63. The "Door" Radical: 戸

The 戸 shape is the pictograph of a "door," but not the modern kind with a doorknob. Rather, it's half of a double-doored gate (門).

Photo Credit: Eve Kushner

Photo Credit: Eve Kushner

The Nuts and Bolts of the 戸 Radical

Just as the wooden gate above is straightforward, so is the 戸 radical. It consists of four strokes and has no variant shapes. Its only English name is the "door" radical.

When it comes to 戸, there's just one challenge—namely, not mixing it up with radical 44, 尸, the "corpse" radical.

In Japanese, the 戸 radical primarily goes by the name と. Because it tends to hang down on the left side of a kanji, as in 戻 (1920: to return), we can often call it とだれ, as well. And because 戸 usually appears at the top of a kanji, とかんむり can work, too. (For information about たれ, かんむり, and the names of other radical positions, see "Radical Positions" and "Radical Names" in Radical Terms.)

Photo Credit: Eve Kushner

In part of a sign for a Tokyo sushi shop, 戸 appears in this word:

江戸前 (えどまえ: in front of Edo)

The term refers to the sea in front of Edo, which is to say Tokyo Bay. Thus, the fish served at this restaurant supposedly come from Tokyo Bay.

Joyo Kanji Featuring 戸 as the On-Duty Radical

The "door" radical is on duty in six Joyo kanji, including 戸 (108: door) itself. Clearly, 戸 means "door" in the 戸 kanji! But what about in the others? Let's look at them one by one.

所 (312: place)

The left side means "door" but serves a purely phonetic role here, Henshall argues. However, he mentions that some scholars interpret this kanji as "chopping" (斤) wood in a "doorway," and he sees a little merit to that argument.

Photo Credit: Eve Kushner

Our radical appears at the bottom of the right-hand column in this restaurant sign. Here are the biggest words:

川奈 (かわな: place name)
台所 (だいどころ: kitchen)
ひだまり (日溜り: sunny spot)

We therefore know that the Tokyo restaurant Hidamari is a sunny spot in the world. For a little more about this sign, see JOKIA Album 63.

(1492: fan)

The parts break down quite literally as "door" and "wings" (羽). People have associated the "wings of a door" with the "flapping action" of a "fan," says Henshall. By the way, 扇 primarily represents a handheld folding fan.

(1730: door, hinged door; title page)

This character breaks apart neatly as "door" and "spreading wings" (非). Although 扉 technically refers to the "wings" of a folding door, says Henshall, people now use the character more broadly for the whole door. By association, this kanji has come to mean "title page" of a book.

(1809: chamber, room; bunch; tuft; tassel; cell)

According to Henshall, the 戸 means "partition," and 方 means "side." He notes that 房 originally represented "a little room partitioned off at the side of a larger room." 

Photo Credit: Eve Kushner

In this cheerful sign at Rokko Farm in the Rokko Mountains (Hyogo Prefecture), our radical appears in the last kanji. The lower line of the sign presents the name of a pottery workshop: 陶遊房 (とうゆうぼう: pottery play house). The first line tells us that you can take a one-day (一日, いちにち) class (教室, きょうしつ) in the art of ceramics (陶芸, とうげい).

(1920: to return)

Originally, this kanji had a different shape, combining a "door" and a "dog" (犬), says Henshall. He mentions a theory that these shapes collectively referred to a "dog crouching to pass under a door." (My modern mind envisions the doggie door cut out of our kitchen door so the dogs can go out into the garden as needed. But no, Henshall must be referring to the 門 of yesteryear!) After crouching, the dog would need to "return to a normal stance," so 戻 represented that, later generalizing to mean "return" in a broader sense, including "return to a place." The theory sounds good, at least to me, but Henshall finds it unconvincing. He says it's equally possible that 戻 came to mean "return" because a dog returned home and appeared at the door. (Again, no doggie doors back then!) However, he also finds holes in this explanation. 

Photo Credit: Eve Kushner

The place name 瀬戸内海 (せとないかい: Seto Inland Sea) contains 戸.

Joyo Kanji in Which 戸 is a Mere Component

The 戸 shape is a mere component in these Joyo kanji:

編 (785: to compile)
啓 (1197: to enlighten)
(1212: shoulder) 
顧 (1235: to look back)
(1782: one-sided, biased, inclined, partial; left-hand radical)
遍 (1783: everywhere)
涙 (1916: tears)
炉 (1934: furnace)

Photo Credit: Taisaku Nogi

Part of a much larger sign from Fukui Prefecture. In 井戸 (いど: water well) we find 戸.