Japanese Slang: Nanpa Suru and Gyakunan Suru

Picking People up?
Where did the Word come from?
Usage Examples

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!



Picking People up?

We frequently read in the news that Japanese people are becoming less and less interested in love stories and dating. That might be true, but picking up girls and boys is still a trend along Tokyo’s night districts. Just a quick search on the Internet, you’ll be quick to see how much the Japanese Youth love wandering about to invite someone on a date or even seduce them. You will also find that young Japanese people also tend to try their luck along the streets of Tokyo at night, attracting girls’ attention with pick-up lines. This type of flirtation is called in the Japanese slang would be known as “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 and common 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?」


Where did the Word come from?

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.




Usage Examples

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! Also, here’s how you can ask someone to go out on a date with you in Japanese! ;D

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

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