Tsunami Symbolism (7 Meanings in Dreams & Japanese Culture)

The tsunami symbolizes fear of being carried away by the flow of life. Many people also think the tsunami represents an outbreak of our emotions.

On a physical level, a tsunami represents:

  • Disaster,
  • Destruction, and
  • Fear.

In Japanese culture, tsunami symbolism is especially prevalent. For almost 200 years now, they have a symbolic image for it – it’s the painting of Katsushika Hokusai called Great Wave – which carries important meanings when disasters strike.

Tsunami Symbolism and Meanings

> This article is from our A-Z series on Metaphors


Tsunami Symbolism and Meanings

There are some interesting symbolic meanings of a tsunami, both on the spiritual and the physical level.

1. Getting Carried Away

A tsunami is a powerful force of nature that doesn’t forgive – it takes away everything it comes across, including bigger buildings and houses on the land. Nothing can withstand the force of a tsunami, especially if it’s a powerful one.

Water has always carried the spiritual meaning of being carried away by the flow, but a tsunami takes that to another level. Spiritually, it represents our fear of getting carried away by the flow of life. This meaning is especially typical of people who like freedom and those who are not conforming to the norms of society.

And a tsunami has the power to take away anything that opposes it, which is similar to the force of life which keeps going on no matter what you wish for. There’s not much you can do about it other than getting comfortable with it.

2. Outpour of Emotions

Water also represents the flow of our emotions – at one time, they are more powerful just like the waves become stronger. Other times, our emotions are calm and peaceful, which we can compare to the calm and tranquil sea.

But a tsunami is an extreme event – it happens when waves get so big that they’re out of control. And sometimes, that’s also what happens with our emotions when they get too strong to handle.

Whether you like it or not, we’re all human beings with feelings and emotions. Most of the time, we try to conceal these emotions and keep them to ourselves. But there comes a time when the emotions get too strong to keep away, even for those who are very secretive. A tsunami thus represents our inability to control our emotions – whether positive or negative.

3. Humbleness

We all like to be free and live life to our fullest – but sometimes, that’s not possible because of the events happening around us. And a tsunami is such an event that can’t be controlled, and it can shape our lives for us.

That’s when we realize that sometimes, there’s simply nothing we can do about it other than accept it and go with the flow. And that’s the same with life – sometimes, you just have to accept your surroundings instead of trying to change them. You won’t tame a tsunami easily – instead, you’ll have to accept it and deal with the consequences.

It teaches us to become humble and accept that we’re at the mercy of nature. You can always get destroyed by the chaos that happens in the physical realm, even if you try to connect with the spiritual world to improve your life.

4. Destruction

Destruction is perhaps the main meaning of tsunamis on a physical level. It can wreak havoc even in areas where people have gotten used to tsunamis. No matter how well they prepare for one, it can always catch by surprise and create a mass of destruction that wipes out everything in front of it.

In Greek literature, tsunamis also played a role. They were commonly attributed to the god Poseidon, who was the Greek god of the sea. Normally, earthquakes and more specifically, tsunamis, were connected with the destruction that occurred because of Poseidon’s rage and anger.

5. Disaster

A tsunami will almost always create destruction where it hits the land. It’s unavoidable, and most of the time, people will do their best to hide and escape the disaster. Unfortunately, tsunamis happen because of earthquakes, so they cannot really be predicted.

This spells danger for disaster, and people living in coastal areas have to accept the risk that comes with tsunamis. In Japan, tsunamis happen frequently in coastal areas where they’ve abandoned these areas and moved to live in other places in Japan.

6. Pain

Any disaster can represent pain, both on a physical and emotional level. On a physical level, a tsunami can cause pain when it hits Earth because it’s an unstoppable power that harms people and kills hundreds of people. Homes are destroyed and all facilities for a normal life are gone.

But a natural disaster like a tsunami can also reveal emotional pain. It strengthens and amplifies the emotional problems that people are going through, and even more pain can be caused by the damage that a tsunami creates. This comes because of loss of life, loss of loved ones, and also monetary loss.

7. Force of Nature

In essence, a tsunami happens when water meets the land, and the two collide. It can be seen as a meeting of two elements when water usually dominates the land. A tsunami is an unstoppable force of nature that puts millions of lives at risk, although there’s normally not much we can do against the power of nature.

> See Also: Hurricane Symbolism

Tsunami Symbolism in Japanese Culture

Because tsunamis are quite common in Japan, they have earned a strong reputation for being a big part of the Japanese culture. Japanese artists have used the symbolism of a tsunami in their art in order to portray certain values.

Perhaps the most well-known work of art that’s closely tied to tsunamis was created in the mid 19 century, when many tsunamis started occurring in Japan. Painter Katsushika Hokusai created a beautiful depiction of a tsunami which is called The Great Wave off Kanagawa, or simply the Great Wave.

It is perhaps one of the best and most well-known works of art in Japanese culture, which just goes to show how important tsunamis are in this culture. Although some people believe that in this image, a giant wave is depicted rather than a tsunami.

The sea on the image, which is usually painted on a wooden block, represents the force of nature and how the sea can change the way that the Japanese live. The tsunami is the central image of the painting, which portrays how important the sea is for the nation. On the painting, you’ll also find Mount Fuji.

Here are some main meanings of tsunamis in Japanese culture:

  • Disaster
  • Destruction
  • Force of nature
  • Anticipation
  • Imagination

Tsunami Meanings in Dreams

What does a tsunami represent in dreams? Here are some common meanings of a tsunami in dreams.

  • If you dream that you’re caught in a tsunami, it means that you’re afraid of dangerous things and that there might be a moment of disaster that is about to enter your life.
  • Alternatively, getting carried away by a tsunami means that you’re depressed about how your life is going and that you’re getting carried away by the flow of life. This can happen especially if you’re frustrated in your walking life and you’re looking to change a few things.
  • If you dream about getting caught in a tsunami with your family, it means that you have strong connections with your family members, but you’re too scared to step away from the family and live on your own. This can happen especially if you’re alone and you want to make more of a life for yourself rather than being limited by the safety of your family.
  • If you dream about escaping a tsunami, then you’re positive about making changes to your life, even though it might be painful at first when you make these changes. This dream can be a good one when you want to try new things and do something different in your life.
  • Seeing a tsunami in dreams is normally a sign of emotional disturbance. Perhaps you’ve recently been through a tough period in your walking life and you have traumas from it, which is what the tsunami might represent in your dreams.


When disaster strikes, we always look for higher meanings of the events. For thousands of years now, people have adapted to these disasters and have been able to gather meanings from them, which were both spiritual and physical.

A tsunami is a giant wave that comes and sweeps everything in front of it. It’s an unstoppable force of nature, which is why it’s one of the most damaging catastrophes that can happen. Tsunami symbolism can be observed both on a spiritual and physical level, and it might have different meanings to each individual.