Whats the difference between yama and san in the title of a mountain? 富山 and 富士山 Toyama and Fujisan for example? Is one simply a mountain and the other a volcano?

1 Answer 1


According to Jisho.org the Kanji in question (), has only one meaning: Mountain. That has no distinction between a volcano (which is written 火山) or a regular mountain.

As @Leebo has pointed out both readings (やま and さん) are used in mountain titles. I personally would take that to mean that there isn't really a dramatic difference between the two. The difference in reading may stem from how kanji got integrated into the Japanese language, but that is mostly conjecture on my part.

The only way to know which reading is correct is experience. Usually one will sound better than the other.

Be aware that not all mountains have the 山 kanji at the end of its name like 二ノ森 on Shikoku, and some will have the ending like 鶴見岳 on Kyushu.

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    There are mountain names that use the reading やま, such as 立山, 笹山, 赤沢山, 本谷山, 双児山, 大滝山, 越百山, 辻山, 鉄山... and many more.
    – Leebo
    Sep 9, 2019 at 21:26
  • Thanks, I wasn't finding any in my original search. I'll update the answer
    – ajsmart
    Sep 9, 2019 at 21:44
  • To make things more confusing, yama and mori are often used interchangeably, and many Japanese will rather picture a tree-covered mountain, than a collection of trees, when they hear the word mori...
    – a20
    Sep 19, 2019 at 8:52

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