Help me break down non-WaniKani kanji!

On top of WaniKani, I’ve been making an Anki deck of kanji that aren’t included here. My long-term goal is to learn all the jōyō kanji and enough of the jinmeiyō kanji so I don’t have to look them up very often. I know it’s overkill, but we all have to have dreams in this beast of a world.

Here’s what a typical card in this deck looks like…

Some kanji are a real pain in the butt to break down using WaniKani’s radicals and names, and I thought I’d ask your help.


  1. Heisig calls this one “let it be.” It’s a jinmeiyō kanji but it’s part of 璽, which is one of the jōyō kanji. Based on what Jisho tells me, it appears to be 一 (ground) + | (stick) + ハ (fins) + 冂 (head) + 4 treasures.

  2. This one means “tile,” but as near as I can tell, I’m best off just treating this as its own radical.

  3. The flowers, thread, and insect are obvious, but that E-shaped enclosure is tricky. It’s almost like 山 flipped upside-down. Maybe another case of | (stick) + 冂 (head).

  4. This one does that weird thing where the “fins” of 小 can be inverted. I see 艹 (flowers) + 小 (small) + 冂 (head) + 小 (small again) + 攵 (winter/taskmaster).

  5. Even Heisig doesn’t have this monster. But I’ve seen it in the wild, specifically in the word 瀟洒. Jisho’s breakdown isn’t much help either.

  6. I know this is one of the five that got removed from the jōyō kanji in 2010. But I figure learning five more kanji isn’t that much work. Even though I’m a math professor and I still doubt I’ll ever need to convert something in もんめ. Jisho breaks this down into 丶 (drop) + ノ (slide) + 勹 (prison), but the drop doesn’t sit well with me. I think of “drop” as concave down, but it’s concave up in the kanji. I’ll just go with it. Still feels weird, though.

You’re welcome to use this thread to ask for kanji that you’re learning as well, of course. I’d imagine most of us will use WaniKani as a springboard for further learning, so we might as well get started!

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If you want a simpler mnemonic, you could call it a rain (雨) of treasure, with a pair of fins.

“Tsunami” + “flowers” + half of “brush” + two "one-sided"s facing each other.

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For #2 at least it’s the right part of (瓶) bottle so you could definitely just call it a radical.

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I might try coming up with something for a few of these and adding them to my unconventional mnemonics thread with proper structure, but for now, here’s what crosses my mind when looking at some of these:

The main use I know of for this is ‘thou’ i.e. an old-fashioned ‘you’. To me, it looks like a house full of something. Full of ‘treasure’, if you like. What kind of house looks like this? How about a traditional Japanese one with a very long central beam for the roof:


If you want, you can think about Japanese politeness and imagine that you have to treat the person you’re speaking to (‘you’, the 2nd person) like a house full of treasure.

I’d advise trying to picture a tile and laying it over this character. Imagine a long tile shaped like a parallelogram slanted towards the right, maybe with a little mark in the centre. Looks like the kanji, no?

It’s a cocoon, right? Imagine the cocoon is a house. The larva (虫) inside has a two-compartment house (imagine shōji= 障子 doors). The translucent part of the door is made of silk/thread (糹), and if you peek in through the open shōji on the right, you’ll see what’s inside. A cocoon is usually attached to a plant (艹) too.

㡀 is a (probably old) kanji that means ‘tattered clothing’. It’s 巾 (cloth) plus little dots that represent how tattered cloth looks. 攵is a hand holding a stick (you can keep ‘taskmaster’ for this if you like). The whole character means ‘to cover/hide’. Imagine you’ve got tattered clothes. As a taskmaster (or using your hand), you want to hide them so everything seems to be in good condition, so you cover them with grass (see how that radical is on top of the tattered cloth?). (Maybe WK calls 艹 ‘flowers’, but I learnt it as ‘the grass radical’ in Chinese, and it really does represent grass, which is tons more general than ‘flower’, so I’m keeping it. You can cover the clothes with ‘flowers’ if you prefer.)

If you’ve been following the pandemic in Japan in Japanese, you’ll know that the term for ‘staying home as much as possible and possibly self-isolating’ is actually ‘self-discipline’ (自粛). The second kanji is the simplified version of that main part of that ‘monster’. The complicated bit with a lot of mini-L’s (which probably represent something like hands or feet or even just legs of a metal vessel/container) actually looks a lot like the wood carving in the bottom righthand corner:

(Can you see the four little L’s, two curving upwards and two curving downwards and the cross in the middle?)
Anyway, if you ask me how to remember this… Elegant things are often orderly, and hence ‘disciplined’ (粛). You’re left with two radicals from there. To keep those in mind… I don’t know, imagine an elegant person stepping on wet ground or, better yet, wet (氵) grass (艹). The water doesn’t splash everywhere and make a mess. Instead, it arcs elegantly. (For a more concrete example, think of those ‘cool guy taking off/putting on a wet coat in the rain by swinging it’ scenes from movies in which the droplets seem to fly away spectacularly.)

Looking at EN-JP dictionary definitions, I think this kanji’s meanings are more or less dead in modern usage, so I’m not sure if it’s useful to learn. I have no idea how I would use it outside of a text discussing the history of Japanese civilisation. In essence though, it’s a unit of measurement. I’d do something like pretending it’s a standard weight with a pretty shape or something, with 勹 being a pretty handle or frame. The 乂 is just something I need to add to give the shape more weight/body.

This is correct, except that they’re fundamentally the same stroke in calligraphy. The difference lies in how it’s extended after one starts (with what curvature, and how far) and what finishing movement is used. Technically, they have two different names in Chinese, but are often classified together. I don’t know if they have two different names in Japanese though. What I will say though, is this: 乀 (I’m sorry, I don’t know how to get a character without that extra tail) is often simplified to a丶of varying lengths in various cursive calligraphy styles. If you refer to the Jōyō Kanji List, under the handwritten character example section (it starts on page 7), you’ll see some very good examples of this variation under 外: it’s written with three different lengths of 乀/丶 and with different curvatures too. All three are acceptable in Japanese, even though the style used in the examples is not cursive.

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