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New Year Holidays in Japan: Hatsuyume

Date Published: Last Update:2015/05/19 Traditional Culture , ,

As we mentioned in our hatsumoude post, everything you do in the first days of the New Year can mean something or will affect the whole year. Hatsu () or “first” of something are important according to Japanese culture: the first shrine visit, first dreams, and the first sunrise have impacts on how your year will turn out. Featured on this post is hatsuyume or the first dream of the year and hatsu hinode or the first sunrise of the year.

一富士二鷹三茄子 (ichi Fuji, ni taka, san nasubi) – an old Japanese saying which means “1 – Mt. Fuji, 2 – Hawk, 3 – Eggplant”. Do this words mean a thing? If you are not acquainted with Japanese belief of the hatsuyume, then probably these are just random words.

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Hatsuyume

Hatsuyume (初夢), from the words hatsu (初) meaning first and yume (夢) which means dream, is the first dream of the year. According to Japanese beliefs, the contents of the dream would foretell or predict the luck of the dreamer in the new year. The Japanese usually passed the night of December 31 without sleeping, thus hatsuyume is the dream someone sees on the night of January 1. In a traditional Japanese calendar, January 2 is marked as Hatsuyume.

Theories About the Lucky Dream of Mt. Fuji, Hawk, and Eggplant

What about the Mt Fuji, a hawk, and an eggplant? These three are considered to be particularly lucky because of these theories:

  • Fuji – Japan’s highest mountain, Hawk – a clever and strong bird, Eggplant – known as nasu or nasubi in Japanese. The word nasu is also the word for achieving or completing something great (成す)
  • Fuji which is the tallest mountain in Japan is near Mt. Ashitaka that’s about half as tall as Mt. Fuji. Eggplants were added, as some people think, to make fun at their high prices during the ancient times.
  • Fuji, falconry, and eggplants were the favorites of the shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu
  • Fuji sounds like buji (無事) meaning safety, taka can be changed into takaku (高く) meaning higher, and nasu can mean to achieve something. So dreaming about these three can bring safety, higher achievements than the previous year.

This belief has been observed since the early Edo Period (1603 – 1868) and this was no laughing matter to people during that feudal Japan. But way before that era, people in Muromachi Period (1336 – 1573) went to great lengths to make sure they will have a good dreams. One way they believed that can make you dream a good dream is to put under the pillows a drawing of a ship of treasures with the kanji for treasure (宝, takara) is written on its sail. This became a common practice around people from all walks of life. They slide drawings of a treasure ship under their pillows in the expectation that the year to come would bring greater happiness and success.

The 一富士、二鷹、三茄子 (ichi Fuji, ni taka, san nasubi) superstition has a less known continuation and that is四扇、五煙草、六座頭 (yon sen, go tabako, roku zatou) which means “4 – fan, 5 – tobacco, 6 – blind masseur). The origins of this continuation are less known and unclear whether they were added after the original three or they originated at the same time.

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(Image from AC-Illust)

Hatsu Hinode

Hatsu hinode, written as 初日の出 in Japanese, basically refers to the first sunrise of the year. It is traditionally believed that the first sunrise is the representative for the whole year that has just commenced. Thus, the day is supposed to be full of happiness and free of anger and stress, while everything should be clean and no work should be done.

This custom is said to have spread during the Meiji Period (1868 – 1912) and the origin was the New Year’s ceremony by the emperor. During this day, aside from temples and shrines that will be flocked with people doing their hatsumoude, mountains and observation decks are opened early for people to experience hatsu hi no de.

In your country, what beliefs are said to bring good luck during the New Year? Share it with us in the comments section below!

References:

1. Hatsuyume. Wikipedia.

2. Lucky Dreams. Web-Japan.

3. New Year. Japan-Guide.

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