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January 19, 2017

Hatsuyume: Your First Dream of the New Year (Ep. 2)

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Hatsuyume is the first dream you have in the New Year. In Japan there is a saying: ichi fuji, ni taka, san nasubi. Which means the luckiest dream you can have is of Mt. Fuji, the second luckiest thing to see in a dream is a hawk, and the third is an eggplant.

In this podcast I tell you why an eggplant is considered prosperous and also talk about the little known fourth, fifth, and sixth lucky things to dream about to guarantee a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year.

Hello, this is Thersa Matsuura and you’re listening to Uncanny Japan.

This is my second podcast. I am going to talk to you today about something, it’s kind of related to New Year’s, New Year’s Day.
I’m a week or two into the New Year, so this is a bit late, but it has been so windy.
I haven’t been able to get out with the mics. Even my little fuzzy things don’t work.
I do have the binaural mics on. I am sitting at my open window and what you can hear are like a gazillion birds in my tree.
I have one tree in my yard. I don’t cut my tree down to the bones like all my neighbors do at the beginning of winter.
So the entire neighborhood, I have the only tree with actual foliage.
And I think every bird in the city has come to roost and have a good time.
So that’s what you’re hearing. I hope it’s not too annoying.
But until I can get to the beach or the harbor or the mountains on a nice quiet day, you get my birds for now.

So what I want to talk to you about and I think is kind of interesting is a Japanese, it’s a saying actually, and it’s called hatsuyume.
Now, hatsu means the first, the first of something. At the beginning of the year, so the first day of the new year rolls around.
Hatsu is tagged onto a whole bunch of different words and phrases.

There’s hatsuhinode, which is the first sunrise of the new year.
So on January 1st, you go and you watch the sunrise. That’s hatsuhinode.
Hatsumode would be the first visit to the temple or the shrine because that’s important too.
People go for their hatsumode and they pray. They give money.
They pick what’s called an omikuji that shows them what their luck is going to be like in the coming year.
And that’s kind of what hatsuyume is about. What hatsuyume is, again, hatsu means the first, and yume is dream.

So the first dream you have in the new year, and sometimes this is said to be the day one, January 1st.
Sometimes it’s the second. It depends. The tradition varies.
But basically the first dream that you have, and as far as I’m concerned that you remember, in the new year is your hatsuyume.

Now, your hatsuyume will, as Japanese tradition says, it will predict how your year is going to turn out.
If you dream about one of three things, the most common saying that everybody knows is ichi fuji, ni taka, san nasubi.
Ichi, one. Fuji, Mount Fuji. So if you dream about Mount Fuji as your first dream, that’s, wow, that’s fortuitous.
That is a great dream, and you’re going to have the best year ever.
That makes sense. There’s no surprises there.

The second, ni taka. Taka is a hawk. So if you dream about a hawk, that’s also a very prosperous dream.
And it means you’re going to have a good year. Hawks fly high, they’re pretty cool, and that makes sense as well.

Three is kind of a mind boggler. Some people know what it means, and some people don’t.
San nasubi. San, three. Nasubi or nasu is eggplant. Eggplant.
Why would an eggplant in any way be a sign of fortune or good luck or prosperity?
It’s a play on words is what it is. Play on words is what it is.

Nasu is eggplant, of course, but another reading, another different characters with the same pronunciation of Nasu means to achieve something great, to succeed.
So it’s a play on words. If you dream of an eggplant, it means that in the coming year, this new year, you will achieve something great and you will succeed and blah, blah, blah, blah.
All your dreams will come true. So it’s a good thing to dream about.
I don’t know how many I can. I probably can’t tell you how many times I’ve dreamt about an eggplant or Mount Fuji or a hawk for that matter.
But if you remember your first dreams and had Mount Fuji, a hawk or an eggplant been in those dreams, yay, yay you.
You’re going to have a really good year.

Now, this is those three that the ichi fuji, ni taka, san nasubi are kind of the standard for hatsuyume, the first dream.
Nobody knows this, but there are also another grouping of three, four, five and six, actually, which aren’t very well known, even to Japanese people.
And I think these are kind of fun, too.

So I did a bit of digging and I came up with yon-sen or yon-ogi, depends on your sources, but yon-sen, go-tabako, and roku-zatō.
Now, yon before sen-ogi is a fan, like one of those fold out fans.
And the idea here was as you spread out a fan, your grandchildren, great grandchildren are also spreading out in the world and they’re making their fortune and they’re doing very well.
And this is this is a good thing.
This is good for you.
It’s good for them.
And again, it’s very fortuitous dream.

Now, go-tabako is tobacco is tobacco cigarette pipe, whatever have what have you.
This health wise is a little suspicious.
However, again, it’s like the hawk, the taka.
Tobacco smoke rises.
Your rising fortune.
You’re rising what health.
It’s also deemed to be a good luck dream, a good premonition.

My favorite, however, is six roku-zatō.
Now, zato, there was a movie that came out actually before the movie.
Gosh, way, way back in the black and white days of TV.
There was a TV.
There was a show called Zatoichi, which I actually I really like.
I don’t like a lot of Japanese TV, but I loved Zatoichi.
Zatoichi is a blind masseur or masseuse, acupressurist, if you will, that would go around and travel and give massages to people for money.
Because when you’re blind, especially in old Japan, you don’t have a whole lot of skills or a whole lot of ways to make money.

Of course, people, I guess, believed or assumed that someone that was blind would be able to whatever, give better massages for various reasons, I suppose.
So Zatoichi was an old TV show.
Later, there was a movie a couple of years ago by Beat Takeshi.
I don’t know if anyone saw it.
I don’t even know if it’s in English.
I saw it in Japanese.
Beat Takeshi, he’s not my favorite.
I know a lot of people really like him.
But there was dancing, there was singing, and boy, he sure was the hero of that show.
And again, he was the main character.

So this too, why would a dream about a blind acupressurist be a fortuitous dream?
And it’s also a play on words.
Zato, not zato so much as these these old masseurs, masseuses that would go around.
They, I guess, in order to add credibility to what they were doing, they would shave their heads.
Monks are traditionally bald, and monks are pretty respected in the community.
And while these people weren’t monks, it looks cool, right?
I mean, you want some shaggy person to come in and give you a massage.
You want someone that’s nice and shorn.

So these traveling or not traveling wherever, they just hung around the same town.
It doesn’t matter.
They were bald and they wore robes.
Being bald, a way of to say having no hair is keganai. Ke is hair.
Ganaai means you don’t have. So keganai.
These people didn’t have hair.
Keganai, again, different words and a different reading is pronounced the same pretty much.
Kega is injury or harm.
Nai is not. It negates the harm.
So not having harm or not being injured.
And again, a play on words, it means that this year you’re going to have a very healthy year.
You’re not going to get injured.
You’re not going to be harmed.

So if you dreamed about a blind masseur or masseuse, also it’s a very good dream.
I don’t know about you.
I’m recording this and I think it’s like the 15th, January 15th, and I’m going to put it up right away.
But I can’t remember my first dreams.
Every year I try to remember my first dreams and I never quite do.
Something to keep in mind for next year.

So what you want to dream about in any way possible, if you want to do this whole good luck thing,
the Japanese way is ichi fuji, ni taka, san nasubi.
You can dream about fuji, a hawk, an eggplant, or yon-sen go-tabako roku-zatō.
You can dream about a folding fan, some kind of tobacco or cigarette products.
Or roku-zatō, you can dream about a blind acupressurist.
I guess as tradition holds, that will guarantee you a fortuitous, a prosperous, and a healthy new year.

And that’s what I wish for everybody out there.
This is my thing this year.
This is what I’m going to try to do for now.
I’m going to wish you a very, very happy new year.
Until we talk again, thanks for listening. Bye bye.

Thank you so much for listening.
I’m Teresa Matsuura, and you can find me and Uncanny Japan in all the usual places on the internet.
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and of course the two websites, uncannyjapan.com and teresamatsura.com.
Now, Teresa Matsuura is spelled kind of funky, so let me do that for you.
It is T-H-E-R-S-A M-A-T-S-U-U-R-A.
Also, if you’d like, please visit my Patreon page, and that would be Teresa Matsuura Patreon.
And there I have some neat rewards to go with the free podcast, so give that a look.
Thank you again so much, and I will talk to you very, very soon. Bye bye.


The intro/outro music of Uncanny Japan is a song by Christiaan Virant (“Yi Gui” from Ting Shuo). The whole album is just gorgeous as it everything else by FM3.

8 comments on “Hatsuyume: Your First Dream of the New Year (Ep. 2)”

  1. Hatsu-comment: Intersting, Thersa! Didn’t know about the first dream thing…btw, the birds chirping, seriously, you didn’t add them in post-production? Nice touch! Anyways, very educational, keep up the good work!!

    1. Wayne! Thank you so much for giving this a listen. I’m still kicking the tires and trying to figure out how to open the hood, but it’s certainly a lot of fun. Those are totally my Tree Birds. Noisy as crap, they are. Those mics are freaking amazing.

    1. I first came across this when looking into a Japanese game called LSD: Dream Emulator.

      It’s a very surreal game released for the PlayStation a couple decades ago. It’s based off a real womans dream diary. You spend the game exploring a dreamscape of sorts, where various strange and surreal things happen.

      If you play for a certain number of in-game nights, you get a dream with Mt. Fuji, a hawk, and an eggplant.

      The game was never officially released in America, but because you dont need to read to understand it, it gained a cult following for its surreal and occassionally creepy atmosphere.

      As for the other lucky dreams, these would be the first I’ve ever heard of them.

  2. I love the nuances of a language: the way it grows to fit a group of people at a particular time. In Spain, they actually had a government office that prescribed how words should be used. (I’m not sure they continue to do that.) I love the stories how the first Oxford-English Dictionary came about. It took decades for just one volume.

    1. Yes! Me, too. Language and cultural is endlessly fascinating to me. I didn’t know that about the government office in Spain.

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About The Uncanny Japan Podcast

Speculative fiction writer, long-term resident of Japan and Bram Stoker Award finalist Thersa Matsuura explores all that is weird from old Japan—strange superstitions, folktales, cultural oddities, and interesting language quirks. These are little treasures she digs up while doing research for her writing.

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