Himono Onna – Dried Fish Woman

TOKYO —

I’m pretty sure that most of you know what a dried fish is, right? But what on earth is a “dried fish woman?” Japanese society can be tough. Japanese also seem to like categorizing people who are different and give them funny names. One of them is “himono onna” or “dried fish woman.”

Himono onna (干物女) is a young woman, usually in her late 20s or older who has given up on relationships, love and sex.

According to the Japanese Wikipedia entry, a “himono onna” can be characterized as follows:

—Her replies to mails are often late and quite short (as she can’t be bothered).
—If it’s fast food, then she might eat it while standing in her kitchen.
—If she forgot something at home, she might just enter her apartment with her shoes on, moving on her knees because she’s too lazy to take off her shoes (in Japan you have to take your shoes off before entering even your own home).
—On her day off, she won’t put on make-up.
—She probably goes to a beautician only once every 6 months.
—During the winter months, she doesn’t shave/wax her body hair properly or might have stopped completely.
—She has no problem entering an izakaya (Japanese pub) all by herself.
—She hasn’t felt that anyone was a heart-throb recently.

The female main protagonist of a popular manga “Hotaru no Hikari,” that has also been made into a drama, is actually a himono onna! According to that series, a “dried fish woman” is someone who puts on a sincere face when outside of her apartment. However, as soon as she gets home, she changes into comfortable clothes, ties her hair up to a samurai-style topknot and enjoys a can of beer loudly. She might even scratch her ass or burp.

As a himono onna doesn’t intend to have children in the future, she’s just using her hard-earned money all for herself. Usually dried fish women do not join any social events, especially those that are aimed at meeting a significant other (合コン, gokon: group date). They rather enjoy going straight home after work instead of going out with co-workers or friends to drink.

Though society is changing, it’s still uncommon in Japan for a woman over 30 to be unmarried. People keep talking about you, staring at you. There’s a lot of pressure. I think that’s one reason for the phenomenon of the “dried fish woman.”

On the other hand, women like that are rather common in most Western countries. There, it’s not a big deal if somebody over 30 is still single and has no children – or has no intention of creating a family. Nobody cares. It has become normal. They don’t have to defend their lifestyle in front of others – at least not as much.

Surprisingly, the himono onna have actually started to embrace that name and are proud of being the way they are, though these women are still quite rare. As their lifestyle is opposed to what is considered “normal,” a funky name was made up for it to label it as “unnormal” or “strange.”

I don’t think that it’s necessarily true that himono onna have given up on love, but when you’re over 30 and unmarried, you’re considered to have failed. My guess is that at least some of the “himono onna” haven’t given up on love, but pretend that’s the case, because the alternative would be that love has given up on them.

Recently there are more and more women who are focused on building a career for themselves. The marriage age is going up, too. In a few years, it might be the norm to marry rather late or even to remain single.

How about you? Are you a himono onna? Do you know any? I’m sure there’s at least a little bit of the dried fish in all of us.

Author Infomation

Jasmine Blossom
Jasmine Blossom
Jasmine is a German "alien" living in Japan, teaching English. Since moving to Japan a few years ago, she has used every free second to travel through the country to discover the "real" Japan. Her goal is to visit all 47 prefectures and 100 Japanese castles – and share her travel experiences with everybody in her blog.
Website: http://zoomingjapan.com
  • 17

    Tamarama

    So, you are describing a woman who has started to become comfortable in her own skin who has little time for the superficialities and cliqueiness of the social norms in Japan, who possibly has realized there just might be more to life than a mansion in Mitaka and 2 kids?

    Sounds like the kind of girl I want to hang out with.

  • 7

    sillygirl

    sounds good to me.

  • 5

    gaijinfo

    There's something called "demographic shift." It's well documented and happens in post industrial countries. As a country becomes more wealthy, the birth rate declines. Easy to see why. As people have more opportunities to build wealth, they have more choices. They realize that having kids is a choice. Naturally, when presented as a choice and not some obligation, a certain percentage of adults will decide not to have kids.

    It's not unique to Japan.

    But trying to pigeon-hole every type of person into some kind of category, complete with a full set of characteristics, and then acting like those people ONLY exist in Japan does seem to be unique to Japan.

  • 10

    A+b/a=a/b≡?

    These types of social stigmas are not limited to Japan. While not exactly the same, It reminds me of a similar western word "spinster" (aka: old maid). Some more recent ways we still hold such views: Bridget Jones' Diary (film).

  • -3

    my2sense

    the irony with her bum in the air like the good smut mags in the conbini....

  • -3

    almxx

    It's for sure that they don't resemble the beauty pictured.

  • 8

    susieuk

    a women shouldnt enter a pub on her own????? HAHA sounds like a middle eastern country laws. dried fish woman sounds cool to me.

  • 4

    Cos

    However, as soon as she gets home, she changes into comfortable clothes, ties her hair up to a samurai-style topknot and enjoys a can of beer loudly. She might even scratch her ass or burp. ... given up on relationships, love and sex.

    That's not what a Japanese wife does as soon as honeymoon is over ?

    In a few years, it might be the norm to marry rather late or even to remain single. rather common in most Western countries.

    Was this article written in 1975 ? That has been the norm since the 80's. J-women tend to be more often single and/or childless that women in most Western countries. And J-men too. Himono-otoko ?

    100 Japanese castles

    There are only 3 that have not been built by Disneyland-Yokoso-Japan. But enjoy the visit.

  • -11

    Reckless

    see these women all the time on the train in the morning commute in Tokyo. basically haggard and plain looking. good luck in the next 60 years of their lives.

  • 12

    Aliasis

    Wow. I definitely don't wear makeup on my days off (I only wear a little at work to start with), I don't go to the beautician (my hair is long so my roommate just trims it as needed), and I definitely don't bother to shave much unless I'm going to be actually showing my legs.

    Sorry, but this criteria for himono-onna should have stopped at "giving up on love." Most of those other points are pretty shallow and frankly, such women sound much more mature and comfortable with themselves than the alternative. No need to pour oil on an already superficial society that demands women look and act a certain way at all times.

  • 1

    Farmboy

    This is a very interesting article...hope to see more like this.

  • 0

    Ranger_Miffy2

    I like dried fish. Who in Japan does not? Why is this name perjorative?

  • 4

    philly1

    The trend to despise singles--women especially but men, too--is current in North America too. Single people must stay strong enough to overcome social scorn and nasty labels placed on them. It's another form of emotional abuse (aka bullying) heaped on them. Aliasis is right. Anyone who thinks this way about another human being is shallow. If you think it about yourself, you are insecure. Whatever happened to seeing the Buddha-nature in everyone--including yourself?

    For recent Canadian interviews and articles on the same subject, JT readers might want to check out the links below.

    http://www.cbc.ca/q/blog/2012/07/13/does-our-culture-despise-single-people/

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/relationships/why-do-we-insist-that-coupling-up-is-better-than-staying-single/article4380875/

  • 0

    ubikwit

    totally offensive article.

  • 2

    Ah_so

    Was this article written in 1975 ? That has been the norm since the 80's. J-women tend to be more often single and/or childless that women in most Western countries.

    I still occasionally read women over the age of 25 are known as "kurisumasu keki" in Japan. This has been picked up from an old book on Japan and has been repeated ignorantly. It was not true in the mid-90s when I first went to Japan.

    It also ignores the point that a real fruit Christmas cake should not be eaten before the 25th and if properly stored, can last for some years.

  • 3

    gogogo

    She probably goes to a beautician only once every 6 months.

    errr how often are you suppose to go?

  • 2

    dragsby

    The article seems to describe, for the most part, independently-minded women who live life on their own terms.

    The article itself is not offensive, as it is describing rather than endorsing intolerance, but the idea behind this kind of labeling is most definitely offensive and a sign of low-grade intolerance of social diversity.

  • 1

    ubikwit

    @dragsby,

    ok.

  • -2

    Reckless

    The article seems to describe, for the most part, selfish hags who can't get or keep a man.

  • -6

    Shiningfinger

    ((( "Who told you to get off the shelf poindexter! : A theory about the marriage strike

    The marriage strike, that's what it's been dubbed. Why is it that most men don't want to get married anymore? Well here's a theory.

    Women have the right to sleep with anyone they want, and how often they want.

    A lot of them have went for the bad boys and "alpha males", putting marriage, long term relationships on the back burner.

    With that said, they also put poindexters on the shelf for a later date. They have their flings and one nighters with all the hot guys, "alpha's", rich guys, and whoever else tickles their fancy and life seems good. But after a while these men get tired of these women (and they will) and eventually replace them with younger, hotter chicks. That or their looks fall apart, and they get replaced or don't get the attention the way they used to.

    That's when they run back to the shelf to get poindexter down and run to the altar, only to find, he got down off the shelf like something out of Toy Story and walked off, started living his own life, going his own way, even he is saying no thank you to marriage.

    So not only are the bad boys refusing to marry you or ignoring you, so is poindexter!"))))

    THIS SUMS UP WHY DRIED FISH WOMEN ARE REALLY "DRIED" Women have themselves to blame.

  • 0

    Cos

    Why is this name perjorative?

    It's not. It's the ideal snack to munch with the beer. As A+B said, that manga was a J-version of Bridget Jones, published just after (a bit yesteryear news). Satyric autobiography. Jasmine is now adapting it into German. Does the name become "pretzel girl" ?

  • 0

    ojiiu812badboy

    I don't think Wikipedia is a good source to go compartmentalizing. Any-who, it's about time women get tired of the elementary school, junior high, high school, college, moiais, bff's, and the countless other reunions that seem to go on for an eternity and possibly drive a wedge between marriage/other relationships . Gokon? Do an article on the effectiveness of gokons these days. I love "dried fish women" more than "fried fish women" (countless hours of emptiness on the beach).

  • -1

    lrodriguezsosa

    Hotaru no Hikaru was a wonderful drama. The protagonist, the picture that illustrate the article, is painted in a very positive way. No discrimination here.

  • 0

    Jasmine T. Blossom

    @Tamarama: It's not ME who is describing that, but Japanese society.

    @susieuk: When I read about the izakaya one, I was frowning, too! Maybe because Japanese pubs are something you go to WITH your friends or your co-workers, but not alone, especially not as a woman??!! ....

    @Cos: They do? I wouldn't know and I really doubt it. Then again, I guess it's not only Japanese wives who change after marriage, right? ;)

    Actually, yes. I've stumbled upon the term "himono-otoko" in recent times in newspapers and online. Like mentioned in the article Japan is slowly changing and fewer people in the younger generation get married, so I think the "himono onna" phenomenon described here might soon become the norm in Japan ... or at least a "more accepted lifestyle form". Though that's probably more of a "shou ga nai" thing.

    "Pretzel girl"? LOL

    @Aliasis: Totally agreed! I find this whole "branding" very ridiculous anyway - which is one reason why I wanted to share it with others. However, the mentioned drama plays around with those other points that were mentioned (no make-up etc.)

    @Farmboy: Thank you very much! :)

    @philly1: Thanks for the interesting links and information! :)

    @ojiiu812badboy: I know, but it was hard to find any kind of information about "himono onna" in Japanese (let alone in other languages) - and the mentioned drama also displays what the wiki article describes - though, of course, we all should take it with a grain of salt.

    @Irodriguezsosa: Yes, it is very positive and probably doesn't display the real life of a himono onna, but we probably wouldn't have enjoyed the drama so much then! ;)

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