Himono Onna – Dried Fish Woman

I’m pretty sure that most of you know what a dried fish is, right? I also think you’ve heard of “women?” But what on earth is a “dried fish woman?” Japanese society can be tough. There’s this infamous saying:

“The nail that sticks out gets hammered.”

Unfortunately this saying is often the sad reality in Japan. Japanese also seem to like categorizing people who are different and give them funny names. One of them is “himono onna.”

What is a “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 a day off she won’t put on make-up
  • She’s probably going to a beautician only once every 6 months
  • During the winter months she’s not shaving / waxing her body hair properly or might have stopped completely
  • She has no problem entering an izakaya (Japanese bar) all by herself
  • She didn’t feel any 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 get children in the future, she’s just using her hard-earned money all for herself. Usually dried fish women are not joining any social events, especially not 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 and drink.

Though slowly changing, it’s still uncommon in Japan to be unmarried when over 30, especially for women! 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. Japan is slowly changing.

In Japan, 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. So, my guess is that at least some of the “himono onna” haven’t given up on love, but pretend that that’s the case, because the alternative would be that love has given up on them!

Surprisingly the himono onna have actually started to embrace that name and are proud of being the way they are. Japan is slowly changing. Recently there are more and more women who are focused on building up a career for themselves. Marriage age is going up, too. In a few years it might have become normal to marry rather late or 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! C’mon, I’m not talking about food! I mean, who doesn’t enjoy scratching their ass and …. wait, what?!


Photo courtesy of NTV

Author of this article

Jasmine T. 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: http://zoomingjapan.com

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