和文は英文の下にあります。フリガナは途中です。/The Japanese text is at the bottom of this page. Currently we are working on Ruby.

The City and The Countryside

  1. Image art on the city and the countryside 
  2. “Tokai” means a big city and “inaka” is a place far from it
  3. “Tokai” has a positive image and “inaka” a negative one
  4. The good image of “inaka”
  5. Not a “tokai”, is Charleston countryside?


1. Image art on the city and the countryside 

Image art to show the contract of the city and the countryside
[Click any photo to enlarge] Image art to show the city and the countryside / 都会と田舎のイメージアート

We found on the Internet an interesting set of artwork from Japan titled:

“Tokai (a big city)” and “Inaka (countryside)”.

Of the artwork in the photo, the left one is titled “Tokai” where there are beautiful city lights but you can’t see stars in the sky. The right one is “Inaka” where you can see the sky full of stars but there is no light on earth.

2. “Tokai” means a big city and “inaka” is a place far from it

“Tokai” means a big city. According to a Japanese dictionary, it is a busy place densely populated, developed in commerce and industry, and with many cultural facilities.

An image of the city
A view from our old home in NYC / 昔の家の窓からの眺め、ニューヨークにて

It seems the word “inaka” is comparatively an older word. In such ancient documents as “Man’yooshuu”, it originally meant a shack among rice fields, then the collection of those shacks. Eventually it meant agricultural area in general.

In today’s Japanese, “inaka” means a place which is not a big city or a place far from a big city. It is translated as countryside, rural, hometown, etc. in English depending on the context.

3. “Tokai” has a positive image and “inaka” a negative one

A big city, even if there are unfavorable aspects of it, has a strong positive image in Japanese. For example, one associates “tokai” with wealth, abundance, convenient lifestyle, busy social life, sophisticated beautiful clothes, polite language, artistic or cultural activities, progressive ideas, among others.   

The main idea of the word “inaka” lies in the physical and psychological distance from the big city. The image of a big city is basically a positive one, so, in contrast, “inaka” has a negative connotation. Therefore it’s not used in a compliment.

An image of a train station in the countryside in Japan
One of the typical scenes in “inaka” in Japan is that there is no one to inspect your ticket at the gate of a train station. / 田舎の典型的な風景、駅の無人改札

Therefore, when we are impressed with a local dish while traveling in a province far from a big city, we don’t say “How delicious this ‘inaka’-style cuisine is!” Instead, we say, for example,

“Is this a dish from this area? It’s very delicious!”  

It’s good thus to replace “inaka” with such expressions as “kono chihoo no (of this province)”, “kono tochi no (of this area)”, “koko no (from here)”. It would sound a more straightforward praise, where we are not comparing it with the style of a big city.

Of course, the cook may respond modestly,

“Oh, no, it’s only an “inaka” dish.”

4. The good image of “inaka”

On the other hand, there is also a good image of “inaka”.

For example, I would reckon the miso (fermented soy bean curd) might be more aromatic and delicious if it was labeled as “Inaka-style miso” at a supermarket. “Inaka” leads me to think they may use only natural ingredients of good quality, use no additives, and take time in fermentation.

Also, in today’s Japan, it seems there are more people who feel grateful for nature’s beauty and bounty, and want to live respecting the rhythm of nature. 

From their point of view, life in “inaka” has definitely a positive meaning.

5. Not a “tokai”, is Charleston countryside?

It’s been a year since we moved to Charleston, SC, from New York City.

However, even now, I look for words when someone in Japan asks me “What kind of a place is Charleston?”

It seems for now that the best description is “a beautiful inaka-town with an important historic district”. 

Charleston is “inaka” since it is hundreds of kilometers away from such big cities as New York City and Atlanta. If you drive out of the city for just ten minutes, quiet marshes and fields spread in front of you. If you visit them at night, you will see many stars in the sky.

But we were told that the English word “countryside” is not correct to describe Charleston. It is a “city” since there is a concentration of businesses and residential areas. 

Yes, its population is too small for a “big city”, but in some areas restaurants and bars open at night and outshine starlights…

In the next post, we compared about the meaning of “inaka” in Japan and “countryside” in the US.

=> What is the Difference Between “Countryside” and “Inaka”?

[End of the English text]


  1. 都会と田舎のイメージアート
  2. 都会は大きな町、田舎は都会から離れた所
  3. 都会はポジティブ、田舎はネガティブな感じがある
  4. 田舎の良いイメージとは
  5. チャールストンは都会ではないにせよ、田舎か?


1. 都会と田舎のイメージアート




2. 都会は大きな町、田舎は都会から離れたところ



現代の日本語では、田舎は、都会でない場所、都会から離れた場所のことです。英語では文脈によって「countryside (カントリーサイド)」「rural (田舎の)」「hometown (郷里の町)」などと訳されます。

3. 都会はポジティブ、田舎はネガティブな感じがある















5. チャールストンは都会ではないにせよ、田舎か?








=> 「カントリーサイド」と「田舎」はどう違う?



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