Nampa, nanpa, or girl hunting, is Japan’s most visible courtship ritual. Although it also takes place online and via telephone clubs, the most famous form of nampa is “suto-nan” (street nampa). Every weekend, across urban Japan, young men (“nanpashi”) hang around busy streets or shopping arcades, trying to pick up passing girls. Sometimes the girl does the hard work – this is known as “gyaku nampa” (reverse nampa) – but it’s much less common.
Approaches vary from the clichéd “Ocha demo shinai?” (“Won’t you have tea with me?”) to more sophisticated tactics, but it’s generally pretty obvious what the guy is really after. For serious nanpashi, the aim is to get the young lady into a love hotel by the end of the night, but a (genuine) cell phone number is a decent consolation.
The word “nampa” was used in the Meiji period to refer to young men who spent too much time around women. Literally meaning “soft group” as opposed to the more self-disciplined hard group, it carried a derogatory nuance which survives today. Since then, nampa has come to replace the loan phrase “garu hanto” to refer to skirt chasing.
Men have pursued women in this way for as long as there have been men and women, but the tenacity with which these Japanese guys hunt their targets seems incongruous in such a reserved culture. However, Japan’s severest social anxiety is usually reserved for the people close to them: family, colleagues, and neighbours. Approaching a stranger who they are unlikely to see again, though terrifying for many men, might not seem as daunting as asking a classmate or co-worker out on a date.
As you’d expect, the most famous spots for nampa are in the busiest areas of Japan’s biggest cities. Tokyo’s Shibuya is infamous, while Ebisubashi in Osaka has been locally renamed “hikkake bashi” (“pick-up bridge”). For guys who like guys, Tokyo gay district Shinjuku Ni-Chome is notable for homosexual nampa.
- Nampa Techniques (Japanzine)
Advice on timing, approach, choosing the right girl…
- ‘The way of nampa’ (Japanzine)
Detailed, entertaining article with a few shots of nanpashi in action
- ‘Nampa guru spills beans on ‘active pursuit of love” (WaiWai)
Article about ‘professional’ nampa expert
- ‘Gal-hunting guys sweeten to male bonding’ (WaiWai)
Article about nampa community and nampa slang
- Sawkins’s Playful Attraction
Edited version of an academic article on nampa. Still dense, but contains a lot of interesting information you won’t find anywhere else in English.