Nightingale (uguisu)

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Nightingale, bush warbler (uguisu)

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: Various, see below
***** Category: Animal


The latin name Cettia diphone refers to the bush warbler.
The latin name Luscinia megarhynchos refers to the nightingale of Japanese poetry.

CLICK for more photos

Its sound is heared as hooo hokekyoo .

Hokekyo is the name of the famous Lotus Sutra ホケキョウ(法華経).

. Sutras お経 o-kyoo  .   



If not for the call
of the bush warbler coming
out of the valley,
who then would be aware of
the arrival of springtime?

Original by Ôe no Chisato, nephew of Ariwara no Narihira and another poet who flourished from the 890s to around 920 but whose birth and death dates are unknown. He has 10 poems in the Kokinshu.


uguisu no tani yori izuru koe naku wa
haru kuru koto o tare ka shiramashi

The Kokin Wakashū (古今和歌集), literally meaning
"Collected Japanese Poems of Ancient and Modern Times",
and commonly abbreviated as Kokinshū (古今集), is an early anthology of the waka form of Japanese poetry.
... it was the first anthology to divide itself into seasonal and love poems. The primacy of poems about the seasons pioneered by the Kokinshū continues even today in the haiku tradition.
Kokin Wakashu
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !


kigo for spring

nightingale, ugusiu うぐいす、鶯
first nightingale, hatsu uguisu 初鶯
first call of the nightingale, uguisu no hatsune 鶯の初音
"nightingale flute", uguisu bue 鴬笛(うぐいすぶえ)
..... todome dori 禁鳥(とどめどり)

fragrant bird, nioidori 匂鳥

nightingales crossing the valley, uguisu no tani watari

"telling us of spring", haru tsugedori 春告鳥
nightingale in a cage, kai ugusiu 飼鶯

"bird that sings at the flower-viewing season", hahami dori "花見鳥"

"bird that recites the sutras", kyooyomi dori 経読鳥
the sound reminds the Japanese of the name of the sutra "Hokkekyo".

"bird that recites poetry", utayomi dori

"Yellow powder bird", kinako dori 黄粉鳥(きなこどり)
kinako is the yellow powder of soybeans, eaten as a delicacy.
"yellow bird", kichoo 黄鳥(きちょう)

nest of the nightingale, uguisu no su

.................................................. ceremony in spring

Ritual nightingale singing competition,
uguisu awase 鶯合 (うぐいすあわせ)

"singing contest", naki awase 鳴合(なきあわせ),啼合(なきあわせ)

quote from the wikimedia
© PHOTO : commons.wikimedia.org


kigo for summer

summer bush warbler, natsu uguisu 夏鶯
late nightingale, zanoo 残鶯
..... ranoo 乱鶯

"old nightingale", old bush warbler, oi uguisu 老鶯
..... roo oo 老鶯

the nightingale cries of old age,
..... uguisu oi o naku 鶯老を鳴


kigo for winter

nightingale in winter, fuyu no uguisu
冬の鶯 (ふゆのうぐいす)

fuyu uguisu 冬鶯(ふゆうぐいす)
nightingale in the cold, kan ou 寒鶯(かんおう)
nightingale in the underbrush, yabu uguisu 藪鶯(やぶうぐいす)

sasanaki 笹鳴 (ささなき)
konaki 小鳴(こなき)

sasa naki mo temochi-busata no kakine kana

birdsong in bamboo grass--
too shy
for the fence

Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶

Kaki can be translated as "fence" or "hedge." The bird is young, hiding in the bamboo grass of winter, not at all ready for its spring solo on the fence/hedge. Shinji Ogawa notes that sasa naki ("birdsong in bamboo grass") has a special meaning in Japanese:
"In winter, the birdsong, especially that of a warbler, is not fully developed due to the low sex-drive. The fragmented birdsong in winter is called sasa-naki and has nothing to do with bamboo grass. Knowing this, Issa plays with the literal meaning of the word, sasa-naki, to juxtapose it to singing on the fence."
Tr. and Comment : David Lanoue


sasanaki mo temochi-busata no kakine kana

by this hedge
young bush warblers, too
unsure and awkward

Tr. and Comment : Chris Drake

This hokku is part of a haibun travelog Issa wrote when he made a trip to Sawara in what is now called Chiba Prefecture, just northeast of Edo in the 10th month of 1810. He made the trip to pray at the grave of the haikai poet Kassai (葛斎, Imaizumi Tsunemaru) who had recently died, and after praying at the grave he visited Kassai's house with one of Kassai's followers, Enao. It was in early lunar winter (the middle of November), and the leaves on the trees planted by Kassai were brightly colored. The trees in the hedge are implied to have been planted by Kassai and to represent him now that he himself is gone. Kassai's widow, also a haijin, had tears in her eyes -- surely because of her husband's death, though she elegantly explained to Issa that it was because birds greatly loved by the Buddha had visited their house again this year.
[The widow is obviously referring to the bush warblers and probably to the fact that one of the main calls of bush warblers sounds in Japanese like "Lo-, Lotus Sutra! Lo-, Lotus Sutra!" At the same time, she is also saying that her husband, now a dead soul or a "Buddha," loved bush warblers and is the cause of her tears.]

The birds near the hedge were still young bush warblers (uguisu no ko) who were flying around here and there, making only small cheeping sounds. To Issa the young bush warblers, who still haven't developed strong voices or wings, seem awkward and unsure of themselves as they fly around and around, looking for food. By adding "too" (mo), Issa indicates to the widow that he has understood her allegory about her grief and her husband's love of warblers, that is, his wife. In response Issa extends her image by suggesting that there is truly someone (to whom he's now talking) near the hedge (planted by Kassai) who is also bit lost and doesn't know what to do. This is surely Issa's way of expressing his respect and sympathy for Kassai's wife and her tears. At the same time, Issa seems to thank the widow for knowing very well how to share her feelings with him. The indirectness of the dialog deepens its feeling.

Issa's haibun also gives the hokku made by the widow, Motojo (もと女), in reply to Issa's hokku:

shigururu ya aruji ga itara hatsu-shigure

cold rain --
if he were with us
the first winter showers

The abstract reference to her husband by Motojo shows love and respect in Japanese and is not simply an abstract euphemism, as it appears to be when translated literally. (She is the "female owner" and her husband was the "male owner.") Motojo seems to be suggesting that if her husband were still there with them the cold showers that have been coming and going on this day would be much more than mere physical rain -- a simple statement that says a lot.

Later Issa and four other haijin friends and followers of Kassai composed a 36-verse kasen sequence for Kassai's soul. In this kasen, a hokku by Kassai (referred to as a "Buddha") was used as the hokku, and Issa began with the second verse, or wakiku.


Flower Trump Hanafuda


Plum and Nightingale, Ume ni Uguisu 梅に鶯

Read my details here !


Here is the famous story to shed light on the temperament of the three most famous warlords in Japanese history:
When confronted with a nightingale in a cage, which would not sing, each had his own approach to this situation.

If the bird does not sing, kill it!

If the bird does not sing, I will make it sing!

If the bird does not sing, I will wait until it sings!

Read my details here !

The BIRD, by the way, often translated as "Nightingale", was in fact ..... hototogisu, the little cuckoo ... .

Worldwide use


Things found on the way

"Nightingale Flooring"
A special way to place wooden planks for a veranda or around the room of an important person during the Edo period, to avoid the penetrance of murderers or thieves into a room. The floor planks would squeak (sing) when a person stepped on it. The most famous example is in the Nijo Castle in Kyoto.
The sound when walking on it is different from that heard in normal houses, because the floor was laid out in a different way. It was suspended with iron clamps above a frame, so it could move up and down over the fixing nails when somebody walked upon it. This caused the nails to rub against the wooden planks and create a sound similar to the chirping of the nightingale.

nightingale flooring, uguisubari (鴬張り)


uguisu no fun 鶯の糞 uguisu poo

Uguisu no Fun : Nightingale Droppings
Traditional Japanese Beauty Secrets
by Naomi Graham (Diaz)

Now, during the course of my researching of geiko and maiko – I’ve come across numerous mentions of Uguisu no Fun, or, for those who really wish to be in the know, Nightingale Droppings (Uguisu no Fun sounds better, right?). I’ve always (secretly) wondered whether it worked or not.

Uguisu no Fun even has a special mention in one of my books
“The Japanese Way of Beauty” by Michelle Dominique Leigh, which contains the recipe and full instructions for use, along with a very special note at the end of the recipe mentioning it had been included in the book as it is one of the most respected traditional Japanese recipes. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find the tradition intriguing.

I very carefully read the directions for use, as I certainly didn’t intend on any accidents due to misuse and according to the instructions, you are mix ½ teaspoon of the dried Uguisu no Fun with a few drops of warm water in the palm of your hand to form a paste. You then massage the paste into your skin using small circular motions – keeping well clear away from your eyes. So, I did just that - I put ½ teaspoon of the powder in my palm, mixed it with water, took a deep breath, and to the sounds of the “eeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwwwwww!” coming from the direction of my partner, I started massaging Uguisu no Fun into my face in small circular motions with a hint of a small, nervous smile of disbelief that I was even doing this in the first place.

Once the water is added to Uguisu no Fun – the musky smell became much stronger and I realized the instructions should have mentioned staying as far away from the nostrils as well as the eye area just to be on the safe side. “In the name of research” I chanted silently to myself as I massaged. Once I was done, I stared at myself in the mirror. Wow. There I was staring back with a very organic mask on my face. All of a sudden, I felt terribly empowered and the childish, playground taunts from my partner faded into the background when the realization of how brave I was hit me.

- - - - - Read the full story here :
immortalgeisha.com © 2001-2006 by Naomi Graham (Diaz)

. Recycling and Reuse in Edo - リサイクル と 再生 / 再使用 .

tori no fun kai 鳥の糞買い buying "bird droppings"
to make Uguisu no Fun.


uguisu haiku by
. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .

uguisu ya mochi ni fun suru en no saki

this damned warbler !
it left his droppings on the ricecakes
on the veranda

More translations and
Read my details here ! Tr. Gabi Greve

鶯や 柳のうしろ 薮の前
uguisu ya yanagi no ushiro yabu no mae

this bush warbler !
behind the willows
in front of the thicket

source : kikyou0123

. Haiku Sweets (haika 俳菓) .


Issa has written quite a lot of haiku about this bird !

uguisu mo jô uguisu no kakine kana

even among nightingales
on the fence

uguisu no hanekaesaruru tsurube kana

the nightingale
is bouncing about...
well bucket

uguisu mo toshi no yoranu ya yama no sake

the nightingale, too
isn't growing old!
mountain sake

Tr. David Lanoue, read more haiku here !


老鶯の 手引かまほし ホトトギス

guide the old bushwarbler
with your hands, please,
young cuckoos

- Shared by Naotaka Uematsu -
Haiku Culture Magazine, 2013

Related words

***** Flower viewing season, hanami

***** Saijiki of Japanese Ceremonies and Festivals






Gabi Greve said...


Little Cuckoo (hototogisu)

Sometimes these two birds get mixed up !


Narayanan Raghunathan said...

first nightingale ~
fragrant breeze echoes
the astral ciborium

Narayanan Raghunathan said...

nightingale in a cage ~
the flowery meadow glitters
in myriad twitterings

Anonymous said...

cherry blossoms scatter--
a nightingale sings
I cry

chiru hana ya uguisu mo naku ware mo naku


by Issa, 1808

Shinji Ogawa notes that naku translates as "sing" or "warble" in relation to the nightingale, but in relation to a human being, it denotes "cry" or "moan."
Issa humorously describes a happy nightingale and a sad person with the same word, naku.

Tr. David Lanoue

Gabi Greve - WKD said...

saijoo no mori ni uguisu oi shirazu

the nightingale
in the forest of the ritual site
does never get old

- - - - - or

the nightingale
in the forest of the funeral site
does never get old

Nakamura Teiji 中村悌二

MORE about saijo

Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

Matsuo Basho

kono ume ni ushi mo hatsune to nakitsu beshi

to this plum tree
even the oxen might want to shout
his first moo . ..

the first call of an uguisu sounds "hoo hoke kyoo" to the Japanese ear.
Here Basho makes fun with the sound of "moo momo moo " of an oxen.
This was part of the Danrin hokku school of humorous poetry.

This hokku was wirtten at the shrine Yushima Tenmangu 湯島天満宮 in memoriam of Sugawara no Michizane.
The statue of an ox is in front of the shrine.

MORE about Yamaguchi Sodo 山口素堂

Gabi Greve - Issa said...

Kobayashi Issa

okuyama mo ima wa uguisu to nakinikeri

even in the mountains
warblers and humans
cry out, u-gu-i-su!

This hokku is from the latter part of the 12th month (early February) in 1812, when Issa was traveling around the area just east of Edo now called Chiba Prefecture.

Read the Comment by Chris Drake :

Gabi Greve - Buson said...

Yosa Buson

uguisu ya ume fumikobosu nori darai

this bush warbler -
it scatters plum petals
around the glue tub

More about the TARAI tub

Gabi Greve - Buson said...

Yosa Buson

fuyu uguisu mukashi Oi ga kakine kana

Winter bush warbler!
Long, long ago,
That was in the hedge of Oi.
- Wang Wei 王維 -

Wang Wei (traditional Chinese: 王維; simplified Chinese: 王维; pinyin: Wáng Wéi)
(699 - 759)
Ooi, Oi in Japanese

Gabi Greve - Issa said...

Kobayashi Issa

asa-asa ni uguisu mo naku keiko kana

singing practice
every morning
with the warbler

Tr. and comment by Chris Drake
. . .

Gabi Greve - Issa said...

Kobayashi Issa

ume sake ya ame no uguisu kuchi o aku

plum blossoms--
the candy nightingale
opens his mouth

I originally translated the phrase, ame no uguisu, as "pampered nightingale." Shinji Ogawa informs me that it actually denotes a "candy nightingale" made of wheat-gluten. Candy vendors traditionally create various figures of sweet-gluten for children. Here, it seems that the candy bird is about to sing.
David Lanoue

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

uguisu ya mukashi sumishi choorakuji

this nightingale !
way back in the past I lived
at Choraku-ji

Tabata Michi 田畑三千 (1895 - 1958)

Gabi Greve said...

Kobayashi Issa

uguisu ya kaki funde mite mo hito koe

a bush warbler
steps carefully on the fence
and sings again

This hokku is from the third month (April) of 1818, when Issa was in and around his hometown. A bush warbler (Horornis diphone) has been singing in a strong, clear voice. It apparently fell silent when it reached a fence, perhaps made of bamboo or brushwood, but after it cautiously walks along the top of the fence and finds it a safe place, and one strong enough to hold its weight, it sings once more. Perhaps it still isn't used to the strange barriers humans erect in arbitrary places. Issa seems to be praising the energy and powerful voice of the rather shy and wary warbler, which doesn't give up when it meets an obstacle but examines it carefully and finally deals with it.

For the third line, I follow the reading by Maruyama Kazuhiko, Issa's Seventh Diary 2.462.

Chris Drake

Gabi Greve said...

Kobayashi Issa

ie ato ya kono uguisu ni kono sakura

abandoned house --
this bush warbler,
these cherry blossoms

This hokku is from the first month (February) of 1815, when Issa was back in his hometown and the area around it. The house in the hokku has been abandoned and is in the process of going back to nature. Spring has come again, and a bush warbler is singing in its strong, clear voice, presumably in the overgrown garden that once gave great pleasure to the residents. The warbler is either in the blossoming cherry tree or near it. Issa simply indicates that they are both present. The idiom "a warbler with plum blossoms" (ume ni uguisu) refers to a feeling of harmony due to the presence together of two perfectly matched things, such as a warbler's song and plum blossoms, but that moment has passed, and now the cherries are in bloom. Cherry blossoms fall even sooner after blooming than plum blossoms and traditionally connote short-lived beauty, so the presence of a warbler and cherry blossoms together suggests the passage of time and perhaps a sense of loss felt by Issa as he stands near a house that had to be abandoned, probably after misfortune. Issa is the only one who appreciates the bird and the fragile blossoms at this moment, and perhaps the refrain in the warbler's song, which is heard in Japanese as hou-hokekyo, onomatopoeia that means "Lo-, Lotus Sutra," seems to be more generally about the fragility and impermanence of all human houses and lives, including Issa's own.

Chris Drake

Gabi Greve said...

bush warbler - discussion on PMJS
I am translating a 12th century waka that makes a direct connection between the Amida-kyō and the bush warbler. This particular poem (and its afterword) make specific reference to its singing qualities. The warbler is compared to the birds in Amida’s Paradise. While the sutra is different, it is commonly held among bird enthusiasts on the web (and apparently to Lafacadio Hearn if the post is correct) that the sound the bush warbler makes is “hō-hoke-kyō.” Does anyone know of any references literary or otherwise from the 12th century or before to a bush warbler making a cry that mimics the name of the Lotus Sutra?

Gabi Greve said...

uguisu ya terakoya ni iku michi no yabu

this bush warbler -
the thicket along the road
to the temple school

Masaoka Shiki 正岡子規
more about terakoya

Gabi Greve said...


ほのかなる鶯聞きつ羅生門 / / 羅城門
honoka naru uguisu kikitsu Rashoomon

fainter and fainter
I hear the bush warbler -

. Konishi Raizan 小西来山(1654 - 1716) .

Gabi Greve said...

- Kobayashi Issa -

uguisu mo oi o utsuru na ore ga ie

you, too, warbler,
don't catch old age
at my house

This hokku was published in a hokku collection edited by the Edo haikai poet Takyō in 1820, the year following the events evoked in Issa's Year of My Life. In this period Issa was beginning to feel mortality and sensed his body was distinctly getting older -- he was 58, and the average life span then was often said to be 60. This hokku seems to reflect these concerns in a humorous way. In the hokku Issa addresses a summer warbler, and summer warblers were also called "old warblers" (oiuguisu) in Japanese because they have been around since late January, though Issa warns this bird not to come near his house, since the warbler will catch or come down with old age there. Issa is obviously referring to the fact that he lives in an old thatched farmhouse. His house is also older in style than Edo houses. In Edo ordinary commoners live in urban houses with wooden roofs, while rich commoners and samurai live in houses with tiled roofs. Issa thus suggests that the age and the old style of his farmhouse will cause the warbler to grow old.

Since Issa refers to the warbler "too" or "also" (mo) catching old age, he seems to be referring to himself as well. Pretending that he's gotten old because he lives in an old farmhouse, he gives the warbler some friendly advice from one experienced traveler through time to another. Actually, he knows the warbler has already grown old, since it is a summer warbler, but by politely pretending the bird isn't old yet Issa also humorously expresses the wish-fulfilling fiction that he, too, isn't actually that old -- he only feels old because he lives in an old house. Thus his hokku suggests to the warbler that old age is just the effect of their environment, and it asks the bird to stay young by avoiding his old house. I think the overall humorous implication is, we're both growing old, but hey, let's both stay young by blaming it on our surroundings for a while.

Chris Drake

Gabi Greve said...

Ganjooju-In urayama ni sasako naku

in the back mountains
of Ganjoju-In
a nightingale sings

森賢之助 Mori Kennosuke

. sasako 笹子 nightingale .
笹鳴きをしているウグイス - kigo for all winter
more about the temple Ganjoju-In

Gabi Greve said...

Kobayashi Issa

hokekyoo to tori mo bashoo no hooji kana

singing "Hokekyo"
the birds celebrate
Basho's death . . .

ほけ経 Hokekyo - the Lotus Sutra .

Gabi Greve said...

sasako kuru Yagyuu ichizoku nemuru haka

nightingale come -
the graves where the Yagyu clan
finds its sleep

松本幸子 Matsumoto Sachiko
The Yagyu clan and legends 柳生一族と伝説

Gabi Greve said...

Kobayashi Issa

shinano naru uguisu mo hohokekyoo kana

even the nightingale
of Shinano sings it...
Lotus Sutra

Or: "even the nightingales/ of Shinano..." The Lotus Sutra is one of Mahayana Buddhism's most popular texts. Issa's home province was Shinano, present-day Nagano Prefecture. Shinji Ogawa notes that hohokekyô (Lotus Sutra) onomatopoetically suggests the sound of a nightingale's warble.

David Lanoue

Gabi Greve said...

Tanashi danchi hatsu uguisu ni ake ni keri

Tanashi apartments -
this day begins with the song
of the first nightingale

岡田日郎 Okada Nichio (1932 - )

Tokyo, Tanashi choo 田無町 Tanashi district

Gabi Greve said...

hatsune no sato 初音の里 village of the bush warbler
in Negishi, Tokyo