Radicals are the figures used to create Kanji characters. More than 200 radicals exist. You can see a list of them in the Appendix.
Some radicals themselves are kanjis. So, if you store them in your mind then you also gain some kanjis. Kanji characters are drawn inside a hypothetical square area proportionally. Normally, kanji characters are created combining some of radicals or some of other kanjis inside. Radicals or other kanjis are used in different parts of the hypothetical square.
In other words, we can describe radicals in two groups:
1- Radicals that are not kanjis themselves (They are called elements),
2- Radicals that are kanjis themselves. (When they come together some shape differences may occur.)
The parts that radicals take place are as follows:
Strokes or lines drawn (They are called “kaku”) are located in those shaded areas.
a. Left wing b. Right wing
c. Upper half d. Lower half
e. Upper left f. Lower left
g. Outer frames
Reminder: If you do not draw your kakus in peculiar areas then kanjis may not be figured out.
Know radicals but not memorize.: Because they do not have specific readings, only reviving their shapes and the meaning of those shapes in mind will be enough to help remember the kanjis. So, radicals are reminders.
Let’s try to explain with an example:
The word “Body” in English is read in Japanese as “Karada”. Its kanji is “体”. This shape forms itself from the radical “亻” and the kanji “本” . The radical“亻” represents the meaning “person”. Actually the kanji for “person” is “人” (Japanese reading (Kun-yomi) is “Hito” and Chinese reading (On-yomi) is “jin” or “nin”). That radical “亻”is used to represent the kanji ”人” . Since the area this radical is shown at the left wing of the so-called hypothetical square is not so wide, then the orijinal ”人” shaped kanji becomes narrowed and “亻” shaped radical is formed.
And the kanji “本” (Japanese reading (Kun-yomi) is “Moto” and Chinese reading (On-yomi) is “Hon”) stands for the meaning “main, basic, origin, book”.
To sum up, “Karada” consists of two parts as:
“亻” + “本” = “体”
Person + Main = Body
That makes the “main part of a person” which is “Body”.
Some main radicals can be seen below:
In chart, the Used Area column shows generally used hypothetical kanji square where the radical in the same line is drawn.
We should not forget: Memorizing is not necessary. Just remember.
For example; when you see the radical figure of “犭” in a kanji, it means that kanji is related with “an animal, a beast or regarding characteristics” like in kanji of ” 猫 ” which means “neko” in Japanese reading (Meaning “cat” in English). And that “animal radical” is drawn towards the left hand side of the square. The remaining side of the square is for the main figure representing “cat” in this example.