Like most commuter trains in many parts of the world, Japanese ones feature a plethora of advertisements for beauty, clothing, dental services, real estate, and even the occasional English class. Reading these ads has become a habitual part of my commute, so I am introduced to new kanji often.
Today as I was traveling to work I noticed a beauty advertisement with a peculiar looking kanji; 繭/まゆ。 I don’t remember the full context of the advertisement, but I recall a eureka moment as I parsed the character apart.
Anatomy of Kanji
If you weren’t already aware, some of the most complex characters are created by combining simpler kanji or significantly edited kanji that no longer have an independent meaning but influence the idea behind the reading; these are called “radicals”.
*Radical can appear at the top(Kanmuri), bottom(ashi), left(hen), right(tsukuri), enclosed(kamae), hanging down(tare), and wrapped around the bottom(nyō).
If we breakdown today’s word from the top to bottom we can see a pretty interesting story inside these complicated squiggles.
Hen:糸/いと/E-toe/thread or silk
Can you solve it just using the clues above? Write your answer in the comments below. If you’re interested in learning more radicals, check out Kanji Alive.
*Beware: Orientation vocabulary is specific to kanji only and NOT equivalent to the primary directions right, left, up, down, etc.
**This kanji is obsolete. Contemporary reading of “grass” is 草(same pronunciation).
A bug wrapped in thread, hanging from grass is known as a cocoon.