Kanji Clinic #54 The Japan Times, May 13, 2004
gAnatomical kanji speak volumes about our bodiesh

Twenty years ago, while still a newcomer to Japan, I fell ill with the flu and ventured into a Japanese clinic for the first time. The nurse asked me to fill out a detailed health-history questionnaire, but I was utterly stumped by the questions, and there was no English version available. This experience made me recognize the importance of learning the Sino-Japanese characters most commonly utilized by the Japanese medical profession, including those representing elements of my anatomy.

Of the 1,945 general-use (joyo) kanji, over 40 are directly related to the human body. To kick off todayfs anatomical kanji lesson, see how many of the following characters you can provide with their English meanings. (Youfll encounter the answers as you read through the remainder of the column):

, , , , , , , , S, , , , g, w, , , @, , , , , , , ], , x, , w, , , , , r, , , , ,O, _, , , E, .

Among the kanji introduced to Japanese first-graders, several represent body parts: (mouth, kuchi), (ear, mimi), (hand, te), (leg, ashi), and (eye, me). Second-graders learn a kanji representing the ghuman bodyh itself, (karada), as well as (neck, kubi), (hair, ke), and S (heart, SHIN). [Note: On, or gChinese,h pronunciations are capitalized here. The names of some body parts, such as S (heart, heart-organ, shinzou) are compounds of on pronunciations]. Many 7-year-olds struggle mightily to legibly produce second-grade characters (head, atama) and the 18-stroke (face, kao).

Third grade brings a body-fluid kanji, (blood, chi). Last year, my gore-obsessed son remembered the shape of this one as ga drop of blood on my dinner plate M.h He also mastered another kanji meaning gbody,h g (SHIN), as well as w (finger, yubi), (tooth, ha), (skin/leather, HI), and @ (nose, hana). Now a fourth-grader, Sean is digging into (intestines, CHOU), (vein, MYAKU), and (stomach, I).

Fifth-graders are expected to learn (tongue, shita)--which is also a component in a kanji meaning gtalk,h b--and another kanji that means geye,h (GAN); look for the less sophisticated first-grade character for geye,h , on the left-hand side of . Eight anatomical kanji are introduced to sixth-graders, more than in any other elementary school grade: (chest, mune), ] (brain, NOU), (organs, ZOU), x (lungs, HAI), (abdomen, FUKU), w (the back, se), (muscle, KIN), and (bone, hone). Like many other body-part kanji, all of these contain the component , which comes from the kanji (flesh/meat), originally a pictograph of a fillet of meat.

Junior high-school students learn more than a dozen kanji representing elements of their corporal selves, including: (hada) and (FU), both meaning ghuman skinh; r (arm, ude); (waist, koshi); (liver, KAN); (membrane, MAKU); (human hair, kami); O (lips, kuchibiru); _ (gallbladder, TAN); (torso, DOU); (shoulder, kata); E (membranous sacs, such as cells and afterbirth, HOU); and (womb, TAI).

That sums up the general-use kanji which are anatomical in nature. Other body-part characters commonly seen in Japanese newspapers, magazines, and health-related materials--as well as on Level 1 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test-- include: K (buttocks, shiri), t (kidney, JIN), (fingernail, tsume), A (throat, nodo), E (facial hair, hige), G (knee, hiza), I (elbow, hiji), (eyelid, mayu), e (armpit, waki), j (cheek, hoo), (pupil, hitomi), and (pelvis, mata). Numerous other kanji are employed by those in the medical field for the identification of more obscure body parts. Letfs leave those to the professionals.

I recommend utilizing roadside billboards advertising clinics and hospitals as learning tools for remembering many body-part kanji. While stuck in traffic, keep your eyes peeled for the likes of (tooth-specialist, shika, gdentisth), 畆 (skin-skin-specialist, hifuka, gdermatologisth), (eye-specialist, ganka, gophthalmologisth), and @A (ear-nose-throat-throat-specialist, jibiinkouka).

Learning the kanji representing the parts of your own body is an excellent way to demonstrate that you are striving to be a fully functioning, literate--not to mention healthy-- resident of your adopted land.

Quiz on Anatomical Kanji Compounds--Print it out!
Match each of the following compounds with its English meaning and pronunciation. All compounds are comprised of general-use (jouyou) kanji:

1. S
2. 咰
4. ew
5. 畆
6. iv
7. ዅ
8. ݑ
9. ]זE
11. ̑
13. ۖ
14. َ
16. w
17. q{
20. ؓ

a. blood vessel (kekkan): blood+pipe
b. eardrum (komaku): drum+membrane
c. heart (shinzou): heart+organ
d. fetus (taiji): womb+infant
e. skin (hifu): skin+skin
f. muscle (kinfniku): muscle+flesh
g. spine (sebone): back+bone
h. brain cells (nousaibou): brain+detailed+cell
i. stomach (ibukuro): stomach+bag
j. skull (toukotsu): head+bone
k. torso (doutai): trunk+body
l. uterus (shikyuu): child+shrine
m. large intestine (daichou): big+intestine
n. thumb (oyayubi): parent+finger
o. organs (naizou): interior+organ
p. permanent tooth (eikyuushi): forever+forever+tooth
q. ovary (ransou): egg+nest
r. artery(doumyaku): move+vein
s. liver (kanzou): liver+organ
t. eyeball (gankyuu): eye+sphere

1.c 2.m 3.a 4.n 5.e 6. p 7.t 8.i 9.h. 10. j 11.s 12.q 13.b 14.d 15.o 16.g 17.l 18.r. 19.k 20.f

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