Aichi-En visiting apprentice trip report: part 3

And.... I'm back with the third post about my trip, I'm sorry it took a while to get this one up.  I believe i'm going to wrap everything up in one more part after this. In this post I'm going to start with more pictures around Aichi-En, talk about Japanese Ramen, teach a cool trick for anchoring guy wires and end with some pictures around Daiju-En.

In between working on trees, my favorite pass time was walking around the nursery and looking at different aspects of the trees.  With so many trees in the yard, it was a bit overwhelming, part of me wanted to keep running around looking at everything, moving from one to another, then another and another...   I love the magnificent chunky old bark on these three Black pines.

 

Root over rock maples always catch my attention as well.  It was cool to see the variety of different rocks that were used.  Different shapes, sizes, textures and colors can make for very unique and impressive trees.

 

I especially dig the idea of growing trees over stones with natural indents which allow water to pool on the stone like this one below.

 

It seems to me that Chojubai has been gaining popularity recently, I think at least some of this is because Michael Hagedorn's fantastic posts about Chojubai which he started in 2011.  Here's one tree in the yard that doesn't seem to have a lot of shaping or structural work, but a project tree that I would not mind taking on.

 

Because they are difficult to find and interest has been on the rise, the prices of Chojubai in the US has been much higher than in Japan.  It's nice to see more interest in the US and to see people propagating them.  We need to keep growing the one's with good bark from cuttings and root cuttings.  This one had a cool pot too!

 

Taking a break from Bonsai for a second, one of the best discoveries I made during my trip to Japan was Ramen!  For American's that have been to Japan before, this is likely just old news.  But, for a first timer in Japan it was a wonderful discovery.  After a long day of wiring and repotting in the cold weather this hot noodle soup really hit the spot. Here we are entering a Ramen shop with enticing bright lights which had a sort of an American Dinner feel to it.

 

Ramen is very popular in Japan, there are restaurants all over.  Each region of the county has their own variations.  It was interesting for me to learn that, like Bonsai apprenticeship, people also apprentice to become Ramen Chefs.  I like how eager and intense Danny, Mr. Tanaka and Juan are while watching the Chefs prepare the food.

 

Mr. Tanaka ordered for all of us and I was always very happy with his selections. Here's a few pics of the Ramen I tried in Japan. This shop added lots of bean sprouts on the top.  There are some different sauces and spices that you can add to customize it.

 

This is from a spot we stopped at in downtown Nagoya.

 

And here's a close up of the Ramen I got on my last day in Tokyo before getting on the plane.  This is definitely the food I miss most since come back home.

 

Jumping back into Bonsai, I was tasked with wiring and styling this White Pine below.  With this tree I'm going to show a useful technique I learned for creating a good anchor point for guy wire.

 

Because the main branch of this tree was very horizontal and straight, we decided to bend it down to give it more of a cascade feel.  I used the strong black plastic to tightly wrap the area which would take the bend.  I used the jack to lower the branch which I anchored to the side of the pot, a trick that Juan taught me.

 

Here are the steps I took to create the anchor point on the side of the pot.  First I used a thick gauge copper wire and cut the end at a point.

 

The reason for the sharp point is to make it easier to drive the wire up into the firm root ball.  We pushed the wire through the root ball until it hit the top layer of the soil.  I don't believe this method would work well if you just repotted and the soil was still really loose.  However, we would not want to be doing a lot of work bending and styling this tree if we just repotted either.

 

Next we bent the wire and had it run the length of the pot.  Because I would be bending the main branch, I didn't want the tree popping out of the pot.  I was concerned with the original tie down wire, so I replaced it.

 

After this, I bent a loop into the wire with my hands.  The final product will sit against the pot this this.

 

To finish the wire loop I used two pairs of pliers, or you can use a pair of pliers and the end of another tool to twist the loop while holding the section below so that you create a secure loop that won't un-twist.   I positioned the loop against the pot like it is in the picture above.

 

After this I used the jack to slowly bring the branch down, using a guy wire to hold it into place.  I twisted the jack a few times, then did the same to the steel guy wire.

 

We used a stainless steel screw in the branch to tie the wire to and rubber padding where the branch touched the pot.  I also wrapped the tree's other main branch, anchoring at it's jin to bring it toward the other main branch.  I believe it looked more natural to have both branches coming out of the trunk at similar angles.

I ended up with three guy wires connecting to the anchor point we created below.  Next, I wired all the branches and adjusted the pads.

 

To make it convenient, sometimes they used magnetic hooks to have the wire next to you while you're working.  It was nice that you could put them anywhere you needed.  I ended up buying some to bring back home with me.

 

Here's a pic from Daiju-En of a rolling wire caddy.  Both options make keeping your wire close by more convenient.

Once again, here's the before picture.

 

And here's how far we took it for now.

 

While I enjoyed all of the short side trips we took while I was there, one of my favorites was to  Daiju-En.  I've heard a great deal about this famous nursery, but it was a real treat to get to see it in person.

 

Toru Suzuki is a third generation professional and the current proprietor of Daiju-En.  I first heard about Daiju-En from my teacher Boon.   This is the nursery Boon's teacher Kihachiro Kamiya studied at many years ago under Toru Suzuki's father, the late Toshinori Suzuki.  Junichiro Tanaka from Aichi-En is also part of the Daiju-En family and was a student here as well.

 

I got the chance to spend some time looking around the nursery with Juan, John and Dean while Mr. Tanaka visited with the Suzuki family.  Mr. Suzuki's grandson who is a toddler kept us company while walking around the nursery and he only had one shoe on.  It showed up eventually (in the pic below)  🙂

 

As you might be able to tell, Daiju-En is famous for it's work on Black Pine Bonsai.  In fact, the original De-Candling technique was first created at this very nursery many years ago.

 

The story I heard was that the idea first occurred after insects damaged the spring growth on one of the Black pines.  New needles grew from the damaged areas and came out smaller which resulted in experimenting with De-candling.

 

This technique helped change the amount of control that is possible with black pine.  Before the technique was created, needle size was maintained by reducing water and fertilizer.

 

Not only were there great Black Pines, there were also stunning Deciduous trees as well like this Chinese quince.

 

And this root over rock Kaede.

 

The branches with a lot of taper and a soft feeling towards the tips are showing tremendous ramification.

 

I'd like to make a similar stand for the garden in the future.  The one Juan is pointing to is made from Juniper deadwood.

 

There were a few greenhouses at the nursery which were used to protect trees from the cold.  This was the largest of them.

 

Here's another green house used for the smaller trees, this was not fully inclosed, at least not during the time I was there.

 

I really appreciate the large stones which added lots of character to the garden.

 

This one with a flat top section was also used to display this red flowering quince. I wondered about the gold streak on the rock, I think it looks cool.  I imagine it was painted on somehow, but didn't learn it's story.

 

Here are a few trees inside the tea room, which I believe just came back from show.

 

 

And finally, I also got the chance to meet Dean Harrell who is pictured below with John.  Dean is a really cool guy and is currently apprenticing at Daiju-En. He is a fellow American from Virginia.  We all went out to lunch and I got to hear entertaining stories about his apprenticeship and we had a good conversation about Bonsai.  I'm always happy to see American's studying Bonsai in Japan and look forward to seeing Dean's work in the future.

 

Well, that's about it for now.  Thanks for checking out the pictures and taking a look at the blog.  Cheers! 

 

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