Tokyobling's Blog

Uguisu – Japanese Bush Warbler

Posted in Animals, Nature, Places by tokyobling on June 21, 2010

Fear not – Tokyobling will never turn into an Ornithology blog (even though I have blogged about birds quite a lot so far…). However, one bird above all others deserves a mention – the Japanese Bush Warbler (in Japanese: uguisu, 鴬 or ウグイス). Few birds in Japan are as famous as this one while being so relatively unknown. It’s tiny size and shyness makes it very hard to spot. If you’ve been to Tokyo you might recognize this bird from one of the least used stations on the Yamanote line, Uguisudani (lit. the Valley of the Bush Warblers). Few people have seen this bird but many people have heard it, it has a very distinctive call that has become a symbol for the Japanese spring and summer. It’s easily my favorite bird in Japan. Most Japanese agree with me and this bird is one of three “official song birds of Japan”, together with the Japanese Robin and the Blue and White Flycatcher.

If you want to hear it, go to the Wikipedia entry, there some very short sound clips to hear.

Not only is this birds droppings traditionally used as a skin whitening agent (if you have the chance, get a bottle of “uguisu no fun” at some of the better department stores and enjoy a 100% natural beauty product), but it has also given the name to a color that we would say is a mix between olive green and khaki. I have heard that this is due to a poetical error hundreds of years ago, as this color is nothing like a real uguisu bird.

This cute little bird was enjoying the morning sun in Nagano prefecture when I found him.

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