With each set of Kanji that you learn, it will feel like you've become even less blind when looking at Japanese text. Some of the characters in this lesson have a lot of readings, and you're not expected to get them all down now, but you do need to be aware of that they exist.
The top of this character is 穴 (hole), which is on top of 工 (construction). The 工 gives the sound of the character, but it is also re-enforces the concept of opening for construction opens a whole new world of man's architecture.
The modern meaning of "sky" is an extension on previous meanings because it would seem more obvious to think that there is some roof over a hole that has been dug. If you think about how old these basic characters are (as old as 6,000 years), you shouldn't be surprised that this would be a representation of early human dwellings, and similar structures still exist throughout Southeast Asia.
But, with the fact that there is still this concept of "opening", if there is open space but the space is contained, this would mean the space is "empty". This "emptiness" can lead to being used for contexts such as vanity, hollowness, and so on. However, the most important meaning "sky" came about from the fact that the central vaulted area in these early dwellings was extended to the sky.
くんよみ: そら, から, あ（く・ける）, す（く), うつ（ろ）, むな（しい）, うろ ▽, あだ ▽
There are a lot of くんよみ, and as you can imagine, they hone down on specific meanings of 空 discussed above. そら is the word for sky. から mean empty, and the best word to remember this is 空手 because many of you already know that karate means empty hand.
あ（く） is a verb that has various means related to being "open/empty/vacant". あ（ける） is the transitive version of this verb, which means it would be used in contexts like "to empty something".
す（く） is similar and usually limited to expressions like being hungry. うつ（ろ） is an adjective that means "blank/vague". むな（しい） is an adjective that means "empty/in vain". うろ is a cavity in a something like a tree. Lastly, あだ is an adjective meaning "frivolous/vain", but this is pretty uncommon.
|空間||くうかん||(Air) space||青空||あおぞら||Blue sky|
|空路||くうろ||Air lane||空席||くうせき||Vacant seat|
|空頼み||そらだのみ||Wishful thinking||空箱||からばこ||Empty box|
|空夢||そらゆめ||Fictituous dream||空（き）家||あきや||Vacant house|
|空（き）缶||あきかん||Empty can||空き腹||すきはら||Empty stomach|
|水田||すいでん||Water-filled paddy fields||油田||ゆでん||Oilfield|
The character derives from a pictograph of the stems of small bamboo with poky leaves, and it eventually got expanded to refer to bamboo in general.
|竹林||ちくりん||Bamboo forest||竹刀||しない ●||Bamboo sword|
This comes from a pictograph of a heart, unlike ♥. When in other characters, it usually looks like the left side of 快 (pleasant).
くんよみ: こころ、うら ▽
こころ refers to one's heart in an emotional sense. The physical/medical word for heart is in the word bank below.
|中心||ちゅうしん||Center; core||心得||こころえ||Hint; dos and don’ts|
|心寂しい||うらさびしい||Lonesome; forlorn||心音||しんおん||Sound of a heartbeat|
気 used to be written as 氣 and is composed of 气 (vapor) and 米 (rice). This character means "spirit", but it's far more different than anything in English. This word happens to be used in hundreds and hundreds of idioms that you will learn over the course of your Japanese studies. This 'spiritual' force can refer to the source of one's life/vitality/consciousness/temperament/feeling/interest.
However, in compounds it can refer more explicitly to vapor related things such as gas and breath.
|寒気||さむけ||Chill||火の気||ひのけ||Heat of fire|
This character used to be written like 二, but the upper stroke was as long and in the same location as the modern character, and the vertical line was added so that it would no longer be confused with 二. It's a good thing because students already have a hard time distinguishing 二 and ニ (ni in Katakana) from each other.
This character means "above/up/top", and it sadly has a lot of readings that are for the most part all used rather frequently.
音よみ: ジョウ, ショウ ▽
くんよみ: うえ, うわ-, かみ, あ（がる・げる), のぼ（る）
|上下||じょうげ||Up and down; rise and fall||川上||かわかみ||Upstream|
|上人||しょうにん||Holy priest||上り下り||のぼりおり||Ups and downs|
|上る||のぼる||To ascend||上がる||あがる||To rise|
This character once looked like 三 without the last line. It means down/below/under, but it is extremely difficult to know how to read because it has so many readings. You almost have to take each word at a time, and it's unluckily one of those characters that utilize all readings to a decent extent. Furthermore, you have to address exceptions and alternative readings in words meaning different things.
音よみ: カ, ゲ
くんよみ: した, しも, もと, さ（がる・げる）, くだ（る・す）, お（りる・ろす),
|下車||げしゃ||Getting off a train||下||した||Under/below|
|風下||かざしも||Leeward||法の下||ほうのもと||Under the law|
|下手||へた ●||Bad at||下りる||おりる||To descend|
|下す||くだす||To make a decision||下がり目||さがりめ||Drooping eyes|
This comes from a pictograph of a dog, and obviously millennia of years have done a number on it.
|子犬||こいぬ||Puppy||Also spelled as 仔犬.|
|盲導犬||モウドウケン||Guide dog||盲導 ＝ Leading the blind|
|犬死にする||いぬじにする||To die in vain|
Note: いぬ in a derogatory and wild sense can be written as 狗; when referring to the Zodiac of the Dog, use the character 戌.
This character used to more clearly show a form of moon with a variant of 亦 (again). The character means night.
くんよみ: よる, よ
|夜昼||よるひる||Day and night||夜中||よなか||Middle of the night|
|夜空||よぞら||Night sky||十六夜 ●||いざよい|
朝 used to be , and if you were to go back in time far enough, you would see that the right-hand side is actually not a moon, but it's a representation of a river. This gave meanings that would eventually be retained in 潮 to mean "tide", adding water for clarity as the right-hand radical did become interpreted as the moon later on, which lead to its use to refer to the Imperial Court.
This character, though, typically means day because people speculated in ancient times that the sun and moon were the sources of light, and if you look closely in the left-hand part of it, you'll see that sun 日 is springing through plants, which you typically see connected horizontally but in this case is bifurcated vertically by another radical.
|朝日||あさひ||Morning sun||朝廷||ちょうてい||Imperial court|
|朝刊||ちょうかん||Morning edition||朝市||あさいち||Morning market|
|朝礼||ちょうれい||Morning assembly||朝夕||あさゆう||Morning and evening|
This comes from a pictograph of a horse, but it may help to think of it as a carriage with the four dots as horse feet.
くんよみ: うま, ま, め
The くんよみ actually ultimately come from Chinese, and this has only been realized nowadays.
|駿馬||しゅんめ||Swift horse||絵馬||えま||Votive picture|
|馬銜||はみ ●||Bit mouthpiece||馬草||まぐさ||Fodder|
This character comes from the pictograph of a cow's head with horns. This is cow. Muu!
The roof and the top horizontal line represents some sort of covering element, and below is 土 (ground) plus dots meant to represent golden nuggets. This character, then, as you can imagine means "gold", but it has also been widened in meaning to mean money and metal in general. After gold is the money that most people would rather have, and it is a metal.
音よみ: キン, コン
くんよみ: かね, かな-
The latter 音よみ is not as common.
|金色||きんいろ・こんじき||Gold (color)||金網||かなあみ||Wire netting|
|日本海||にほんかい||The Sea of Japan||海がめ||うみがめ||Sea turtle|
|海月||くらげ ●||Seashell||海原||うなばら ●||The deep|
|海象||せいうち ●||Walrus||海女||あま ●||Woman shell diver|