The Nightingale Floor (Kyoto, Japan)


Main gate to Ninomaru palace
Image by thaths via Flickr

Are you secretly a ninja? Here is a test. It is the dead of night when you enter Nijo Castle. Everyone is asleep except for the two guards that were served a special tea flavored secretly by you. They now snore unaware at their posts. Tomorrow, they may lose their heads because of you.

You are dressed as a lowly peasant though your warlord master pays you sweetly for your work as a spy. In fact you are actually a samurai in disguise. Your katana is tucked inside your robe tie. You never know when you may need it. You have all the right equipment, but the true test comes when you step onto the nightingale floor. If it “sings” you are dead…

Built 400 years ago by Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Edo shogunate, Nijo Castle is situated so that it guarded the once Imperial city. It actually resembles the Imperial Palace in Kyoto. When all the floors were laid throughout the castle, they were suspended in a special way above the frame using a particular type of iron clamp so that the floor moves up and down when walked upon. The nails rub against the wood creating a sound like the cheeping of nightingales. Only a trained ninja can walk across the floor without making it “sing”.

Other places to find nightingale floors are:

Daikaku-ji temple in Kyoto

Chio-in temple in Kyoto

Toji-in temple in Kyoto

References:

YouTube demonstration of a “Nightingale Floor” http://is.gd/jEBhr

Common Misconception Concerning Ninja http://www.chinatownconnection.com/misconception-ninja.htm

Zen-garden.org “Nightingale floor, Uguisubari”  http://www.zen-garden.org/html/page_nightingalefloor.htm

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