I always ask Ken if he dreamed during the night, or what dreams he “saw,” which is how they say it in Japanese: “yume miru,” or, “seeing dreams,” not “having” dreams like we say in English. In the past he has usually denied that he had dreams. But I insisted that it was impossible that he has no dreams and suggested that he probably has dreams but just doesn’t remember them after he wakes up. Since hearing that explanation he has often reported having dreams, but still usually says that he forgot what he saw, exactly.
Then last Wednesday (the 30th) I had a really amazing bedtime conversation with him about dreams.
“Did you see dreams last night?”
“I dreamed about mirai. Now I understand mirai.” He said all this in Japanese, of course.
I thought he was talking about Egyptian mummies, that he dreamed about mummies, because recently he has been interested in Egyptian pyramids and sphinxes from picture books at school. So I questioned him about mummies.
“Chigao!” (“You’ve got it wrong!”)
I didn’t understand what I was getting wrong.
“Is papa stupid?”
So I asked him to draw a picture of “mirai,” expecting him to draw a rough sketch of a mummy. He ran into the other room, where I
thought he would ask Junko to teach him “mirai” in English and then come back to me and use the word. But Junko was snoozing in the TV room and Ken came back with a paper and pencil to draw a picture for me instead.
It was strange. He wrote the date in Japanese, followed by a horizontal line with a “ZZZZ” sleeping sound in the middle, extending to the right and the following day’s date. In other words, a timeline extending from May 30th (5/30) to May 31st (5/31). I did not recognize it as a time line because I was expecting a picture of a mummy. I was also surprised that he wrote a timeline because thinking in linear patterns - whether it is their perception of Time, or just plain logic - is not an Asian forte. I would expect that if Asians try to diagram the passage of Time then they would chose a circle, or circular design. Straight, direct and linear seems completely Hellenistic, whereas vagueness and obliquity are customarily Asian.
Finally, I got it. He was trying to say that he dreams about the future and then later sees exactly what he dreamed about, déjà vu. He quoted some examples, such as dreaming of Junko watching TV with the remote control in her lap, or me watching a DVD movie on my computer.
It took me so long to understand it because there are three Japanese words that I often confuse:
“meiro,” meaning maze, or labyrinth
“mira,” meaning mummy, and
“mirai,” meaning future
In retrospect, I should have recognized the word, because I used it a lot teaching verb tenses to Japanese students in English class.