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Himono Onna, the Dried Fish Women of Japan

Himono Onna

The kanji for himono onna, 干物女, literally means “dried fish woman.” Since while himono can refer to any dried things, it usually refers to dried fish snacks. In Chinese you can find it as a loanword with the same kanji, gan-wu-nu (干物女), or the more accurate yu-gan-nu (鱼干女). It’s from this translation that the English nickname Dried Fish Woman comes from. 

The himono onna is basically a woman who has given up on love and relationships. She doesn’t expect to get married or have children. So, it’s not a requirement, but it’s the stereotype that they’ve given up on all the things girls do to appear attractive. At work, an ordinary woman – at home, a lazy slob.

Himono Onna

A himono onna changes into sweats and a bun as soon as she gets home. Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

She’s slovenly, doesn’t care about her appearance anymore and isn’t a great housekeeper. A himono onna eats her meals out of the fridge while standing in the kitchen and is most comfortable in sweats and a messy bun. She probably doesn’t wear makeup on her days off and picks up masculine habits, like drinking beer at the bar alone, belching whenever she feels like it and scratching whenever the urge hits. She also avoids social events involving the opposite sex. 

Some harsher descriptions paraphrased from the Japanese Wikipedia include:

  • only goes to the beauty salon once or twice a year
  • she probably doesn’t shave or wax
  • doesn’t remember the last time she was in love

The manga Hotaru no Hikari and the drama adaption are about a himono onna.

In Japan, there’s a lot of pressure to be married before your hit 30. It used to be even younger than that, but with more women working, going to higher education and the wonders of cosmetics, it’s been pushed back to 30. I think the average person does want to get married, but statistics show that more and more people are just not tying the knot in Japan. The biggest barriers are financial hardships (mainly men being unable to provide for a family) and expectations that are too high.


1 comment

  • I’m beginning to get this impression that Japanese society is hard on women, even if they are educated and have a decent job.

    I would even go as far to say Chinese women in HK, Tawain and mainland China, may possibly not as heavily confined to rigid societal expectations. There are many real life example of strong, outspoken Chinese women with careers –professional jobs, education and they aren’t so heavily penalized/frowned upon.

    I realize there is still the pressure in China to marry, but not as high as for Japanese women. We see them in big cities, taking English classes…which makes me wonder at times if they are viewing the time as their high point in life…free, etc.

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