和文は英文の後にあります。/ The Japanese translation is on the bottom of this page.
An image of things to be seen in the first dream of the year
Photo 1 A towel to remind you of “Ichi Fuji, Ni Taka, San Nasubi.”
写真1 一富士二鷹三なすびをモチーフにしたタオル手拭い

The First Dream of the Year, or Hatsuyume

We wanted to send a towel from Japan (See Photo 1) to an American friend  who has interest in Japan.

Using this small gift, we can also tell a thing or two about Japan, to him and to you who are reading this post.

Do you know the message we wanted to send? 

  1. Three motifs on the towel
  2. Why is it good to see these as the first dream of the year?
  3. Double meaning of “nasu”
  4. What to do when you saw a nightmare as the first dream of the year


1. Three motifs on the towel

The motifs on the towel are three; Mount Fuji, a hawk, and an eggplant. 

We say “Ichi Fuji, ni taka, san nasubi (No. 1 Fuji, No. 2 hawk and No. 3 eggplant)” with a rhythm like haiku. Seven moras (i-chi-fu-ji-ni-ta-ka) and five moras (sa-n-na-su-bi), right?

You have good luck during the year if you see one of these three things in your dream while you sleep on the new year’s first night. We don’t know exactly when the “first night of the year” is. Some say the night of December 31st, others January 1st, still others January 2nd. 

Anyway, the dream is called hatsu-yume or the first dream of the year. 

2. Why is it good to see these as the first dream of the year?

So the meaning of giving you the towel is “Wish you see one of these in your hatsuyume or the first dream of the year, and have good luck for next year!”

There are a few theories on the origin of these strange items for hatsu-yume,

Because it’s said this saying has been around since early Edo Era, it seems natural to believe it has something to do with Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616), the first Shogun from the Tokugawa family. 

Arguably a man known to be one of the luckiest in Japanese history, he was born only the son of a small daimyo in Suruga (today’s Shizuoka Prefecture). After persevering many years of hardship, he gradually gained power and influence, eventually overpowered all other daimyos and established the Tokugawa Shogunate. Thus he ended the era of countless wars and armed conflicts. The period when Japan was governed by Shoguns from the Tokugawa family is called the Edo Era. 

Returning to the three items: Mt. Fuji, the highest mountain in Japan, and a symbol of Japan, is partially located in Suruga, Ieyasu’s homeland; he loved falconry in the fields of Suruga, and he liked to eat early eggplants. This may have been commoner’s wishes to have a little luck like Ieyasu.

3. Double meaning of “Nasu”

By the way, “nasu (茄子 or ナス)” is the word for the eggplant, and apart from the hatsu-yume, by itself, it’s a sign of good luck, too. There is a homonym “nasu (成す)” which means “to accomplish [a project]”.

We wanted to add a photo of a keychain in the shape of an eggplant, that we got at a temple in Japan, but we can’t find it now. Well, it’s just an eggplant that you know. 

4. What to do when you saw a nightmare as the first dream of the year

If you do have a very bad dream, first of the year or not, don’t worry. 

Just say:

“Baku-san, kono yume o agemasu! (Baku, I will give you this dream!)” 

An image of a “baku” which is supposed to eat your nightmare if it was the first dream of the year
Photo 2 A tapir/写真2 バク

“Baku (獏)” is a word for the actual animal called tapir (Photo 2), but it’s also the name of an imaginary Chinese animal. 

An image of a carved baku.
Photo 3 A carved baku in the Toshogu shrine in Nikko built for Tokugawa Ieyasu./
写真3 徳川家康のために建てられた日光は東照宮に、獏の彫刻があります。

According to the legend, the baku has the body of a bear, the trunk of an elephant, eyes of a rhinoceros, the tail of a cow and legs of a tiger, and it eats nightmares. It shoos away epidemics, disasters, and evil spirits. Since it appears only in the peaceful time it is considered a lucky animal. Also because of that, it is often carved on kibana, the wooden nosings at the ends of penetrating tie beams in temples (Photo 3). 

He will be glad to take care of yours.

We wish you the very happy New Year!

[End of the English post]

An image to show the difference between an elephant and a baku.
Photo 4 This is a picture to show how to tell an elephant (left) and a baku…baku has curly hair and legs and feet of a tiger. Next time you see a Japanese or Chinese temple, try to find it./
写真4 象 (左) と獏の見分け方を示す絵。獏は巻き毛で、虎の足をしています。今度日本や中国のお寺へ行ったら、探してみてください。





  1. 三つの図案
  2. なぜこれらが吉夢なのか?
  3. 「ナス」の二つの意味
  4. 悪い夢を見たときの対処法


1. 三つの図案


俳句のようなリズムで、「一富士、二鷹、三茄子」と言います。モーラが七つ (い、ち、ふ、じ、に、た、か) と五つ (さ、ん、な、す、び) ですね?




2. なぜこれらが吉夢なのか?


日本史の中でも幸運な人物の一人とも言われる家康は、駿河 (現在の静岡県) の小さな大名の息子として生まれました。長年の苦労の後、少しずつ兵力と影響力を蓄え、最終的に他の大名を圧倒して17世紀の初めに徳川将軍家を立てました。これにより、いくさがたくさんあった時代がひとまず終わったのです。徳川家から将軍が出ていた期間を江戸時代といいます。


3. 「ナス」の二つの意味


4. 悪い夢を見たときの対処法




バクは実在する動物の名でもありますが (写真2)、中国から来た架空の動物の名でもあります。

伝説によればこの獏の体は熊で、象の鼻、犀の目、牛の尾、虎の脚を持ち、凶夢を食います。疫病や厄を避け、邪気を払ってくれます。平和な世にしか現われないので、縁起のよい霊獣として寺社の木鼻などに数多く彫刻されています (写真3)。




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