According to A Guide to Remembering Japanese Characters, 森 (38) is woods and 林 (75) is forest.

But some material I've found online related to Japan seems to indicate 森 is the more correct Japanese word for forest.

Is the book correct or do native Japanese speakers use 森 for forest, and not 林?

Edit: To give a little more context I originally avoided in the question to avoid appearing commercial but now I see will help make answers more specific, one of these words is already used to brand a product. If it's the incorrect word I'll need to change the product name.

I hope that helps, and I apologize if being vague hampers you giving what you feel is an appropriate response.

  • Well, both the kanji look like trees anyway :D
    – Mr Pie
    Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 4:28

4 Answers 4


林 is usually used for "copse", and 森 for "forest".

  • 3
    Nope. Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 3:48
  • 8
    I'd say "woods"... "copse" is an exceedingly rare word. Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 6:42
  • 3
    I used the word "grove" the other day for 林
    – makdad
    Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 12:06
  • 4
    That would be a simple-yet-good answer if you changed it to "woods" or "grove". The word "copse" is just too rare and confusing.
    – Boaz Yaniv
    Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 15:33
  • 2
    I had never heard the word "copse" until I was studying the kanji. I'm not sure enough about the etymology to present this as it's own answer, but instead of thinking direct translation, I think it's fair to simply consider 森 the larger body of wooded area than 林.
    – Questioner
    Commented Aug 26, 2011 at 6:46

This is a bit late but hopefully it will be useful to others. I was just discussing this question with a native Japanese speaker (who is also a language teacher). Here's what he said:

  • 林 (はやし): A small collection of trees. A small wood, a copse or a bunch of bushes.
  • 森 (もり): A large wood/a small forest. This one is also meant to conjure up images of bigger, denser, deep green trees as opposed to small trees with light foliage.

...so generally speaking, 森 > 林.

  • 森林 (しんりん): Put them both together and this means a big forest, like the type that would cover a mountain in Japan. This is what the English word 'forest' would usually be translated to.

It's going to depend on the type of place you're describing. In the case of 森、which in goo's dictionary leads to 森林:


Loose translation: "A place where trees and shrubs, more specifically tall trees occupy a large area in mass"

Source: http://dictionary.goo.ne.jp/leaf/jn2/115966/m0u/

Where in the case of 林:


Source: http://dictionary.goo.ne.jp/leaf/jn2/179447/m0u/%E6%9E%97/

Loose Translation: "A place where trees and shrubs gather and grow"

  • Thank you. It sounds like I might need to write a follow-up question. Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 4:14

Put them together. 森林 (しんりん)

For example: アメリカ合衆国国立森林公園 American National Forest Park

This Japanese Wikipedia article will give you a huge list of examples using: 森, 林, 森林, and others like 梅林. But it seems like "nani nani no mori" is very commonly used. "Nani nani no hayashi" seems not to be used.

  • 6
    森林 is used when you're talking about tree areas in general. 森 and 林 are more specific, with the former referring to denser groups of trees (i.e. forests), and 林 referring to "copse" as Ignacio notes. Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 7:40

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