Does Japanese have any metaphorical equivalent to Timbuktu or Outer Mongolia (or, in the case of Australia, perhaps Woop Woop), meaning a remote or inaccessible place?

Wiktionary recognises the metaphorical meaning of Timbuktu, but doesn't have a translation for that into Japanese.


4 Answers 4


I can't think of anything, because...

Japanese indeed has a certain repertoire of metonymy that makes real names represent their prominent quality, such as:

今【いま】孔明【こうめい】 (孔明 is a most tactful strategist)
祇園【ぎおん】小町【こまち】 (小町 is a greatest beauty)
台風【たいふう】銀座【ぎんざ】 (銀座 is a busiest downtown district)
東洋【とうよう】のパリ (パリ is...... you know?)

Those, however, only work in "as ... as X" method, and need a qualifier so that make it clear the mentioned one is not real X. You can much less let a proper name metaphorize an absolute notion; unlike in English, Timbuktu isn't a totally inaccessible town, Greek isn't an incomprehensible language, Xanadu isn't a utopia... In this sense, no proper name could be a real "synonym" of an idea in Japanese.

In a comment above, @Ciaran cited an interesting word 唐天竺の果て. Obviously, it's a word from an age when China and India was literally the end of the world they recognized. You can't seriously say it at the present time, as it doesn't even go beyond this small circle.


Can I believe this example usage found on Urban Dictionary?

We used to have each other over for dinner on a regular basis, but then she moved out to Timbuktu, and we haven't done it since.

Then perhaps there is no place name that can be used like this in Japanese. I can think of some typical and historical names for "extremely distant/inaccessible places" (such as 蝦夷地 and 天竺), but none of them can be used as metaphorically as this.

FWIW, in the last 10 years or so, 群馬県 (Gunma Prefecture) has often been treated like a land of mystery. See this link and this Uncyclopedia article about 群馬. This is a mere Internet meme, but I still sometimes see jokes about Gunma.

  • The example given on UD is a valid use of the expression.
    – Golden Cuy
    Aug 16, 2016 at 22:34

A couple I can think of:


秘境 ( or 秘境中の秘境)


  • 5
    I wouldn't say any of these are similar usages (although the meaning is the same). I think the question is more specifically asking "is there a specific placename used in Japanese to refer to a remote area, like Timbuktu in English".
    – user1624
    Aug 15, 2016 at 4:33

Proverbial [Mecca] is the most happening place

サーフィンのメッカといえばどこですか?  ------>   ハワイのノースショアがメッカ中のメッカだと思います。 . . . . . . .    日本はある意味たくさんありますが、毎日波が立ってるわけではありません  その中で言うと千葉北の志田と千葉南の鴨川ですかね・・

Proverbial [Tibet] is the least happening place -- remote & cold, unsuitable for agriculture, industry, or any development. Nobody wants to live or visit there. ( 辺境の代名詞 )

岩手県は日本のチベットと言われていますが . . . . . . . . 戦後、1950~1960年代には、山あいで交通の便が悪いことや、主な産業が新日本製鉄の釜石製鉄所位しかなく、所得水準が全国でも低いことから、「日本のチベット」と呼ばれてもいました。 日本では、交通の便の悪い山間地 ...

    >    日本のチベット」と言われる岩手県の中でも寒い所、 それで藪川を「日本のシベリア」と言う人もあるくらいである。

そういえば、 . . . . . 区は「名古屋のチベット」と言われることが以前からよくありました。

    >    こんな勝浦のチベットと言われるほど山奥に どうしてケーキ屋さんがあるの??? でも、これが美味しいんです!!!

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