April 6, 2020

和製漢字 Made in Japan Kanji

わせい かんじ


Kanji, made in Japan

While the vast majority of kanji came from China, there are a number of 和製漢字 wasei kanji, Kanji created in Japan. Most of these kanji are made by combining two or more kanji to get the desired meaning.

国字 (kokuji) is another name for these kanji.

For example:
iwashi – sardine

This fish which was considered weak is made by combining the kanji for fish (魚) and weak (弱)

There are actually many fish related 和製漢字 since mainland China, especially in the West) didn’t have as much contact with marine life as did the island nation of Japan.

Here are a few 和製漢字 that are in use commonly in Japan. If you know others that are useful, please leave us a comment, and I will try to add them as we collect them.

See if you can guess some of the meanings by looking at how the kanji is made up.

The 和製漢字

How it is made up

English meaning


1) 山 (mountain)
2) 上 (up)

3) 下 (down)

(a mountain) pass;

峠を越える [touge o koeru] to cross over (a mountain)


1) the radical しんにょう (sometimes しんにゅう) which usually denotes walking or something to do with the road
2) 十 (normally 10 but here meaning a cross)

a crossroads, a crossing place


1) 火 (fire)
2) 田 (rice paddy)

a field (for farming)


1) 人 (radical form of person)
2) 動 (to move)

to work


1) 魚 (fish)
2) 虎 (tiger)

killer whale


1) 魚 (fish)
2) 雪 (snow)

cod (codfish)


1) 雨 (rain)
2) 下 (down)

a drop (of water)



1) 身 (body)
2) 美 (beautiful)

training, discipline

躾が良い – be well-bred

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