Himono Onna – The 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 „Himono Onna“?

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 Japanese Wikipedia 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. smilie

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.
Himono Onna in 'Hotaru no Hikari'

Graphic © NTV

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!

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. smilie
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?! smilie

Thanks for reading!~ smilie


  • haha I was so excited about the first part that I wrote the previous comment without having read the second part.. soooo I’ll definitely watch the Hotaru no Hikari Anime :D I scratch my ass, change my clothes when at home, my replies are late etc. hehe.. I guess I’m a little Himono Onna nevertheless :P Japanese society is definitely something very interesting..

  • Himono onna and proud to be one! :bleh:

    But I’m still hoping I’ll meet the “buchou” of my life somewhere out there. :fan:

    I love the series so much and can relate to Hotaru’s character that I adopted the name 干物女.

  • Well, all societies have rules and customs…In the US, most people used to marry soon after high school, or, if they were better educated, upon graduating from university. You were expected to marry.

    But this has changed. Large numbers marry much later, a majority [I think] live with a person before marrying them, and indeed, people marry much later than before, if at all.

    And this seems to have spread to Europe, and now to Japan.

    • Yes, at least in Germany it’s similar.
      Lower educated people marry earlier and get children earlier.
      Somebody who went to high school and university often doesn’t even marry right after that, but focuses on building up a career.

  • I was reading this on google reader so I didn’t see the bottom part right away…When I started reading I thought..hmmn this girl sounds like Hotaru.

    hee I was right XD Thing is I still don’t get what was wrong with her lifestyle :/
    Except the messy house part…

    • Actually I have read about the “dried fish woman” long before watching Hotaru no Hikaru, but I forgot about it again. I remembered when I finally stumbled upon this awesome drama a few years ago! ^__^

      Well, from our point of view it’s pretty normal, I guess – but still not so much for Japan…

  • I’ve met a handful of these himono onna style Japanese women and I notice that once they approach their 30’s they start freak out a bit and become aggressive in their romantic ventures. Instead of being a bit shy and waiting for a guy to approach, they go hunting alone or in groups. I think it’s normal for people not to be married young, but I predict that this pressure in Japan will continue and even become a bigger issue as older Japanese people get older and older (and since they are older than you and they know everything) – they are worried about the future of the Japanese population and their retirement security. I’ve been asked many times why I have no babies… I said hey, when it’s time it’s time… and the usual reply is that I better hurry because we’re not getting any younger and they country won’t be able to support the upcoming retired people. (Thanks for not being selfish! LOL!)

    • I noticed this especially at my old workplace where most of my co-workers were approaching 30 or already over 30. None of them had even a boyfriend. They all felt rushed and many (not all of them) were unhappy.
      I also noticed that the one who was over 30 seemed to have given up on finding a partner and concentrated a lot more on her work (e.g. staying longer, coming earlier etc.)

      Me, as the only female foreigner, was totally fine in their opinion although I’m also over 30.
      I’m not rushing anything. It’s very difficult for foreign females here in Japan anyways….
      If I ever want kids there’s a natural, biological time limit, so when THAT time has come I might feel rushed ;)

  • I watch a lot of Japanese TV Shows and especially movies in an attempt to maintain my Japanese listening skills at their current pathetic level. This was the most recent TV show I watched and while it is by no means a great show it was at least funny and entertaining. I enjoyed it and that’s really all I ask for when it comes to study materials.

    • I often prefer the entertaining and funny dramas, because it’s a good contrast to everyday life.
      I like the more serious ones, too, but I can’t watch them every day ….

      For studying Japanese watching a lot of Japanese dramas and movies is a very good way!
      I used to do it, too! Even better when you can get the Japanese subtitles for it and read along (yes, Japanese, not English). :thumbup:

      • I agree, but unfortunately finding Japanese subtitles for dramas is pretty hard to do. I have a bunch of movies with Japanese subtitles though, but I can usually only handle twenty minutes or so before my brain wants to explode and I have to turn them off.

  • WWWhhhyyy!!! And hahaha!!!It makes me jump when reading this.
    Those definitions are all about me :((
    Am I super old now. Oh, so sad :rainy:

    • “I fell in love with the manga…and I think I would love to watch the drama version too.” Well, that’s actually a negative view in a way that I am starting to see myself becoming one…Waaahhhh. Just turned 26 and yet I have no plans of any kind and I’ve never been into a relationship ever! I just love the laid-back life after a stressful day at the office! Good luck Minna! and to all the Himono Onna’s out there! :)

      • I hope you get to watch the drama. I’m sure you’d love it. :)

        Haha, I know what you mean. People are different and not everybody is happier in a relationship, so I think it’s sad that some cultures still frown at you if you decide to stay single.

  • thanks for sharing this. this is exactly me, from the short/late text replies to the “idont have any plan to have any children” lol

  • Well, over 90% of the japanese mens/womans between 20-24 years are single (Yoshio Sugimoto – An Introduction to Japanese Society), and i think the actually “small” part of “Himono Onna’s” will increase in the next years. Just look at the “Hikikomori’s” (over 1 million ~ (increasted dramatically the last 10 years)).

  • This gives me hope. I am an older American that has fallen in love with Japanese women. My secret dream is to one day travel to Japan and find an older Japanese woman to live with me and I like the idea of finding a “Himono onna” that can share my (couch) retired life with me. :kyah:

  • This is an interesting post. I am actually a woman in mid-30 and i live almost exactly like Hotaru. I live life simply, have no desire to date and couldn’t be bothered to attend any social function at all. I once almost got married in my mid-20s but things didn’t worked out. I got proposed and asked out a few times after i hit 30 but by then, i had totally lost any desire to love or socialize and just turn them down. I feel like “been there done that” and the scores just aren’t worth it – relationships are just too much a bother to have and to maintain. I’d rather work my a** off, earn my bucks and spend the life outside work doing things that i love. I feel that the most important thing for me is to feel good about what i am doing. One should not be in a relationship if she couldn’t commit to it nor should one make others unhappy in it. Back when i was in my late 20s, i got that ‘you’re a failure’ and ‘you’re undesirable’ talkdown very often and i had to defend myself and my way of life like a mad mother hen. :ehehe: but as i grew older into my 30s, i found courage & strength to deflect all those attacks and simply shake them off. It used to be lonely, when i first decided to go single. but now i realize that the loneliness doesn’t often come from being alone, it comes mostly from being in the wrong crowd or living/surrounded with people who don’t understand me. It’s sad but the traditional idea of marriage as a must still largely prevail in the east and women who want to or opt to stay single often get frown upon and tagged with negative connotations. Sometimes when these traditional people get too much on my nerve, I just retort very calmly that single people are people too and they stay single for various reasons. And they aren’t necessarily more worse off in life than those who are married, so be cool eh.. :peace:

    • Nuff said. :)
      I totally agree. If you look back in history, it used to be like that in the West as well.
      Maybe it’ll eventually change in the East, too. But until then I really feel sorry for all the single women living there who have to defend themselves every single day. :/

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