The Callow Warble of the Bush Warbler in Early Spring…

As spring unfolds in all her glorious panoply here in Japan, the sound of the Japanese bush warbler can be heard in the land.

Or, as far as I am concerned, the sound of chatter about bush warblers during English class can be heard in the community centres of Hiroshima.

For the callow warble of your common or garden bush warbler is as much a harbinger of spring in these parts as the sound of the first cuckoo is in the countryside around nether regions of Tunbridge Wells.

I wonder if retired Japanese Army (er, Self Defence Force, because “Japan does not have an army”) colonels inform the Asahi Shinbunthat they heard the sound of the first uguisu of spring. I expect they would use a calligraphy brush and compose an elegant haiku, something like:

Uguisu ga

uchi no niwa ni wa,

uta no renshu

Which, being translated, is as much to say,

Regarding the bush

warbler perched in my garden,

it’s learning to sing.

Now, if I had been a bit cleverer I would have tossed in a blooming plum tree, because any early spring haiku worth its salt really needs to feature a bush warbler that has relinquished its bush in favour of a plum tree in blossom.

And another thing…

When talking about bush warblers in early spring, it is essential that you comment on how the callow hatchlings have not yet mastered the full bush warble and spend the early days of springtime practising, practising, practising and again, practising, just like Japanese tennis club members, who are all practice and no play.

To fully master the art of early spring Japanese conversation it is essential that you also master the sound of a bush-warbler’s warble, both in its fully formed perfection, and in its callow half-cocked sweetness.

As soon as early spring has passed and the plum blossom has fallen, all talk of the callow uguisu practising his song must be put away with the winter weeds and must not see light of day until next year.

David Hurley