Why squeaky floors were a sign of status in ancient Japan (5 photos + 1 video)

21 June 2024

Don't be fooled! In ancient Japan, the problem of theft was quite acute. Only warriors had swords, but many people had sliding doors. These are more difficult to lock, so thieves sometimes sneaked inside the house silently. I had to come up with an ingenious defense against thieves.

Some people have status boots with creaks, others have floors

Oh, my canopy, my canopy!

The tricky floors, which creaked when stepping on the floorboards, warned of an approaching thief. They were especially often installed in Japanese castles, where there are a lot of valuables.

Thieves in ancient Japan also dressed funny.

Nowadays everyone is annoyed by the creaking of floors; they are dismantled and repaired if such a defect occurs. In Japan, in a castle, the creaking of the floors meant that there were a lot of valuable things in the building - a sign of status.

They really do creak quite loudly, listen:

Such floors were called “uguisu-bari”, which translates as “Japanese nightingale”. The Japanese's subtle observation of nature: the nightingale's songs are very audible in the night, but the bird itself prefers to remain invisible, hidden in the branches.

A very witty and subtle name, and a popular technology that was used from the 17th to the 19th century during the Edo period. Edo is generally a special era in the history of Japan, when there were much fewer wars and conflicts, the country was ruled by the Tokugawa Shogunate, and the civilian population had time to develop crafts and art.

Nijo Castle, these were the castles in those days

How nightingale floors work

The nightingale floors in Nijo Castle in Kyoto are perfectly preserved. Engineers were able to study their cunning system.

Beneath the singing floors were additional metal clamps located between the beams that supported the floorboards of the corridor.

A diagram for engineers, if there are any!

Each clamp has two tenon holes through which an iron tenon passes. When someone walks on the boards, it causes the clamp to move up and down, and the tenon rubs against the clamp, resulting in a high-pitched noise.

Since it was impossible to walk through the corridors without alerting the guards to your presence, this served as a very effective anti-theft alarm system.

Old metal, but strong, holds up! They did it conscientiously for the shogun

The two best places to see and even experience nightingale floors are Nijo Castle in Kyoto and Chion-in, the temple where the Tokugawa family used to live.

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