Some cool dream-related Japanese words and phrases

  • 夢 -- yume -- a dream
  • 逆夢 -- sakayume -- "opposite dream": a dream the contents of which are contrary to reality
  • 正夢 -- masayume -- "true dream": a dream which later comes true
  • 初夢 -- hatsuyume -- "first dream": the first dream one has in a new year
  • 現の夢 -- utsutsu no yume -- the "dream of reality": our dreamlike, fragile world
  • 夢助 -- yumesuke -- "Dreamer Joe": someone who (a) sleeps a lot or (b) acts dreamily while awake
  • 夢主 -- yumenushi -- "dream proprietor": the dreamer of a dream (used in fortune-telling contexts, etc.)
  • 夢人 -- yumebito -- "dream person": a person one meets in a dream
  • 客夢 -- kakumu -- "guest dream": a dream one has away from home
  • 夢は五臓のわざ -- yume wa gozou no waza -- "dreams are the work of your Five Organs": something said to comfort folks who have had a bad dream (the Five Organs are the heart, liver, spleen, lungs and kidneys -- it's a traditional Chinese medicine thing)
  • 夢中説夢 -- mu chuu setsu mu -- "within a dream, explaining the dream": i.e. what Buddhist preachers are, metaphorically, doing (according to their ontology)

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Cool. It's like the japanese verion of having a hundred words for "snow"


Now I may just be hallucinating here, but I seem to recall my giggly Japanese teacher telling me that it was good luck to dream of an eagle or some such thing during your hatsuyume. Does that sound right?


Oh, no, Ali, don't let my linguistically inclined commentators see you quoting the "100 words for snow" thing! ;) (One of the guys at Language Log even went so far as to write a book debunking it)

Kitto: according to Wikipedia, there's an old saying summing up the three best things to see in your hatsuyume: 「一富士、二鷹、三なすび」. "1: Mt Fuji. 2: a hawk. 3: an eggplant (nasubi)". The article also includes a few possible reasons for these being lucky, but they're all pretty obvious (Fuji is big and grand, hawks are powerful and cool, "nasu" also means "make", etc.)

Presumably if you dreamed of a hawk clutching an eggplant in its talons as it flew over Mt Fuji, you would have the best year possible.


The 俚言集覧 dictionary also continues the phrase: 「...四扇、五多波故(たばこ)、六座頭。」I haven't checked to see if this is particular only to that dictionary, but it seems so. (Got to love early dictionaries and their unusual peculiarities. And トリビアの泉 for alerting to me it in the first place.)Other theories about why Fuji, eggplants and hawks is that (1) they were a few of Tokugawa Ieyasu's favorite things and (2) they were famous items of Suruga Province (Shizuoka). 広辞苑 goes so far as to say that it's really a Suruga proverb at heart.

The impression I get is that dream customs also changed a bit in the Edo Period, but I'm still hunting down and reading books on dreams and dream interpretations pre-Edo (there's a lot of them in the 吾妻鏡 after all). The 七福神-associated New Year's practices become far more pronounced as one approaches the Edo Period, and I had the impression if they and their ship show up also in your 初夢 it is a good thing.

Incidentally, some 夢 (it is also found pronounced いめ in the 万葉集 incidentally, which threw me first time) words that you missed: normal 夢中、夢魔(夢に登場する悪魔)、迷夢(夢のようなおろかしい考え)、夢枕に立つ(when a god or Buddha appears in your dream)、夢中遊行症(sleepwalking)、and 粋生夢死(仕事らしい仕事もしないで、ただぼんやりといたずらに一生を過すこと).

Actually, I just realized that last explains a rakugo I saw once. Huh, good to know.


Hey, the influence of the isfogailsi signal continues! So, number 4: fan, number 5: cigarettes, and number 6: a blind masseuse (preferably played by Beat Takeshi)?

Thanks for the extra words, too. I especially like 夢魔.


"So, number 4: fan, number 5: cigarettes, and number 6: a blind masseuse (preferably played by Beat Takeshi)?"

Four things without which no Edo-themed party is complete! Actually, it might be less masseuse and more biwahoushi. Hard to tell for sure from the (very, very limited) context of the list.

If you look at the jobs labeled 盲官, you'll find biwa and flute-playing, working as a masseuse or an acupuncturist. Among these, there were four ranks. In order from highest to lowest, they were 検校(けんぎょう)、別当(べっとう)、勾当(こうとう)、座頭。There's more detailed ranking beyond this, of course, but I simply don't know too much about the administration of these guys yet.

An interesting aspect about these entertainment/service industry jobs (well, just one of the interesting aspects) is how tied up the appearance of a monk is with the job itself. On the female side, you have the 熊野比丘尼(くまのびくに)who although named "nun" are sometimes just considered prostitutes in the literature. The job apparently started out as travelling around spreading the good word about the Kumano Gongen, but developed into the general entertainment business. Also mostly considered Edo Period, I think.

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