hook
2 two
2 かんむり cap, top
2 person
2 person variant of ⼈(ひと)important
2 ? かんむり person variant of ⼈(ひと)
2 human legs important
2 log in
2 eight
2 けいがまえ include
2 かんむり cover, crown important
2 へん ice
2 table
2 かんむり wind variant of ⼏(きにょう)
2 container, open box
2 knife, sword
2 つくり knife, sword variant of ⼑(かたな)important
2 power
2 wrap up
2 つくり Spoon
2 box
2 はこがまえ hide
2 ten
2 oracle
2 つくり stamp, a seal
2 cliff important
2 private, Katakana Mu
2 again the right hand
3 mouth
3 くにがまえ border, territorial borders important
3 Earth
3 man scholar samurai
3 Next
3 あし Go slow
3 night
3 big big
3 woman
3 child, son
3 かんむり roof house important
3 inch (2.25 cm)
3 small
3 かんむり small variant of ⼩(しょう)
3 つくり lame leg
3 たれ corpse, awning
3 bud
3 Mountain
3 winding river
3 river variant of ⼮(まがりがわ)
3 work, carpenter, skill
3 ego
3 cloth
3 dry, shield
3 young, light
3 たれ sloping roof important
3 にょう to move, stretch
3 あし hands folded
3 dart
3 bow (in archery)
3 Pig's head
3 Pig's head variant of ⼹(けいがしら)
3 Pig's head variant of ⼹(けいがしら)
3 つくり hair-style, the rays of light
3 へん step, step, street, go important
3 かんむり gram variant of ⾋(くさ)important
3 にょう road on foot advance variant of ⾡(しんにょう)important
3 つくり village, country, city variant of ⾢(むら)important
3 へん hill, mound variant of ⾩(こざと)important
3 かんむり katakana Tsu
3 へん heart, mind, spirit variant of ⼼(こころ)important
3 へん hand variant of ⼿(て)important
3 へん Water variant of ⽔(みず)important
3 へん beast variant of ⽝(いぬ)important
4 heart, mind, spirit
4 あし heart, mind, spirit variant of ⼼(こころ)
4 spear weapon
4 door
4 ⼿ hand
4 branch
4 つくり activity, to strike, hit
4 つくり activity, to strike, hit variant of ⽁(ぼくづくり) important
4 literature, letters
4 つくり Big Bear, shell, 18 liters
4 つくり Axe
4 direction flag
4 not
4 sun, day, time
4 to say
4 moon, month, period
4 へん moon, month, period variant of ⽉(つき)
4 tree, wood
4 missing, yawn
4 to stop
4 death and dying, decompose
4 つくり boom shaft action
4 no mother
4 to compare
4 hair
4 family, clan
4 steam, air
4 Water
4 fire
4 あし fire variant of ⽕(ひ)important
4 claw nail
4 かんむり claw nail variant of ⽖(つめ)
4 かんむり claw nail variant of ⽖(つめ)
4 dad
4 mix
4 へん split wood
4 split wood
4 cow
4 dog
4 へん altar, festival, religious service variant of ⽰(しめす)
4 liquid variant of ⽹(あみ)
4 かんむり age, old age variant of ⽼(おいかんむり)
5 darkness
5 jewelry
5 roof tile
5 sweet
5 birth, live
5 to use
5 paddy field
5 piece of fabric
5 へん piece of fabric variant of ⽦(ひき)
5 たれ illness important
5 かんむり open legs match
5 white
5 skin hide
5 plate, bowl
5 eye
5 halberd
5 arrow
5 stone
5 altar, festival, religious service
5 footprint
5 へん grain important
5 hole, cave
5 rest
5 Water variant of ⽔(みず)
5 かんむり liquid variant of ⽹(あみ)
5 ? liquid variant of ⽹(あみ)
5 へん clothing variant of ⾐(ころも)important
5 not variant of ⽆(むにょう)
6 bamboo
6 かんむり bamboo variant of ⽵(たけ)important
6 rice
6 wire
6 clay jar
6 liquid
6 sheep
6 sheep variant of ⽺(ひつじ)
6 feather, wing
6 feather, wing variant of 羽(はね)
6 age, old age
6 and also
6 へん plow
6 ⽿ ear
6 writing brush
6 meat, meats
6 retainer minister
6 ego
6 to arrive
6 mortar, whether
6 Language
6 otherwise, err
6 ship, boat
6 limit
6 color
6 grass, plant
6 かんむり tiger
6 worm, insect
6 blood
6 ぎょうがまえ go important
6 clothing
6 cover, west
6 cover, west variant of ⾑(にし)
6 melon variant of ⽠(うり)
7 "see"
7 horn, corner
7 words say say
7 okay
7 bean
7 pig
7 へん badger
7 shell, property, wealth
7 red
7 run
7 foot leg
7 へん foot leg variant of ⾜(あし)important
7 body
7 vehicle, wheel, car
7 bitter
7 sign Thursday, 7-9 AM
7 to advance, advance
7 community
7 Bird
7 break apart
7 village, (km 3.93)
7 retainer minister variant of ⾂(しん)
7 wheat variant of ⿆(むぎ)important
8 metal, gold, mineral
8 far away
8 もんがまえ gate, door
8 hill
8 つくり capture
8 little bird
8 rain
8 かんむり rain variant of ⾬(あめ)important
8 blue green
8 blue green variant of ⾭(あお)
8 wrong, no
8 へん food, eat variant of ⾷(しょく)
8 like variant of ⿑(せい)
9 face, surface
9 leather
9 leek
9 sound, noise
9 つくり head page important
9 wind
9 to fly
9 food, eat
9 head
9 perfume
10 horse
10 bone
10 tall
10 かんむり long hair
10 もんがまえ fight
10 ⾿ herbs
10 tripod
10 demon
10 leather variant of (なめしがわ)
11 fish
11 Bird
11 salt
11 Hart
11 wheat
11 hemp
11 yellow variant of ⿈(き)
11 black variant of ⿊(くろ)
11 turtle variant of ⿔(かめ)
12 yellow
12 millet
12 black
12 embroider
12 tooth variant of ⿒(は)
13 frog
13 tripod
13 drum
13 mouse, mouse
14 nose
14 like
15 tooth
16 Dragon
16 turtle
17 flute

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