Japanese Slang: “nanpa suru”, “gyaku nan suru”

Posted by on August 17, 2015 – Japanese Study

When you are learning a foreign language, studying slang is a funny way to deepen your vocabulary. Not only will you speak more fluently but you will sound more like a native speaker. Moreover, slang gives you an interesting point of view on society. Let’s see how Japanese people would casually speak about seduction and picking up someone!

We frequently read in the news that Japanese people are less and less interested in love story and date. That might be true, but picking up girls and boys is still trending in the night districts of Tokyo. Just a quick search on the Internet will prove you that Japanese youth wonder about how to invite someone on a date and how to seduce. Young Japanese people will try their luck in the streets, attracting girls’ attention with pick-up lines. This flirtation is called in Japanese slang “nanpa suru” 「ナンパする」 for men and  “gyaku nan suru” 「逆ナンする」 for women.

If you have been in Japan and went out at night, you might have noticed those guys hanging on the street, calling girls. They are actually calling girls they don’t know with some pretty simple quite original lines:

  • “do you wanna go to karaoke?”: 「カラオケ行かない?」
  • “do you wanna go for a drink?”:「一緒に飲みに行かない?」
  • “do you want to see my dog at home?” :「うちの犬、見に来ない?」

The word “nanpa” comes from the Japanese word for “moderate” 「軟派」. In Japanese slang however, nanpa 「ナンパ」 alone means “seducer“, “smooth talker” or even “ladies’ man”. When you add the verb suru「する」it refers to the action of picking up women.

Gyaku 「逆」means “reverse” or “opposite”. “Gyaku nan suru” refers to women picking men in the street, inviting them somewhere with similar techniques.

When you are hit on by someone, you will say “nanpa sareru” 「ナンパされる」 or “gyaku nan sareru” 「逆ナンされる」. By doing nanpa/gyaku nan regularly, you might be taken for a shallow person.

Let’s see some examples:


Rei1: Otoko tomodachi no kaiwa
A: Kinō, kurabu de metcha taipu no ko ga itandakedo.
B: O~o.
A: Nanpa shiyou to shitara, hoka no yatsu ni saki kosa re chatta nda yoo.

English Translation
Two guy friends are having a conversation
A: There was a super hot girl at the club yesterday.
B: Oh.
A: I tried to pick (nanpa) her up, but another guy beat me to it.

A: さいきん、彼氏ができたんだ。
B: どこで知り会ったの?
A: 渋谷で逆ナンした!?

Rei2: Wakai on’nanoko dōshi no kaiwa
A: Saikin, kareshi ga dekita nda.
B: Doko de shiri atta no?
A: Shibuya de gyaku Nan shita !?

English Translation

A conversation between two young women
A: I got a boyfriend recently.
B: Where did you meet him?
A: I picked (gyaku nanpa) him up in Shibuya.

So next time you are ready to party with your friends in Japan and looking for love… You know how to express it!

Click this link to read about Japanese slang: dotakyan suru! 

Credit CC BY-ND 2.0: Takayuki Miki (三木貴幸)
Title: Shinjuku,Tokyo
source: Flickr

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