56. The "Ceremony" Radical: 弋

The following shape looks quite incomplete but is actually a non-Joyo character:

弋 ((1) hunting tool consisting of an arrow with an attached string (or net); (2) stake; post; wooden pile; picket)

Henshall repeatedly says in his newer edition that this shape means “stake” or “wooden pile," though he occasionally defines it as “weapon handle,” “tool,” and “sign/marker.” That's quite a range!

In addition to being a character,  serves as radical 56, which is on duty in just two Joyo kanji:

式 (295: style; method; ceremony; formula)

弐 (950: two)

The first character, which is far more common than the second, has inspired both the Japanese and English names of the radical. That is, the Japanese call it しきがまえ. The しき comes from the Joyo on-yomi of 式. And -がまえ is the name of radical position 5, which is for a radical that "encloses" the rest of the character. I wouldn't quite describe 式 that way, but let's just go with it. Meanwhile, the English radical name is "ceremony," referring to a major definition of 式.

The three-stroke 弋 radical has no variants. It looks similar to just one other radical—namely, 戈 (radical 62: "spear"). And certainly they're not so alike that one would readily confuse them.

Photo Credit: Eve Kushner

This fabric features 式 in 株式会社 (かぶしきがいしゃ: corporation) near the end of the second line, where 株 appears in an old style. That's exciting, but here's a bonus; on the right side of the large, brushed 代 (338: substitute; exchange; era, generation; cost), our radical appears as a component. The same kanji recurs near the end of line 1 in 五代町 (ごだいちょう), a town in the city 薩摩川内市 (さつませんだいし), which is in the prefecture 鹿児島県 (かごしまけん) on Kyushu. The 薩 is non-Joyo.

The second line provides the name of the brewing company 山元酒造 (やまもとしゅぞう), with 山 and 造 rendered in an old form.

The Meaning of 弋 in Characters

One might wonder why there's a hunting tool or wooden stake in kanji meaning "style" or "two." Here's what Henshall says about the etymologies:

式 (295: style; method; ceremony; formula)

The 弋 serves as both the radical and phonetic and means “sign, mark” or “a rule, guideline.” The 工 represents “ax.” I’m not sure how the parts fit together semantically.

弐 (950: two)

The 弋 represents a "weapon handle" or "stake," and the strokes on the lower left symbolize two objects. An extra stroke inexplicably appeared on the top left in the bronze stage.

In legal and financial documents, the Japanese often use complex characters for numerals to prevent fraud. In addition to 弐, people use 壱 (one) and 参 (three) for this purpose.

But did you know that you can represent all three numbers with the help of 弋 ? I'm talking about this series, which includes 弐 (950: two):

弌 (one)

弐 (two)

弎 (three)

The first and last characters are non-Joyo. In my view, it would be counterproductive to use because anyone could turn it into 弐 or 弎. 

My proofreader feels that most Japanese people don't know that 弌 and 弎 even exist, and he comments, "To me the inclusion of 弐 in the Joyo table is a big mystery."