The word was originally rendered in kanji as 軟派 (literally "the soft school"), and was used in a rather different way—to refer to people interested more in fun and self-indulgence than in "hard" pursuits like politics, academia, or athletics. In modern Japanese culture, Nanpa is most often referred to as "girl hunting" and there is a strong negative connotation associated with it.
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 female foot traffic (bridges, subway stations, shopping malls, etc.) and approach women in search of a date. The appearance of the Nanpa groups is generally very high fashion with nice suits, expensive shoes, and extravagant hair styles. Because of their dress, Nanpa boys are occasionally misinterpreted by foreigners as hosts of Host Bars who also roam specific areas speaking with various women.
Because of increasing number of Nampa participants, many regions are reacting more harshly to the well dressed, loitering young men. In reaction to the rising complaints, many youth hangouts like arcades are posting "No Nampa" signs and police in highly populated Japanese cities have been enforcing the rule. This may be in reaction to a growing fear in young Japanese women of abduction or rape. Shibuya is particularly strict on the Nampa boys in the wake of the abduction of four girls by a middle aged man in July.
- Botting, Geoff. "Japanese women on top". The Japan Times, April 8, 2001. Reprinted from Spa!, April 4, 2001.