How to Say “Dream” in Japanese and More

Have you had a dream recently? Was it a good dream or a nightmare? The word for “dream” in Japanese is “夢 (yume),” but there are several types of dreams. This guide will teach you words and expressions for different types of dreams and nightmares in Japanese. Some terms in this guide express things that do not exist in English, so be sure to check them out!  

1. 夢 (Yume): Dreams While You Sleep

夢 (yume) is usually written in kanji. It expresses the dreams we have when we are asleep. It is used exactly like the word “dream” in English.  

Here’s an example of how to use 夢 (yume) naturally in Japanese:

(Kinō no yoru kowai yume o mita.)
I had a scary dream last night.

How to Say That You Had a Dream in Japanese

In English, you say, “I had a dream last night.” “Had” is translated into “あった (atta)” in Japanese. This verb is the past tense of ある (aru), which means “to have.”  

So it seems natural to say: 

(Kinō no yoru kowai yume ga atta.)

However, in Japanese, the verb 見る (miru), which means “to see,” is used instead of “have.” 

(Kinō no yoru kowai yume o mita.)
I had (saw) a scary dream last night.  

The phrase 夢があった (yume ga atta) is grammatically correct. It just doesn’t refer to the dreams you have while you sleep. If you say “夢があった (yume ga atta)” to a native Japanese speaker, they would think you are talking about your dream (goal) for the future. This is why 夢を見る (yume o miru) is used to describe the type of dreams you have while sleeping.  


1. 昨日の夜、日本に行く夢を見た
(Kinō no yoru nihon ni iku yume o mita.)
Last night, I had a dream about going to Japan.

2. 息子は楽しい夢を見ていたらしく、寝ながら笑っていた。
(Musuko wa tanoshii yume o miteita rashiku nenagara waratteita.)
It seems my son was having a fun dream and laughing while sleeping.

3. お腹いっぱいドーナツを食べる夢を見た
(Onaka ippai dōnatsu o taberu yume o mita.)
I had a dream of eating donuts until I was full.

2. 夢 (Yume): Your Dream For the Future (Goals)

Just like in English, 夢 (yume) can describe your dreams for the future. In this case, you would use the verb ” ある (aru)” to say that you “have a dream.”  

(Watashi ni wa yume ga aru.)
I have a dream.

When you want to talk about a dream about becoming someone or something (become a doctor, businessman, etc.), 夢 (yume) is often paired with the verb なる (naru), which means “to become.” こと(koto) “is used to make a verb into a noun. This is similar to adding “ing” in English to change a verb into a noun (e.g., cooking is fun, walking is easy, etc.)

  • なる (naru): to become
  • なること (naru koto): becoming
  • 行く (iku): to go
  • 行くこと (iku koto): going


1. 私の*夢は、パティシエになることです。
(Watashi no yume wa patishie ni naru koto desu.)
My dream is to become a pastry chef.

*Note:   “の (no)” is a particle that indicates possession, so when “私 (watashi), meaning “I,” is used with “の (no),” the meaning changes to “my.” 

2. 私の夢は、日本で漫画家になることです。
(Watashi no yume wa nihon de mangaka ni naru koto desu.)
My dream is to be a manga artist in Japan.

3. 隆史の夢は、警察官になることだ。
(Takashi no yume wa keisatukan ni naru koto da.)
Takashi’s dream is to be a policeman.

4. 恵美子の夢はパリに行くこと*だ。
(Emiko no yume wa pari ni iku koto da.)
Emiko’s dream is to go to Paris.

3. Bad Dreams: 悪い夢 (Warui Yume)

悪い (warui) is the Japanese adjective for “bad.” Using this word with 夢 (yume) can express when you have a “bad dream.”  

This works with other adjectives as well:

  • 楽しい夢 (tanoshii yume): fun/pleasant dream(s)
  • 怖い夢 (kowai yume): scary dream(s)
  • 幸せな夢 (shiawase na yume): happy dream(s)


1. 息子は怖い夢を見たらしく、夜中に泣いていた。
(Musuko wa kowai yume o mita rashiku yonaka ni naiteita.)
It seems my son was having a scary dream and was crying in the middle of the night.  

2.  怖い夢を見たせいで、眠れなくなってしまった。
(Kowai yume o mita sei de nemurenaku natte shimatta.)
I couldn’t sleep because I had a scary dream.

4. Daydream: 白昼夢 (Hakuchū Mu)

白昼 (hakuchū) means “daytime,” so 白昼夢 (hakuchū mu) means experiencing things like fantasies or scenarios in a dream-like state while awake during the day. It can also describe times when someone indulges in such unrealistic illusions.  

白昼夢 (hakuchū mu) is a word that is usually used when having positive fantasies about their desires rather than nightmares. 

Another word for this type of dream is “白日夢 (hakujitsu mu).” It has the same meaning and nuance as 白昼夢 (hakuchū mu).


1. 授業中、白昼夢に浸っていたせいで、ほとんど授業内容を覚えていない。
(Jugyō chū hakuchūmu ni hitatteita sei de hotondo jugyō naiyō o oboeteinai.)
I was so immersed in a daydream during class that I barely remember anything the teacher taught us.  

2. ニュースで見ている悲惨な戦争の光景は白昼夢ではないのだと思うと心が痛む。
(Nyūsu de miteiru hisan na sensō no kōkei wa hakuchūmu dewa nai no da to omou to kokoro ga itamu.)
It hurts my heart to think that the tragic scenes of war we see on the news are not daydreams.

More Commons Ways to Say Daydream

白昼夢 (hakuchūmu) is not commonly used in daily conversations. If you want to describe a time when you are “spacing out” or “have your head in the clouds,” you can use the expression:

(Bōtto suru.)
To be absent minded. / To space out.

This expression can be written in either: 

  • Hiragana: ぼーっとする (bōtto suru)
  • Hiragana and katakana: ボーッとする (bōtto suru)


(Mado no soto o minagara bōtto shiteitara itsunomanika yūgata ni natteita.)
I was spacing out looking out the window, and it was evening before I knew it.

How to Say “Make Your Dreams Come True” in Japanese?

To say that you want to make your dreams (goals) come true, you can use the expression:

(Yume o kanaetai).
I want to make my dreams come true.  

叶える (kanaeru) means “to fulfill (your dreams)” but can also mean “to match” or “to harmonize.”

The kanji “叶 (kana)” is made up of two parts:  

  • 口 (kuchi): mouth 
  • 十 (): ten

口 (kuchi) represents a person’s mouth and also has a meaning of “words” or “speaking.” 十 () is the word for “ten” in Japanese, but it can also represent a state of “sufficient, complete, or many.” Combining these two characters came to mean that one’s wish will come true by talking to many people and reaching a consensus.


1. 道子: どんな仕事をしているの? 
Michiko: (Donna shigoto o shiteiru no?)
Michiko: What kind of work do you do?

    智子: 学校の先生だよ。
Tomoko: (Gakkō no sensei da yo.)
Tomoko: I’m a teacher.

    道子: 子供の頃から学校の先生になりたいって言ってたよね?夢を叶えたんだね!おめでとう!
Michiko: (Kodomo no koro kara gakkō no sensei ni naritaitte itteta yone? Yume o kanaetan da ne. Omedetō!)
Michiko: You have always wanted to be a teacher since you were little, right? You’ve made your dream come true! Congratulations!

2.  夢を叶えるために、フランスに行くことにした。
(Yume o kanaeru tame ni furansu ni iku koto ni shita.)
To make my dream come true, I decided to go to France.

3.  夢を叶えるためには、一生懸命勉強しないとダメだよ。
(Yume o kanaeru tame ni wa isshōkenmei benkyō shinai to dame da yo.)
You have to study hard to make your dream come true.

Other Words Related to 夢 (Yume)

Japanese has words to describe different types of dreams. Let’s take a look at some of them.

1. 悪夢 (Akumu): Nightmare

悪 (aku) means “bad” or “evil,” so 悪夢 (akumu) means “nightmare.”

It is sometimes used metaphorically to describe something terrible (just like in English). 


1. テレビで放送されている戦争の映像は、まるで悪夢を見ているようだ。 
(Terebi de hōsō sareteiru sensō no eizō wa marude akumu o miteiru yō da.)
The images of war on TV are like a nightmare.

2. 私はライオンに食べられるという悪夢を見た。
(Watashi wa raion ni taberareru toiu akumu o mita.)
I had a nightmare about being eaten by a lion.

2. 初夢 (Hatsu Yume): The First Dream of the New Year

初夢 (hatsu yume) refers to your first dream in the new year. It is said this dream can foretell someone’s luck for that year.  

Speaking of having a fortuitous 初夢 (hatsu yume), a famous saying in Japan is “一富士二鷹三茄子 (ichi fuji ni taka san nasubi).” This translates to Mt. Fuji is the first, a hawk is second, and eggplants are third. This is the order of “luck” you’ll have if you see these things in your dream.  

There are various theories as to why these are particularly lucky. It is generally known that Mt. Fuji is auspicious because of its widening shape. Hawks fly high in the sky, meaning the year will be filled with great leaps. Eggplants are smooth and hairless. The way to say “hairless” in Japanese is 毛がない (ke ga nai). This expression sounds identical to the phrase 怪我ない (kega nai), which means “no injuries.” So seeing eggplants in your dreams means you’ll have a year with no injuries or accidents. 

There is a lottery in Japan that goes on sale from the end of each year to the beginning of the year. This lottery is called “初夢宝くじ (Hatsu yume takarakuji), or the “Hatsu Yume Lottery”. It’s going to be a great year if you win! 


健史:  初夢は見た?
Takeshi: (Hatsu yume wa mita?)
Takeshi: Did you have your first dream of the New Year?

智也: 見たよ!鷹が空高く飛んでる夢だったんだよ。今年はきっと昇進するぞ!
Tomoya: (Mitayo! Taka ga sora takaku tonderu yume dattan dayo. Kotoshi wa kitto shōshin suru zo!)
Tomoya: Yes, I did! I dreamed of a hawk flying high in the sky. I think I’ll be promoted this year! 

3. 予知夢 (Yochimu): Dreaming About the Future

予知 (yochi) means “precognition” or “to foretell something,” so 予知夢 (yochimu) means a dream about something which is going to happen in the future.


(Yume ni ojīchan ga detekite “Daijishin ga okirukara kiotsukenasai” tte ittan dakedo sono hantoshi go ni hontō ni nihon de daijishin ga okitan da yo. Are wa yochimu dattan da!)
My grandfather appeared in my dream and told me to be careful because there would be a big earthquake. Six months later, there was a big earthquake in Japan. I had a dream about the future!

4. 正夢 (Masayume): A Prophetic Dream

正夢 (masayume) is a kind of 予知夢 (yochimu), but the difference is the time it takes for the dream to come true. 予知夢 (yochimu) usually takes more time to “come true” while 正夢 (masayume) comes true in a shorter amount of time.  That being said, most people don’t know the exact difference between these words, so you could use either interchangeably. 


1. 今日先生に怒られる夢を見たんだけど、学校に行ったら本当に先生に怒られちゃったよ。正夢だったんだ!
(Kyō sensei ni okorareru yume o mitan dakedo gakkō ni ittara hontō ni sensei ni okorarechatta yo. Masayume dattan da!
I had a dream of being scolded by my teacher today. When I went to school, my teacher did scold me.  My dream came true!

2. 宝くじが当たる夢を見たんだ!正夢になって欲しいな!
(Takarakuji ga ataru yume o mitanda! Masayume ni natte hoshii na!)
I had a dream of winning the lottery! It would be great if it became a reality!

5. 逆夢 (Sakayume): A Dream That Doesn’t Come True

逆夢 (sakayume) is the opposite of 正夢 (masayume). If you have a 逆夢 (sakayume), your dream will not become a reality, and in fact, the opposite might happen.  


1. 今朝先生に怒られる夢を見たんだけど、学校に行ったら先生に褒められたんだよ。逆夢でよかった!
(Kesa sensei ni okorareru yume o mitan dakedo gakkō ni ittara sensei ni homeraretandayo. Sakayume de yokatta.)
I had a dream of being scolded by my teacher today. When I went to school, my teacher praised me. I’m glad that dream didn’t turn out to be true!

2. 健二: 宝くじが当たる夢を見たから、今月のお給料全部使って宝くじを買ったんだ!絶対正夢になるはず!
Kenji: (Takarakuji ga ataru yume o mita kara kongetsu no okyūryō zenbu tsukatte takarakuji o kattan da! Zettai masayume ni naru hazu!)
I dreamed of winning the lottery, so I spent all of my salary this month to buy lottery tickets! I’m sure it will become a reality!

道子: 嘘でしょ!? 逆夢だったらどうするのよ!
Michiko: (Uso desho!? Sakayume dattara dō suru no yo!)
Michiko: You must be kidding! What are you going to do if your dream doesn’t come true?

1ヶ月後 (One month later)

健二: 道子、お金貸してくれない?宝くじ外れちゃったんだよ。
Kenji: (Michiko, okane kashite kurenai? Takarakuji hazurechattan da yo.)
Kenji: Michiko, Can I borrow some money? I didn’t win the lottery.

道子: 悪夢だわ!
Michiko: (Akumu da wa!)
Michiko: It must be a nightmare!

Photo of author

Yumi Nakata

Yumi is a native speaker of Japanese. She is living in Kanagawa, Japan, raising her three kids. She studied English as an exchange student in Washington state for a year. The days she spent with her American friends are some of the greatest memories of her life.

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