Aichi-En visiting apprentice trip report: part 4

First off, a quick shout out and congrats to everyone that had a tree accepted in the Artisan Cup!  A great accomplishment to those that made it. I'm so incredibly pumped to attend the show in Sept and can't wait to see your trees.

I'm sorry I've been super busy recently and I'm getting this post up way after the fact, however if anyone is still interested i'm going to finish out my Aichi-En Trip Report posts. The pics below are from March of 2015 and there's quite a few of them. So without further ado, I'm going to jump right into it.

Red flowered Chojubai in the front, Light pink Ume in the back


Below, is one of the more funky tridents I've ever seen sitting near the house.  I could see how people could either like or dislike this tree.  Personally, I'm all for it and think it's unique character and age make it absolutely stunning!  In some ways it doesn't fit into general Bonsai guidelines.  While I don't like the term, you still couldn't call it a, "cookie cutter." For me, it's refreshing to look at and the ramification and age speak highly of Aichien's skill, technique and history.

More about this tree on Peter Tea's Blog:


One day I saw Mr. Tanaka walking on his way back into the nursery after what appeared to be a stroll around the neighborhood.  While coming through the front gate of the nursery, I saw him with this little tree in his hand.  I remember thinking it was funny that he just went for a leisurely walk and came back with a little tree.  This is definitely something I wish I could do back home, but that would never happen:)


It turned out that he walked over to another Bonsai enthusiasts home and bought or maybe traded for it while he was out on his walk.   At one point this little guy use to be a juniper whip that was wired, twisted and allowed to grow to thicken the trunk.  At a quick glance I assumed the trunk was carved to add the indentations in the wood.  However, looking at it more closely, I think the effect was created more so by letting sections of the trunk die off at different time periods.  Cool little tree, in my opinion.


The weather sure didnt want to make up it's mind and seemed to enjoy fluctuating between hot and cold while I was there.  I was there right after Kokufu which is in between Winter and Spring.  I wore a t-shirt some days and two jackets during others.  Don't worry it's not dandruff in Juan's hair, it was just snow flakes 😉


Being from the Central Coast of CA, I really don't seem to acclimate well to the cold.  In fact, on the cold days it was only with great effort that I could pry my feet way from the kerosene heater in the workshop.  However, getting to see all the trees covered by the snow was a really unique and beautiful experience.  A first time for me.


The Bonsai auction scene in Japan is impressive.  One morning we helped Mr. Tanaka load up his van to drive to a big auction in Tokoyo.  We stayed behind to continue working on trees at the nursery.


On another day me, Juan and John jumped into the van with Mr. Tanaka and headed to the 8th auction, which occurs on the 8th of every month.  This is an auction for professionals only.  Trees and pots were placed in this big open space below.  There were a ton of trees at this auction, they filled up more than just this area spilling out past the entrance of the nursery that hosted the event.


Looking at everything before the auction was a lot of fun, but it was also like being a kid in a candy store with all of my favorite chocolates for sale and then being told I can only look. US regulations make it almost impossible to bring a tree back to the US.


You can see a few trees here spilling out past the entrance to the nursery. I believe this is a Chojubai that was created by twisting multiple skinny trunks, and then letting them grow together.


I was impressed with how smoothly the auction ran. You could tell that they've done this many times before.  For me, Juan and John our jobs started by placing one of these flat pieces of wood on this metal set of rollers.  We would grab the next tree or pot, place it on top of the flat wood and role it down to the auctioneer in the center.


Their were two auctioneers who switched out about midway through as i'm sure their vocal chords were tired from yelling about the hundreds of trees at the auction.  Bot did a fantastic job with voice projection and engaging the crowd. The auctioneer would talk about the tree, build up the bidding, take the number of the highest bidder, then push the tree on the board to their left hand side along the other set of metal rollers.


Our main job was to grab the tree/pot or lot of trees/pots off the other side of the rollers once they were spoken for.  We would move the goods to the new owners established location.  Each bidder had a number and most of them also had a van outside the nursery with a corresponding number aside the van.

Carefully placing the trees near the new owners vans


At the auction, Mr. Tanaka picked up this gem below.


Once we got back into the work shop, Mr. Tanaka picked out this small JBP project for me to work on.


One issue that can become a real problem is moss growing on trunk of Black Pine, because it will cause the beautiful bark to rot and fall off.  Because of this we first gently removed as much as possible with tweezers.


Then painted the the area with white cooking vinegar and allowed it to dry to kill the rest of the moss.


I also did a rough wiring and styling of the tree.  Here it is below after wiring the primary branch pad.


And here's the rest for now.


Sometime around the middle of each day, Mr. Tanaka's Mother or "Grandma" as Juan and John would refer to her would come inside the workshop say, "tea time."  She seemed like an incredibly sweet woman who was full of character. The fresh mochi and tea that she brought us was my absolute favorite snack, it tasted phenomenal!


While I was there, I purchased this old antique Chinese container.


The clay is very smooth and I really like patina and thick outer lip along the edge of the pot.


I have a small Sierra Juniper that i'll probably put in this.


Below are a few photos from some side trips we made.  The first are from an ume festival which included a small Bonsai show.  We dropped by on the last day to help pack everything up.


Me and Ume in full bloom


Lots of vendors selling this and that at the festival.


During my time there, the apprentices had one day off.  On that day I was fortunate enough that they took me to Nagoya Castle.  Can you spot the golden Dolphins at the top?


This rock wall above the castles moat was very impressive to me.  'Challenging' is a huge understatement when thinking about what an intruder would have to do to get in.


More spectacular Ume surrounding the Nagoya Castle



Gold leaf Black Pine painting.


Checking out the Ancient Samurai gear was too cool!


The last project I worked on was this White Pine which Mr. Tanaka picked for me to clean up, wire and style.  Juan help guide me thorough the process.


The first step, which is frequently the case is to remove some of the old needles.


Old needles are typically closer to the base of the branch.  Removing some before wiring has a few benefits including allowing more light into the interior, making things look cleaner and easier to wire.   So they don't damage the branch at Aichi-En they cut old needles from White Pine.


The key branch on this tree needed to be lowered, so I wrapped it tightly with black plastic rope.  Here's how I started wrapping the branch.  The copper wire is there to hold the plastic in place while I wrapped over the branch.


We used a wooden block to change the location of the leverage point when lowering the key branch.


You can also see the green tie down wire I used to re-secure the tree into the pot. When putting so much pressure to lower the key branch It would have been easy to yank the tree out of it's pot.  I wired the largest primary branches first, then the secondary and tertiary branches and arranged the foliage pads.

Here's the before pic one more time.


And after wiring and styling.


Overall I had an unforgettable visiting apprenticeship experience.  I was incredibly lucky and honored that I got to go.  This trip added more fuel onto the fire that is my Bonsai obsession.  A huge thank you to Mr. Tanaka and the Aichi-En crew!!!

Last picture before heading off to the airport.

3 thoughts on “Aichi-En visiting apprentice trip report: part 4”

  1. Just found your blog via StoneLantern’s site.
    How amazing, I was at Aichi-en two weeks after your visit-your name was up on the chalkboard in the workshop that Juan showed me thru.
    I was only at the garden as a visitor on that day. It was hot and humid and I took the train out four stations from Nagoya city.

    Finding thegarden on my own was a challenge but locals helped -via google translate app-and there was Juan on his own as Mr Tanaka was out in the van.
    I liked the frogpond ceramic bowl!
    Looking down on the garden from upstairs where the pines get heat from the concrete floor, was a magical experience and Juan was very kind to do so.
    Loved the big old Trident near the workroom that was root over rock,but being so old the rock has nearly disappeared into the root formation itself!

    1. Im glad we both got to visit this wonderful nursery! How funny that it was around the same time. Thank you very much for the comment and for taking a look at my post:)

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