Seeing radicals in kanji

I’m trying to think through how to deduce the radical structure of new kanji, but while some are straightforward, others, like 幸, seem ambiguous.

How do you decide if it’s lid and spicy vs stand and ten?

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The radicals Wanikani uses are just for the sake of mnemonics, so I would think that, when it’s ambiguous, they usually choose it based on how memorable a mnemonic they can make. So, most times there is no actual way to know until they say what radicals they are using.

Also, in this particular case I think “lid and spicy” is easier to see than “stand and cross”, but that may be just me.


Yeah, even WK isn’t super consistent with how they decide which radicals to use. Check out superior and grief, which are basically the same thing (but superior has the leader radical on the left), but use different radicals.

If a kanji has more obvious radicals to you, I would suggest making your own mnemonic…


This kinda annoys me as well, but it doesn’t seem too common and even then I don’t necessarily have a problem remembering the kanji so might not need to lean too heavily on the mnemonic anyway.

But when I have those times where I’m going “wait, so, there’s a pile underground, or, hang on, maybe…” it’s really frustrating that I don’t even know which radicals I’m supposed to try to make a story from.


I see soil on a drop and modified drop on an antenna.

Like others have said, radicals can be ambiguous sometimes, and not even WaniKani is consistent with usage. My advice is to write out the kanji. For me at least, writing kanji out really helps to break it down so from there it may be a bit easier to decipher.

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