George Carter
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The Humble “Uguisu” Bird

| Thursday 16th November, 2023

I had no idea what an Uguisu was for the longest time. My first encounter with the word was on my first trip to Japan where we met the Yamanote Line station “Uguisudani”, which I claimed was “Valley of the Flaming Chicken Sheds”.

Of course, knowing what I know now I realise that the “bird” part (鳥) of the uguisu character (鶯) probably meant this this was some kind of bird.

I think I probably knew that the Uguisu was a ‘Bush Warbler’ or ‘Japanese Nightingale’ by the time I went on my second trip to Japan. But we didn’t visit Tokyo so I never got to travel through Uguisudani station again.

I think I also knew—by this time—that this was the bird that produced the poop used in “Nightingale Poop Face Cream” [wikipedia] that I had learned about when I read “Dave Barry Does Japan”, probably in the late 90’s.

But I still had no experience of the bird itself. I had never seen nor heard one. Until, that is, I found the Japanese Garden soundscape at MyNoise online. (I’ve set it up with the Uguisu prominently featured right here… [ – Japanese Garden])

Then it hit me. This noise is one of my most vivid memories of both trips to Japan. We heard it all over the place. I always assumed the sound was coming from some brightly-coloured tropical bird when, in fact, the Uguisu is remarkably unremarkable.

Funny isn’t it, how you can assume you don’t know something that you knew all along? Awareness is awesome. As is the humble, but beautifully voiced Uguisu.



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