初夢(はつゆめ) is the first dream seen after the New Year's. This could be the morning of January 1st or even as late as the morning of January 3rd.

The Kanji

First, understand the meaning, let's break down the kanji.

first time; beginning

Kun: はじ.め、 はじ.めて、 はつ、 うい-、 -そ.める
On: ショ

dream; vision; illusion

Kun: ゆめ、 ゆめ.みる、 くら.い
On: ム、 ボウ

初 (with the hatsu reading) is used with many other words to indicate the "first time" of some significant event. Here are a few examples:

初耳(はつみみ) something heard for the first time [literally, first ear]

初恋(はつこい) first love; puppy love

初詣(はつもうで) first shrine visit of the New Year

初舞台(はつぶたい) debut; first stage appearance

初雪(はつゆき) first snowfall (of the season)

初霜(はつしも) first frost of the year

初場所(はつばしょ) New Year's sumo tournament in Tokyo

As you would expect, several 初 words deal with the first of the year.

The Three Dreams

Now, back to today's word. If your 初夢はつゆめ involves one or more of three things, it is considered to be a good sign for the year. These three things are:

富士(ふじ) Mt. Fuji

(たか) a hawk

茄子(なす) eggplant

Mount Fuji, I get, but a hawk?! An eggplant?!

It seems no one really knows. But here are two theories:

  1. Mt. Fuji is Japan's most beloved and tallest mountain, the hawk is a clever bird, and nasu could also mean "to build up" or "to establish" or "to achieve": ()
  2. Since Tokugawa Ieyasu was known to be fond of the three things, it may have been considered good luck during the Edo period to be like the Shogun.

The three are often grouped like this:


One, Mt. Fuji; two hawk; three eggplant

History of 初夢

The first recorded mention of 初夢はつゆめ is from the 鎌倉時代(かまくらじだい) Kamakura period (1185–1333). While it was the first dream of Spring (and not January 1st), the idea is the same. Usage for the New Years began in the 江戸時代(えどじだい) Edo period (1603-1868).

Do you remember your first dream of the year?

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