Since the uguisu (鶯, Japanese bush warbler) is a very secretive bird, I have never yet laid eyes upon it. It is said that it can only be seen in early spring, when the tree branches are bare, since the rest of the year, it hides in the deep foliage. The first time I encountered it was on a sweet, served along with a bowl of matcha in February. As a symbol of early spring, it is depicted along with a plum blossom. But in any case, this bird is not remarkable for its rather unglamorous exterior, but for its mating call which is most heard at this time of the year. On a walk in Chiba’s countryside, I could hear its distinctive call every few steps from the trees along the road.
The uguisu is named whenever a beautiful voice is spoken of. But unlike most birds, it even reads Buddhist sutras! How so, you ask? In Japanese, its call is rendered as “Hoo-hokekyo”, a phrase from the Lotus Sutra.
Here is a recording of its call (from http://nwbc.jp/):