"Dreams" -- Toyoshima Yoshio

When I was young, my favorite thing about the new year was the feeling of waiting for my first dream, my hatsuyume. My grandmother knew all kinds of old legends and customs and seasonal rituals, and she had taught me that a person could see the shape of their luck for the coming year in their hatsuyume. On the second or third morning of the year, she would never fail to ask me what I'd dreamed of the night before. Her face was always beaming and cheerful, and it should go without saying that her interpretations invariably predicted good luck for me.

To be honest, though, her interpretations themselves didn't really interest me. The fact that oracular interpretations like that could be applied to dreams, though, made the dreams themselves especially fascinating. More than just the first dream of the year, each hatsuyume seemed like a kind of chink through which one could peek at an unknown world, a sacred world, the deep and wide world of Fate.

I dimly remember this fascination that hatsuyume once held for me whenever the new year comes around. But now, ten years after my grandmother passed away, dreams arouse a different interest in me.

Anatole France said that dreams are

unfortunate remains of what we have neglected the day before. Dreams avenge things one has disdained. They are reproaches of abandoned friends.

According to Freud, all dreams are our sexual and other desires, appearing before us in various forms. In other words, dreams are said to be a state when parts of our subconscious become visible to our conscious selves.

Some dreams are like that. But another kind of dream is also quite common -- the kind which conveys to us a sort of representative synthesis of the objective facts of our lives.

For example, a certain lover of my acquaintance sometimes dreams of pleasantly walking through town with the man she loves. Such dreams always presage some great joy, no matter how bleak her suffering and sadness may seem at the time. It is not that these dreams predict the future. They are simply alerting her to an improvement in her circumstances, or her partner's, or the facts of their relationship, before she herself has noticed it.

On the other hand, there are times when she unexpectedly has sad dreams, though her waking life be spent loving deeply and joyfully. Such dreams are accompanied by some change in her or her partner's circumstances which will challenge their love. Again, these dreams are not prophecies. They are simply alerting her to certain objective facts of her situation which she has not yet noticed.

There are many other cases when dreams point out something to us in ways that go beyond a simple "hunch". Anyone can experience this, if they stay open to the possibility of it happening.

Hamlet learnt of his father's unjust death from a ghost. We, however, who do not believe in ghosts, consider this a crystallization of the suspicions that came to him from the various specifics of his situation. But would it really be more absurd if Hamlet had not met his father's ghost, but rather, simply had a dream of that nature? Dreams have always been considered nonsense, but who can say for certain that they would not receive information of this nature in dreams, were they in a position like Hamlet's? The only difficulty is how such dreams can be brought to life within literature.

Interpreting dreams in this way brings us to the problem of our perceptive and cognitive powers. It requires that we reconsider the very mechanisms of the human psyche.

My grandmother's hatsuyume oneirology now interests me in an entirely new way. Of course, hatsuyume are not the only dreams that work like this, but, while I am unable to fully escape the confines of society, at the beginning of every year I am put in a "new year-y" state of mind, and find myself pondering hatsuyume once more.


『夢』 (Yume), published September 1933, written by Toyoshima Yoshio (豊島与志雄), 1890-1955.

Aozora Bunko version entered by tatsuki and proofread by Tanaka Keizô (田中敬三).