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I've heard about 田舎, or more likely the English word "inaka" derived from the Japanese word, being used in a pejorative way by assistant English teachers:

Inaka (田舎 inaka) is a Japanese term meaning a rural area or the countryside. When said by people on the JET Programme, it is often used as a pejorative about places outside the major metropolitan areas, highlighting the lack desirable urban features - bars, shops, general entertainment, young people etc.

However, is it commonly a derogatory term in Japanese?

I recently came across the following in a homework exercise

私のいなかは空気がきれいです。

Which I assume when properly kanji-ized would be

私の田舎は空気がきれいです。

I looked up いなか on jisho.org, and it warned that 田舎 can be a sensitive word:

  1. (Sensitive) rural area; countryside; the sticks;

and some of the word compounds involving いなか were derogatory. For example:

田舎っぺ

Noun, Vulgar expression or word

hick; country bumpkin; yokel

Is "田舎" a derogatory term? Does it depend on context? If so, in what contexts is it derogatory, and in what contexts is it not derogatory?

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Unrelated to the question: should きれい not be kanji-ized to 奇麗 just like いなかー>田舎? –  MickG Jun 23 at 13:44
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The NHK漢字表記辞典 recommends kana for きれい, it seems. –  snailboat Jun 23 at 13:57
    
@Downvoter what additional research, if any, should I have done before asking this question? –  Andrew Grimm Jun 24 at 4:52
    
I am pretty sure that "いも" and "ひゃくしょう" effect the derogatory meaning you are talking about. In particular, people from Saitama seem to react negatively when called either. –  user312440 Jun 25 at 14:14

2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Only some words derived from 田舎, such as 「田舎っぺ」「田舎者【いなかもの】」「田舎臭【いなかくさ】い」, are derogatory.

I think 田舎 itself is not derogatory. Although this word typically has the negative sense by its nature, saying 「私は田舎が好きだ」 or 「私は田舎で暮らしたい」 is perfectly correct.

One euphemistic expression that means 田舎 is 地方【ちほう】. 「地方に住んでいる人」 usually means a person who lives outside metropolitan areas.

Even when you use 地方, of course there are many people who don't want to be judged by their hometowns, and talking about 都会 and 田舎 can be sensitive. But that's beside the point.

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I think 田舎 itself is not derogatory. And if you talk about 田舎 in general, it's definitely not a derogatory word.

But if you related 田舎 to some people, it can sound like derogatory. For example あの人は田舎から来た. (But this may be the same in any language...)

And the word 田舎 also can be used like an adjective meaning less developed (city or town).

For example, 千葉は東京より田舎だ。 (Chiba is less developed than Tokyo.)

If you use 田舎 in this way, it can be derogatory to compared city's residents. (But, of course, it depends on the context and the audiences.)

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