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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.

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

4 Answers 4

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

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  • 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
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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.
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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:

樹木、特に高木が群生して大きな面積を占めている所。また、その植物群落

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:

樹木がたくさん集まって生えている所

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

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

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

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    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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