Thereare a lot of firsts that are important to Japanese people in the new year – the first visit to a shrine, the first sunrise, and even the first dream! Hatsuyume (初夢) literally means the first dream of the New Year. It is traditionally believed it foretells the kind of year and luck you will receive for the year ahead. As New Year’s Day (1st of January) is a quiet celebration and people start resuming their regular routines the following day, hatsuyume is the dream you experience on the night of the 1st of January. Therefore, in the traditional Japanese calendar, the 2nd of January is known as hatsuyume.
“Ichi Fuji, Ni Taka, San Nasubi” (literally: 1 Fuji, 2 hawk, 3 eggplant) is a Japanese proverb relating to hatsuyume. It is said that the best dream to have is of Mount Fuji, followed by a hawk and an eggplant. This belief has been around since the early Edo period. It is also said that these three elements were the favorites of the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. There is also a continuation to the proverb – “Yon Sen, Go Tabako, Roku Zatō” (literally: 4 Fan, 5 Tobacco, 6 Blind acupressure). They are, however, not as popular as the first three elements.
So why are these so lucky and desired to be in your dreams?
Mount Fuji is considered an auspicious dream as it is the tallest mountain in Japan, signifying one’s achievements reaching great heights. The mountain is also considered sacred and a deity. Fuji is also close to sounding like fushi which means immortality.
Those who dislike tobacco will probably be surprised, but dreaming of tobacco (which is number 5 on the list of lucky symbols) is said to produce similar effects, as the tobacco smoke rises to a great height.
The hawk is a strong and intelligent bird which soars to a great height, and just like Mt. Fuji or smoke rising, height is good. Besides that, the Japanese word taka can also mean ‘lofty’ which indicates advancement in the world. Homophones, wordplay and puns are very important in Japanese culture.
The eggplant is also an auspicious dream symbols despite not having the same theme of “soaring to great heights”. It is said that the eggplant was chosen due to it being expensive in the past. Moreover, the Japanese word for eggplant, nasu, can also mean accomplish.
In addition to high and sacred symbols, it’s also good to dream of riches, and ‘takarabune’ is a ship full of that!
Hatsuyume was taken so seriously during the feudal period in Japan that people actively tried very hard to make sure they had one of these auspicious dreams. A common practice in the Muromachi period was to put a Takarabune picture – a drawing of a ship of treasures with its sail having the kanji word for treasure on it – under the pillow. The Seven Gods of Fortune are often depicted on the ship. If you still end up getting a bad dream despite placing the Takarabune, you can just negate the effects by throwing it into the river.
We might argue that times change, people change, and dreams meanings change with them. As dreams are also a reflection of our minds, they might have a different meaning to different individuals. However, it’s still fun to see if we do dream of things Japanese people of old times considered lucky. If we do dream of them- is it a coincidence or a sign from the gods?
Will you be anticipating your dreams on the 1st or 2nd of January? Who knows, you may be lucky enough to get one of the auspicious dreams so remember to take note of your hatsuyume in the coming new year!