Experiencing the Nightingale Floor 20 years ago was something I wanted to share with my hubby. We made it a point to travel together to Kyoto where I had a chance to bring him to Japan’s revered Nijo Castle.
The fascinating thing about Japan is their impressive skill in caring for their cultural sites amidst a bustling, fast-paced and ultra-modern city. Such ancient structures stand among towering office buildings, skyscrapers and stores, and could easily be accessed from a nearby subway stop.
Perhaps the most notable part of the Nijo Castle is the Ninomaru Palace. Ninomaru translates to “outer defense”, and this is where I had one of the best travel experiences as a child. Aside from the fact that the palace has 33 rooms with winding, snaking corridors, what I remember most about the palace is the Nightingale Floor. As this was a strategic portion of the castle, it was where shoguns and feudal lords lived so they could be on guard to defend its people against any danger.
And that was what the Nightingale Floor was for..
Using iron clamps, the suspended wooden floor boards were built with nails underneath that rub against each other, causing the floors to “sing” and creak loudly even under the gentlest of footsteps. This served as the burglar alarm for the shoguns which enabled them to detect the intrusion of stealthy ninjas and other attackers.
Shoes are off limits inside the premises and photography was strictly prohibited as flash lighting could ruin the delicate condition of the ancient edifice.