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Uguisu no fun

Uguisu no fun

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Uguisu no fun which literally means “nightingale feces” in Japanese, refers to the excrement (fun) produced by a particular nightingale called the Japanese bush warbler (Cettia diphone)
Japanese Bush Warbler
The , Cettia diphone, is a passerine bird more often heard than seen. Its distinctive breeding call can be heard throughout much of Japan from the start of spring....

 (uguisu). The droppings have been used in facial
A facial is a procedure involving a variety of skin treatments, including: steam, exfoliation, extraction, creams, lotions, facial masks, peels, and massage...

s since ancient Japanese times
History of Japan
The history of Japan encompasses the history of the islands of Japan and the Japanese people, spanning the ancient history of the region to the modern history of Japan as a nation state. Following the last ice age, around 12,000 BC, the rich ecosystem of the Japanese Archipelago fostered human...

. Recently, the product has been used in the Western world
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

. This facial has been referred to as the “Geisha Facial”. The facial is supposed to lighten the skin and balance skin tones
Human skin color
Human skin color is primarily due to the presence of melanin in the skin. Skin color ranges from almost black to white with a pinkish tinge due to blood vessels underneath. Variation in natural skin color is mainly due to genetics, although the evolutionary causes are not completely certain...

 that have acne
Acne is a general term used for acneiform eruptions. It is usually used as a synonym for acne vulgaris, but may also refer to:*Acne aestivalis*Acne conglobata*Acne cosmetica*Acne fulminans*Acne keloidalis nuchae*Acne mechanica...

 or sun damage.


The use of nightingale excrement dates back to the Heian period
Heian period
The is the last division of classical Japanese history, running from 794 to 1185. The period is named after the capital city of Heian-kyō, or modern Kyōto. It is the period in Japanese history when Buddhism, Taoism and other Chinese influences were at their height...

 (A.D. 794 – 1185) where it was introduced to the Japanese
Japanese people
The are an ethnic group originating in the Japanese archipelago and are the predominant ethnic group of Japan. Worldwide, approximately 130 million people are of Japanese descent; of these, approximately 127 million are residents of Japan. People of Japanese ancestry who live in other countries...

 by the Koreans
Korean people
The Korean people are an ethnic group originating in the Korean peninsula and Manchuria. Koreans are one of the most ethnically and linguistically homogeneous groups in the world.-Names:...

. The Koreans used the guano
Guano is the excrement of seabirds, cave dwelling bats, and seals. Guano manure is an effective fertilizer due to its high levels of phosphorus and nitrogen and also its lack of odor. It was an important source of nitrates for gunpowder...

 to remove dye
A dye is a colored substance that has an affinity to the substrate to which it is being applied. The dye is generally applied in an aqueous solution, and requires a mordant to improve the fastness of the dye on the fiber....

 from kimono
The is a Japanese traditional garment worn by men, women and children. The word "kimono", which literally means a "thing to wear" , has come to denote these full-length robes...

 fabric which allowed them to make intricate designs on the clothing. The Japanese used the bird droppings to remove stains from silk
Silk is a natural protein fiber, some forms of which can be woven into textiles. The best-known type of silk is obtained from the cocoons of the larvae of the mulberry silkworm Bombyx mori reared in captivity...

 garments, like kimonos. Then, during the Edo period
Edo period
The , or , is a division of Japanese history which was ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family, running from 1603 to 1868. The political entity of this period was the Tokugawa shogunate....

 (A.D. 1603–1868), the Japanese expanded the use by using it as a beauty treatment. Some sources, however, report that as early as the 3rd century, Japanese women rubbed bags of rice
Rice is the seed of the monocot plants Oryza sativa or Oryza glaberrima . As a cereal grain, it is the most important staple food for a large part of the world's human population, especially in East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and the West Indies...

Bran is the hard outer layer of grain and consists of combined aleurone and pericarp. Along with germ, it is an integral part of whole grains, and is often produced as a by-product of milling in the production of refined grains. When bran is removed from grains, the grains lose a portion of their...

 on their faces and used nightingale droppings to whiten the skin. Geisha
, Geiko or Geigi are traditional, female Japanese entertainers whose skills include performing various Japanese arts such as classical music and dance.-Terms:...

s and Kabuki
is classical Japanese dance-drama. Kabuki theatre is known for the stylization of its drama and for the elaborate make-up worn by some of its performers.The individual kanji characters, from left to right, mean sing , dance , and skill...

 actors used heavy white makeup
Cosmetics are substances used to enhance the appearance or odor of the human body. Cosmetics include skin-care creams, lotions, powders, perfumes, lipsticks, fingernail and toe nail polish, eye and facial makeup, towelettes, permanent waves, colored contact lenses, hair colors, hair sprays and...

 that contained zinc
Zinc , or spelter , is a metallic chemical element; it has the symbol Zn and atomic number 30. It is the first element in group 12 of the periodic table. Zinc is, in some respects, chemically similar to magnesium, because its ion is of similar size and its only common oxidation state is +2...

 and lead
Lead is a main-group element in the carbon group with the symbol Pb and atomic number 82. Lead is a soft, malleable poor metal. It is also counted as one of the heavy metals. Metallic lead has a bluish-white color after being freshly cut, but it soon tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed...

, which could have caused skin diseases and other issues. Uguisu no fun was used to thoroughly remove the makeup and whiten and even the skin. Also, Buddhist monks
A Bhikkhu or Bhikṣu is an ordained male Buddhist monastic. A female monastic is called a Bhikkhuni Nepali: ). The life of Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis is governed by a set of rules called the patimokkha within the vinaya's framework of monastic discipline...

 used the droppings to polish and clean their bald scalps.

Currently, Hyakusuke is the last place in Tokyo
, ; officially , is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan. Tokyo is the capital of Japan, the center of the Greater Tokyo Area, and the largest metropolitan area of Japan. It is the seat of the Japanese government and the Imperial Palace, and the home of the Japanese Imperial Family...

 to have the government-approved uguisu no fun. This two-hundred year old cosmetic shop carries the powder along with other cosmetic products.

Modern day use of uguisu no fun in Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

 may be attributed to a respect for the ancestral tradition as well as the innovative culture of Japan
Culture of Japan
The culture of Japan has evolved greatly over the millennia, from the country's prehistoric Jōmon period to its contemporary hybrid culture, which combines influences from Asia, Europe and North America...



Uguisu no fun is harvested in nightingale farm
A farm is an area of land, or, for aquaculture, lake, river or sea, including various structures, devoted primarily to the practice of producing and managing food , fibres and, increasingly, fuel. It is the basic production facility in food production. Farms may be owned and operated by a single...

s in Japan. Though wild nightingales eat insect
Insects are a class of living creatures within the arthropods that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body , three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae...

s and berries
The botanical definition of a berry is a fleshy fruit produced from a single ovary. Grapes are an example. The berry is the most common type of fleshy fruit in which the entire ovary wall ripens into an edible pericarp. They may have one or more carpels with a thin covering and fleshy interiors....

, the diet of the caged birds consists of organic
Organic food
Organic foods are foods that are produced using methods that do not involve modern synthetic inputs such as synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers, do not contain genetically modified organisms, and are not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives.For the...

A seed is a small embryonic plant enclosed in a covering called the seed coat, usually with some stored food. It is the product of the ripened ovule of gymnosperm and angiosperm plants which occurs after fertilization and some growth within the mother plant...

s. Some nightingales feed on caterpillar
Caterpillars are the larval form of members of the order Lepidoptera . They are mostly herbivorous in food habit, although some species are insectivorous. Caterpillars are voracious feeders and many of them are considered to be pests in agriculture...

s that eat from plum
A plum or gage is a stone fruit tree in the genus Prunus, subgenus Prunus. The subgenus is distinguished from other subgenera in the shoots having a terminal bud and solitary side buds , the flowers in groups of one to five together on short stems, and the fruit having a groove running down one...

 trees. The guano is scraped from the cages, and an ultraviolet
Ultraviolet light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength shorter than that of visible light, but longer than X-rays, in the range 10 nm to 400 nm, and energies from 3 eV to 124 eV...

 light is often used to kill the bacteria
Bacteria are a large domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typically a few micrometres in length, bacteria have a wide range of shapes, ranging from spheres to rods and spirals...

 to sanitize it. The droppings are then usually dried with a dehydrator. Some are sun-dried for over two weeks while simultaneously being UV sterilized
Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation
Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation is a sterilization method that uses ultraviolet light at sufficiently short wavelength to kill microorganisms. It is used in a variety of applications, such as food, air and water purification. UV has been a known mutagen at the cellular level for more than...

. Next, it is ground into a fine white powder, and it is sold in this form. The droppings are turned into powder in a special container that rotates for 18 hours with a ceramic ball.


Rice bran is sometimes added to the guano for the purpose of exfoliation
Exfoliation (cosmetology)
Exfoliation involves the removal of the oldest dead skin cells on the skin's outermost surface, and has been used for many years to help maintain skin. Exfoliation is involved in the process of all facials, during microdermabrasion or chemical peels at medical spas...

. The powder is mixed with water yielding a paste. The paste is massaged into the skin for a few minutes and then it is rinsed off. The facial is usually rather odorless and sanitized. The added rice bran can also neutralize the slight musky odor.

In one New York spa
The term spa is associated with water treatment which is also known as balneotherapy. Spa towns or spa resorts typically offer various health treatments. The belief in the curative powers of mineral waters goes back to prehistoric times. Such practices have been popular worldwide, but are...

 that offers the Geisha Facial, the process takes about one hour and costs $180.

Mechanism of facial

The way the facial works is not entirely clear. The guano from the nightingale has a high concentration of urea
Urea or carbamide is an organic compound with the chemical formula CO2. The molecule has two —NH2 groups joined by a carbonyl functional group....

 and guanine
Guanine is one of the four main nucleobases found in the nucleic acids DNA and RNA, the others being adenine, cytosine, and thymine . In DNA, guanine is paired with cytosine. With the formula C5H5N5O, guanine is a derivative of purine, consisting of a fused pyrimidine-imidazole ring system with...

. Because birds excrete a fecal and urine waste from a single opening, called the cloaca
In zoological anatomy, a cloaca is the posterior opening that serves as the only such opening for the intestinal, reproductive, and urinary tracts of certain animal species...

, the fecal-urine combination give the droppings a high concentration of urea. Urea is sometimes found in cosmetics because it locks moisture into the skin. The guanine may produce shimmery, iridescent
Iridescence is generally known as the property of certain surfaces which appear to change color as the angle of view or the angle of illumination changes...

 effects on the skin. It is claimed that because of the short intestine
In human anatomy, the intestine is the segment of the alimentary canal extending from the pyloric sphincter of the stomach to the anus and, in humans and other mammals, consists of two segments, the small intestine and the large intestine...

 of the nightingale, the droppings have protein
Proteins are biochemical compounds consisting of one or more polypeptides typically folded into a globular or fibrous form, facilitating a biological function. A polypeptide is a single linear polymer chain of amino acids bonded together by peptide bonds between the carboxyl and amino groups of...

, a fat-degrading enzyme
Enzymes are proteins that catalyze chemical reactions. In enzymatic reactions, the molecules at the beginning of the process, called substrates, are converted into different molecules, called products. Almost all chemical reactions in a biological cell need enzymes in order to occur at rates...

, and a whitening enzyme that acts on fat
Fats consist of a wide group of compounds that are generally soluble in organic solvents and generally insoluble in water. Chemically, fats are triglycerides, triesters of glycerol and any of several fatty acids. Fats may be either solid or liquid at room temperature, depending on their structure...

 and scurf to whiten skin and even out blemishes.

Numerous sources comment that "the amino acid
Amino acid
Amino acids are molecules containing an amine group, a carboxylic acid group and a side-chain that varies between different amino acids. The key elements of an amino acid are carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen...

 guanine" gives uguisu no fun its cosmetic properties, though guanine is a nucleotide
Nucleotides are molecules that, when joined together, make up the structural units of RNA and DNA. In addition, nucleotides participate in cellular signaling , and are incorporated into important cofactors of enzymatic reactions...

 base, not an amino acid.

In popular culture

Victoria Beckham
Victoria Beckham
Victoria Caroline Beckham is an English singer-songwriter, dancer, model, actress, fashion designer and businesswoman. In the late 1990s, Beckham rose to fame with the all-female pop group Spice Girls and was dubbed Posh Spice by the July 1996 issue of the British pop music magazine Top of the Pops...

, who has long suffered with acne, used uguisu no fun to improve her skin. It was reported that Victoria Beckham admired the clarity of the skin of Japanese women and subsequently learned about the droppings. David Beckham
David Beckham
David Robert Joseph Beckham, OBE is an English footballer who plays midfield for Los Angeles Galaxy in Major League Soccer, having previously played for Manchester United, Preston North End, Real Madrid, and A.C...

 has been said to use the product as well.

In the novel Memoirs of a Geisha
Memoirs of a Geisha
Memoirs of a Geisha is a novel by American author Arthur Golden, published in 1997. The novel, told in first person perspective, tells the fictional story of a geisha working in Kyoto, Japan, before and after World War II...

, Chiyo repays Hatsumomo’s cruelty by mixing pigeon droppings with her face cream that contained unguent
An unguent is a soothing preparation spread on wounds, burns, rashes, abrasions or other topical injuries . It is similar to an ointment, though typically an unguent is less viscous and more oily....

of nightingale droppings.