Secret Dream ~ Haiku of Japan

hatsuyume ya himete katarazu hitori emu

first dream...
I keep it secret
and smile to myself

(trans. David LaSpina[1])


("Hawk on a Ceremonial Stand" by Hokusai)

I mentioned the other day the importance of the first dream of the year in Japan. Shōu is wise not to tell anyone his dream, as I think good dreams are often met with disbelief and accusations of having been made up; better to keep the pleasure (and perhaps the good luck) to ourselves.

So, what exactly is a good dream? Glad you asked! Well, the most fortunate dream is said to include three things: Mount Fuji, a hawk, and eggplant. The last two things on that list may seem a little random, but there is some reasoning behind them.

Mount Fuji is perhaps obvious. It's the largest mountain in Japan and is considered divine. A hawk is a smart and strong bird and, well, everyone loves hawks, right? But... an eggplant? The Japanese word for eggplant is nasu 茄子—another kanji with the same pronunciation is 成す which means "achieving something great"; therefore, an eggplant can mean achieving something great by way of this word game.

Alternatively, some people have suggested this list is simply because the these three things were favorites of Tokugawa Ieyasu[1] and everyone wanted to be like him.

What was your first dream of the year? Do you remember?

Hi there! David LaSpina is an American photographer and translator lost in Japan, trying to capture the beauty of this country one photo at a time and searching for the perfect haiku.

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    1. Ieyasu conquered the country in 1603 and was the first Shogun of the Tokugawa Bakufu (military government) which lasted 265 years, until 1868.

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