梅にうぐいす (bush warbler in the plum blossoms)

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

Title:

梅にうぐいす (ume ni uguisu)
bush warbler in the plum blossoms

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This top depicts a bush warbler and plum blossoms, a popular seasonal theme in Japan. Bush warblers and plum blossoms are often featured together in classical poems and paintings, as they are thought to be signs of the close of winter and beginning of spring. The first cry of the bush warbler at the beginning of the year is a highly anticipated event. It even has a special word, hatsune 初音, meaning “the first warbling of the New Year.” This top is a special whistle top that comically mimics the first warbling of the year, making a loud, disagreeable sound, which is said to be a promise that the bush warbler’s songs for the rest of the year will be pleasant.

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Hiroi Michiaki: And this is–

Mrs. Hiroi: Ah, this is a whistle.

Hiroi: This is–

Mrs. Hiroi: A bush warbler whistle.

Hiroi: The first–it’s called “the first warbling of the New Year,” and the first time the bush warbler sings, Japanese people are delighted. It’s usually close to the New Year that it sings, and it’s considered a very good omen. And if you blow this, it, it doesn’t go houhokekyu*, but it goes BEEEEEHHH. Heh heh heh.

* In Japanese, this is the traditional sound of the bush warbler tweeting.

Mrs. Hiroi: Yeah. It’s not a nice sound. If you hear [the bird’s voice coming out], you’re like “Whaaat?!” Its voice, it comes out.

Hiroi: If you blow it here this part spins about and the sound comes out.

Mrs. Hiroi: That’s right. Yeah.

Hiroi: And because it’s the first warbling of the year, it’s said that after that the bush warbler will sing in a pretty voice, so if you blow this, the BEEEEEHHH sound comes out. Heh heh heh.

Mrs. Hiroi: Yeah yeah yeah yeah. If you hear it it’s a weird sound, so you’re surprised.

Hiroi: Everyone laughs real hard and is delighted. Ha ha ha.

Mrs. Hiroi: That’s the best part.

Hiroi: They burst out into laughter.

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