By: Sophie Edens, Public Relations & Marketing Intern

“Baku-san, come eat my dream. Baku-san, come eat my dream. Baku-san, come eat my dream.”


Dream Eater (Baku), Unidentified Artist (Japanese), 2010.002.000


In Chinese and Japanese folklore, whispering these words after waking up from a nightmare will summon a great chimera-like creature called a baku. The baku is a conglomerate of creatures, including a bear, an elephant, a tiger, an ox, and a rhinoceros. It is believed that after making all the other creatures of the world, the gods simply pieced together the leftovers to form the baku.

In images online where it is depicted or at shrines, it looks strikingly similar to the tapir with its elongated nose. Coincidentally, both the baku and the tapir share the same name and kanji in Japanese (獏). Which creature came first, the tapir or the baku, is uncertain.

In Japanese folklore, the baku’s role is a nightmare eater. It will come when summoned and devour nightmarish dreams so the summoner may fall into a peaceful slumber. However, beware summoning a baku. If it is still hungry after devouring the nightmare, it is believed it will then devour the hopes and happy dreams of the summoner, leaving them an empty shell of their former selves. 

Sounds risky, doesn’t it? So how can you achieve a more restful sleep and reduce the chances of having a nightmare?

  • Don’t go to sleep angry or stressed out. Give yourself time to cool down and relax before crawling into bed. Dreams/nightmares are one way we process our thoughts and feelings about situations we face/have faced, as well as how we work through worries and concerns.
  • Don’t eat right before bed. In particular, foods that take longer to digest, like meats and cheeses, can increase nightmares. Stay away from cereal, ice cream, pasta, and caffeinated drinks before bed as well. 
  • Start a gentle body practice like yoga or walking. In general, moderate exercise increases the quality of sleep. Immerse yourself in a nature walk, letting the stress of the day ease away.
  • Keep fresh flowers or aromatic oils in the bedroom. Research shows that good smells positively affects your dreams. Smells are processed in the brain’s limbic system (which deals with our emotions and memories), so certain scents can rouse powerful feelings. Pick scents such as rose, lavender, and sandalwood. 
  • Mark your calendar to attend a DOMA Meditation in the Museum this fall. Meditation in the Museum is free and open to the public. Each session lasts approximately 45 minutes to one hour. RSVP not necessary, simply stop by. A towel, blanket, or yoga mat is recommended. Meet in front of the Amida Buddha in the Chinese and Japanese Gallery. Or, of course, you can meditate in the gallery on your own anytime we’re open this summer!

Follow some of these tips to encourage a better and calmer sleep without the nightmares. Avoid summoning a baku – you never know how hungry it might be! However, feel free to check out the baku we have on display in our Frank and Rosemary Ball Asia Gallery here at DOMA – we promise it won’t eat you.