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Nightingale floors (鴬張り or 鶯張り uguisubari) listen (help·info), were floors designed to make a chirping sound when walked upon. These floors were used in the hallways of some temples and palaces, the most famous example being Nijo Castle, in Kyoto, Japan. Dry boards naturally creak under pressure, but these floors were designed so that the flooring nails rubbed against a jacket or clamp, causing chirping noises. It is unclear if the design was intentional. It seems that, at least initially, the effect arose by chance. An information sign in Nijo-ji castle thus states that "The singing sound is not actually intentional, stemming rather from the movement of nails against clumps in the floor caused by wear and tear over the years." Legend has it that the squeaking floors were used as a security device, assuring that none could sneak through the corridors undetected.
The floors were made from dried boards. Upside-down V-shaped joints move within the boards when pressure is applied.
Uguisu (鶯 or 鴬) refers to the Japanese bush-warbler. The latter segment bari (張り) comes from haru (張る), meaning "to stretch". Together this means "the sound of a Nightingale from the stretching/swelling/straining [of the floor]".
The following locations incorporate nightingale floors:
- Melody Road in Hokkaido, Wakayama, and Gunma
- Singing Road in Anyanag, Gyeonggi South Korea
- Civic Musical Road in Lancaster, California
- Mysterious Japan, nightingale Floor: Kyoto Japan
- A-Z Animals, "Uguisu" under "Animals".
- Japan-Guide.com, Nijo Castle under "Kyoto Travel: Nijo Castle".
- A-Z Animals. "Uguisi" under "Animals". (2008). accessed November 3, 2012. http://a-z-animals.com/animals/uguisu/.
- Bunt, Jonathan and Gillian Hall, ed. Oxford Beginner's Japanese Dictionary. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.
- Henshall, Kenneth G. A Guide to Remembering Japanese Characters. Vermont: Tuttle Publishing Company, 1998.
- Japan-guide.com. "Nijo Castle (Nihojo)" under "Kyoto Travel: Nijo Castle" (June 11, 2012). accessed November 3, 2012. http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3918.html.
- Saiga-Jp.com. "Japanese Kanji Dictionary" under "Japanese Learning" (March 7, 2012). accessed November 4, 2012. https://web.archive.org/web/20101029180930/http://www.saiga-jp.com/kanji_dictionary.html.
- ZenGarden.org. "Nightingale Floor, 'Uguisu-bari' ( 鴬張り )" (2012). accessed September 24, 2012. http://www.zen-garden.org/html/page_nightingalefloor.html.
- Information, photos and video-clip of Nightingale floors
- Kyoto Travel: Nijo Castle
- Kansai Council page on special features in Japanese architecture (has audio clips of nightingale floors)