When Japanese women pursue men in a fashion similar to nanpa, it is called gyakunan (ギャクナン).
Nanpa was a new word of the Meiji era with the opposite word Kouha. It was originally rendered in kanji as 軟派 (lit. "the soft school"). The meaning of nanpa was continually changing and different from what it means today. Initially, it referred to a political term with the meaning of "parties with soft opinion and proposition" or "people who are unable to claim a strong opinion" (1892), then it referred to "departments or reporters who are responsible for the articles of glossy things like social or literary in newspapers and magazines" (1901), eventually it meant "a faction of the youth who are enjoying pursuit of the opposite sex and fine clothing" (1909). In general, it means people interested more in fun and self-indulgence than in "hard" pursuits like politics, academia, or athletics. In contemporary Japanese culture, nanpa most often refers to "girl hunting" and there is a strong negative connotation associated with it.
The word for boyfriend hunting by women, gyakunan, derives from gyaku (逆, lit. "reverse"), and the first part of the word nanpa.
Nanpa is seen most often in young men ranging from their late teens to mid-twenties. Groups of "nanpa boys" will gather around places with busy, predominantly female foot traffic (bridges, subway stations, shopping malls, etc.) and approach women in search of a date. The nanpa groups generally wear high fashion with nice suits, expensive shoes, and extravagant hair styles. Because of their style of dress, nanpa boys are occasionally misinterpreted by foreigners as employees of host clubs, who also roam such areas speaking with various women.
Because of increasing number of nanpa participants and rising complaints, many Japanese regions are reacting more harshly to participants. For example, many youth hangouts such as arcades are posting "No Nanpa" signs, and police in highly populated Japanese cities have been enforcing these rules. This may be in reaction to a growing fear in young Japanese women of abduction or rape. The Shibuya district is particularly strict on nanpa boys in the wake of the abduction of four girls by a middle aged man in July 2003.
- Botting, Geoff. "Japanese women on top." The Japan Times, April 8, 2001. Reprinted from Spa!, April 4, 2001. Reviewed November 1, 2010
- Nihon Kokugo Daijiten 2nd edition. Tokyo: Shogakukan. 2001. ISBN 4095210109.
- Onishi, Norimitsu (16 September 2003). "Tokyo Journal; A Flashy Teenage Trend Capital, and Its Dark Side" – via NY Times.
- The Way of Nampa, from THE NAMPA ISSUE - JAPANZINE, JULY 2003; reprinted at The Quirky Japan Homepage.
- 'Nanpa: A Beginner's Guide to the Japanese Art of Girl-Hunting' by Ed Lake Available on Amazon.com