和文は英文の後にあります。ルビ付けは途中です。/ The Japanese translation is on the bottom of the page. We are still working on furigana.

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

  1. Did you see wild birds and animals when you were small?
  2. “We were not in the countryside!”
  3. Japanese residential areas are not a habitat for wildlife
  4. An example of a residential area with wildlife
  5. The backyard of American houses
  6. What is the image of the American countryside?


1. Did you see wild birds and animals when you were small?

What kind of place are you living in now? Is it a big city, a small town, countryside or a different type?

We have begun to live in a city called Charleston, SC, in the US. I think it’s “inaka”, which means “countryside” according to the dictionary. However, when I talk to Americans with that notion, the conversation may not go smoothly.

The other day, I had an opportunity to talk to a young American lady living in Manhattan in New York. I told her about wild animals and birds I saw for the first time after moving to South Carolina.

I had heard she was born and raised in a residential area in New Jersey. So I thought it would be an unknown subject for her just like for me. I also grew up in a residential area near Tokyo.

However, she knew everything; she had seen a lot of deer in a grassy field very near her home, she had seen Red-Breasted Robins and Eastern Bluebirds, and she had seen hawks catching squirrels!

From my point of view, you wouldn’t grow up in a residential area and be able to experience those things. For example, I only knew sparrows, pigeons, crows and such. So I rectified my image of her home area as countryside in New Jersey, and said in Japanese,

“That’s wonderful. You know life in ‘inaka’ (countryside) and in a big city!”

2. “We were not in the countryside!”

She turned color a little and said,

“’Inaka’ means countryside, right? My house was not in the countryside. There were a lot of houses and it was a residential area.”

That surprised me. “Oh. if you said you have seen deer, wild birds and hawks in your vicinity in Japan, people would think you grew up in ‘inaka’ . Wasn’t it that?”

“No, no! Aren’t there deer in residential areas in Japan?” She asked.

No, usually we don’t see deer in a human habitation.

3. Japanese residential areas are not a habitat for wildlife

More than 70% of the land is mountains in Japan. The rest is used for rice fields, fields for other agriculture, residences, factories, stores and offices.

An image of a park in a Japanese residential area
In a park in a new development in Japan, a confidential meeting was held? / 日本の住宅街の公園で秘密の会談が?

After WWII, real estate companies developed a lot of woods and farmland and built houses on the flat land around big cities. This allowed people to easily commute to work and school in a big city. Thus the suburbs spread with these newly built residential areas, called the New Residential Developments.

I grew up in one of those areas. So when I hear “a residential area”, I automatically think of the New Residential Developments.

Houses in the New Residential Developments are built side to side and rather tightly. Since each property is expensive, much of the property is occupied by the house. Usually they have one space for the garden in front of the house. Many houses do not plant trees which will grow tall and/or wide. It is partly because of the size of the yard, partly because they don’t want to annoy their neighbors.

There are some so-called parks in the New Developments. But these are actually narrow playgrounds equipped with slides and swings for toddlers and young children.

As a whole, those modern Developments offered a place where people can finally live separated or protected from the difficulties of natural phenomena. The New Development is a very popular type of residential areas in today’s Japan.

As a reslut, a residential area in Japan is generally not a comfortable habitat for wildlife.

That’s why, when we hear there are abundant nature and wildlife in an area, we automatically think, “That must be a countryside where there are no developments for residences.”

4. An example of a residential area with wildlife

An image of a yard in an American residential area
[Click any photo to enlarge] Our house is supposed to be in a city, but sometimes a young hawk surprises us by visiting our backyard./ [画像をクリックすると拡大します] うちは町中にあるはずなのに、庭に若い鷹が遊びに来てびっくり。

However, there are at least two words in the US to indicate a human habitat abundant with nature: “Residential area” and “countryside”. On the other hand, there is only one word “inaka” in Japanese.

As an example of a residential area with wildlife, I will tell you about my neighborhood in Charleston.

This is a high temperature and high humidity province. It is very thick with trees and plants such as live oak, pine trees, palms, crepe myrtle, jasmine, wisteria, among others. 

In the backyard of houses, tree branches grow, overlap those of the neighbors, and eventually the entire subdivision can become an expanse of rich green like a park forest. You can see many wildlife such as wild birds, squirrels, raccoons, and so on.

A casual look may be very different from their counterparts in Japan, but all the properties were developed by realtors in the same way. Likewise, infrastructure such as electricity, gas, water supply and sewage, trash pickup service, and the Internet, is developed for the the entire houses in a subdivision or neighborhood.

I assume that the American woman was living in a similar type of area in New Jersey. 

5. The backyard of an American house  

A boat in a backyard
[Click to enlarge] A boat in a backyard in a residential area / 住宅街の裏庭に船

By the way, the backyard of American houses is very interesting to a Japanese eye.

Of course all houses and yards are different in size and shape, but I will tell you what looked fresh to me.

First, the shape of the property is an elongated rectangular. The long side can be three times longer than the width, much longer than that of the Japanese ones. The long side is divided in three parts at such proportions as, for example, 1:1:1 by the front yard, the house, and the backyard.

In front of the main entrance of the house spreads the front yard. It faces the road, and is first viewed by the visitor. It is basically covered with lawn, and looks classy and formal.

On the other side of the house is called the backyard. In Japan, a “backyard” may sound like a narrow, shady place. They might only put a couple of trash bins and a shed. But this is not like that; the backyard here is as spacious as the residential space. Each household has their activities of choice and set up their backyard to enjoy them. Compared to the front yard, the backyard clearly shows the residents’ character and taste.

How? Some houses are not surrounded by a wall, so we will peep discreetly as we take a walk.

Frequently you see cafe table and chairs.

Some have barbecue sets. 

You see a lot of bird feeders and bird baths. 

There are vegetable patches, trees bearing such fruit as oranges, pomegranates and pears, a chicken coop so that they can eat fresh eggs.

A small garden looks the oriental style with a pond and rocks arranged around it, and another English style with topiaries.

A small enclosure to prevent dogs and kids from coming onto the car road, slides, trampolines, tree houses and other children’s equipments.  

A swing hung with very long ropes from a very tall tree is a beautiful sight. 

Also beautiful are a lot of small light bulbs hanging from cords, pulled loosely across their trees and posts. At night, the yard looks like a dream with the festive golden lights.  

A swimming pool, tennis court, or a basketball hoop, etc, etc.

In a house, I saw an elegant round-shaped swimming pool. It seemed that the children of the house had left home years ago, and it was totally dried up. Jasmine and many other vines and weeds were happily growing from it as if it had been some ancient ruins. It was a very poetic scene but the cleanup will not be easy.

6. What is the image of the countryside in the US?

Then, what is the real countryside in the US? I asked this last question to the American woman.

An image of the US countryside
In a part of Wyoming, you drive many minutes to see another house. / ワイオミングのある地域では、次の家を見かけるまで車で何分もかかります。

Her answer was, it is a place where you don’t see the next house until you drive for minutes and minutes.

Yes, I have seen places like that. Houses were apart by kilometers among fields of soy, corn and cotton or pine woods and there were no visible communities. Sometimes, however, I was a little surprised to see many churches.

Churches are of course found elsewhere in the US. They caught my attention since there were so few other non-residential buildings. I wonder if churches are even more important as a physical place for people to meet and stay connected with others, in the countryside.

Recently a conversation at a local antique shop gave me another clear image on the American countryside.

I was complaining that I had set a birdbath up in our yard but no one had visited it yet. Everyone there said that their houses were in the countryside; that wild birds were not very shy of them; and that on a hot day, many come flying immediately when they added fresh water in their birdbaths, even if they were still standing there. I was very envious.

[End of the English text]

カントリーサイド と 田舎いなかはどうちがう?

  1. どものとき、ちょう生動物せいどうぶつましたか?
  2. 「うちはカントリーサイドじゃありません!」
  3. 生動物せいどうぶつほんじゅう宅街たくがいみにくい
  4. ある然豊ぜんゆたかなじゅう宅街たくがい
  5. 米国べいこくいえの「裏庭うらにわ
  6. 米国べいこくでのカントリーサイドのイメージは?




わたしたちは、みなみカロライナしゅうのチャールストンというまちはじめました。ほんでは、田舎いなかだとおもいます。しょによれば、ほんの「田舎いなか」はえいの「countryside (カントリーサイド)」です。しかし、そのつもりではなしをすると、アメリカはなしいません。








「イナカってcountrysideカントリーサイドでしょ。わたしんでいたところはカントリーサイドじゃありません。いえがたくさんある、residential areaレジデンシャル・エリアじゅう宅街たくがい) です」といました。


ちがいますよ! つうじゅう宅街です。ほんじゅう宅街たくがいには鹿しかがいないの?」と彼女かのじょかえしました。













An image of a package delivery in a countryside
In Charleston, packages are delivered just on the doorstep. It seems a very trusting system. / チャールストンでは、配達物は玄関の外に置き去られます。とても信頼関係を感じます。




一見いっけんほんのそれとはずいぶんちがいますが、しきはやはりぎょうしゃ造成ぞうせいしたものです。すうじゅっけんでひとつのいき (サブディビジョン、ネイバーフッドなどとばれる) を構成こうせいしていて、いきごとにでんやガスやじょう水道すいどう、ゴミのしゅうしゅうサービス、インターネットなどなどのインフラがととのっているというてんも、ほんじゅうたくおなじです。







そして、いえ反対側はんたいがわ裏庭うらにわ (バックヤード) です。ほんでは裏庭うらにわというとせまくて、物置ものおきやごみバケツしかなかったり、全然ぜんぜんさなかったりというかんじがあるけれど、そうではありません。裏庭うらにわは、すくなくとも居きょじゅうスペースとおなじくらいひろく、かくていが好きな活動かつどうをしやすいように、じゅうにんいろつくっています。前庭まえにわくらべて、裏庭うらにわでは、じゅうにん性全開せいぜんかいです。

どんなふうか? へいのないおたくおおいので、さんがてらちょっとみちからのぞきます。







うつくしいといえば、裏庭うらにわはしらに、 たくさんのいろでんきゅう(フェアリーライトというのか?)のがったつなをたるませてわたしているおたくは、よるゆめのようなうつくしさです。












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