What is the Japanese symbol for dream? Complete guide and Pictures

Japanese symbol for dream in a tattoo
Japanese symbol for dream in a tattoo img:“tako phase 2.5” by gbSk is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The closest equivalent Japanese kanji symbol for dream is: 


This is one of the Chinese Characters where it’s meaning is actually very close to the English equivalent – which is not always the case! 

It is one of the top 10 most popular Chinese character & kanji tattoos for people to get. 

Whether this makes this a good choice or not depends on your point of view! 

How is the Japanese Kanji for Dream read in Japanese?

The most common reading for the kanji for dream is “yume”

The kanji for dream can also be read as “mu”, or less commonly “bou” or “kura”.

Does 夢 (yume) mean the same thing as “Dream”?

On one level, the words yume and dream are very similar in meaning. 

On another, their usage and implied meaning can be quite different.

Most people seeing the English word “Dream” seen in isolation as a tattoo would assume that the implied meaning is something like “Dare to dream”, or “Hold onto your dreams”. Which is to say, because the word “dream” in English can be used as either a noun or a verb, we would tend to see it as a verb in this context. It is more likely to be interpreted as a “command” or a “directive” to dream.

In Japanese, the word “yume” by itself is only a noun. So writing it by itself doesn’t have the same “urging on” nuance as English. For Yume to be used with a verb in Japanese, it has to be put together with other action words such as

夢を見る Yume wo miru (to dream)


夢をつかむ Yume wo tsukamu to “grab hold” of a dream.

So if you wanted to achieve a similar effect to writing just “dream” in English, you would really need to write something like:

夢を見ろ yume wo miro (Dream!)


夢をつかめ Yume wo tsukame  (Take hold of your dreams!)

Of course, spelling out the meaning like that in a sentence somewhat takes the subtle, minimal effect you get when you write “Dream” in English.

What you do get as plus with the Chinese Character for “Dream” is a single pictograph that contains a complete meaning in one pictograph!

Are the Chinese characters for “Dream” written the same in Japanese and Chinese?

No, the Chinese characters for dream are written differently in modern Japanese and Chinese. This is because the Chinese have massively simplified their character writing system in modern times.

The Chinese version of the word for dream looks like:

 in contrast to the Japanese one that looks like:


What do the primitive forms of the Chinese character for dream look like?

Chinese characters have evolved over a long period. Sometimes, people like to use Chinese and Japanese words in their primitive form for aesthetic reasons. The historical forms of “dream” look like:

What do the different parts (radicals) in Dream mean?

The Kanji for dream itself is made up of several different parts, called radicals in English.

The character for dream, from top to bottom, is made up of the parts of:

  1. Flower
  2. Eye
  3. Container
  4. Evening

What words is the Kanji for “dream” used in in Japan?

There are a lot of words that the kanji for dream is used in.

These include

夢中 (muchu) to be engrossed in something, encapsulated, a trance. Literally “in a dream”

悪夢 (akumu) nightmare; bad dream

夢魔 (akuma) Demon appearing in a dream

夢幻 (mugen) dreams; fantasy; vision

Japanese symbol for faith stroke order

The order in which Kanji Chinese characters are written in Japan are considered very important. The Japanese symbol for dream is written as illustrated below:

The Role of Dreams in Japan

Dreams, or “yume” in Japanese, are sometimes thought of as messages sent from the gods to warn the people about future events. In traditional Japan, they have often been believed to be able to predict natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis..

An example of the Japanese symbol for dream in a tattoo

Japanese kanji tattoo of "dream"
Japanese kanji tattoo of “dream” img: “Tattoo” by ZSasaki is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Who is behind the site?

Hi, I’m Peter Head.

I’m passionate about Japan and Japanese culture. I have passed the highest level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, N1. I spent four years living in Japan, and got a Masters Degree from the Kyoto City University of the Arts.

I love Japanese tattoos and, using my Japanese language skills to help people chose their own tattoo!