I had a really great time at last weekends 18th annual Bay Island Bonsai Show. It's very impressive that Boon and his club have been putting this show on for 18 years now! Props to Boon, Paul Kellum, Matt Reel, Tyler Sherrod and the club for planning and executing on a great show. I've included a few pictures from some of my favorites from the weekend and a before and after of my entry below.
On first glance, I assumed this was a Japanese Maple, but the owner Paul Kellum explained that it's a Trident. I love the nebari and the fact that the second smaller trunk originates directly out of the nebari to create a true double trunk tree. The white bark extends throughout the trunk and main branches which is a sign of age.
This Chojubai a variety of Japanese Quince is owned by club member Kenny Lamm. You can see a few red blossoms just about ready to open. This clump style tree has ramified nicely and makes a fantastic addition to this shohin box display.
Adair's Olive was the heaviest tree out off all. The wide base, rapid trunk taper and overall size make this tree very impressive in person. My nickname for it is Jaba the Olive:)
I know almost nothing about Suiseki, but I know what I like and I like what I see here. The overall presentation gives me a calming feeling, it's the type of thing that makes you slowly take in a deep breath. You could get lost looking into the painting which I believe was created using spray paint forming a picture that's both simple and complex at the same time.
Here's John Kirby's California Juniper which I believe many years ago was initially styled by Shinji Suzuki during a demo and since then worked on primarily by John, Daisaku and Boon. My favorite Junipers tend to show both power and grace which are two characteristics of this tree. The height and and trunk diameter almost give this a Bunjin feel, but the tree also exhibits power and strength. You can't beat the candy cane twist of the live vein and wonder how mother nature made it wrap around the trunk like that.
Next to the California was this small Crape Myrtle. All I can say about this is, "Baby got Back!"
I'm not sure who's Ume this is, but I really like it and wish it was part of my collection. It sure is hard to find good ume in the US! The crackly bark and deadwood on this tree lead me to believe it's pretty old, at least as far as Ume go in the US. Did you know ume is closely related to both the Plum and Apricot? The delicate flowers contrast beautiful with the rugged trunk.
During our show, everyone picks a task or job to ensure everything flows smoothly during the show. My job was to bring all the trees to the photographer, then set them back up at their display. Here's Sam Ogranaja a fantastic photographer getting set up with this twin trunk Stewartia.
As always I appreciate the opportunity to get up close and personal with each tree. This Kokonoe White pine which also belongs to John Kirby is the best I've seen in the US. The tree was originally grafted to a Black Pine base, however Kokonoe being one of stronger varieties, was able to ground layer it self from just above the graft line. Now this tree has a high quality nebari and is on it's own root base. John has done a phenomenal job with it.
Break time! Shout out to my new friend Sam Ogranaja, who took us to Firebrand Artisan Breads for a quick snack. Very tasty coffee and cream puff.
This was the second time I showed a tree. A Sierra Juniper which still has a long way to go. Currently it needs to be shifted over to the viewers right hand side and the foliage pads need to fill in and develop a lot more. I collected it in either 2011 or 2012-can't remember exactly. There's a piece of granite embedded in the lower right hand side. This is just a pic I took with my phone, Sams pics looked much better.
Not the best shot below, but here's the same tree just after collection from a different angle. It's fun to look back and see how our tree change over time.
That's all for now, but please stay tuned for a podcast where I got to sit down and chat with Matt Reel, Tyler Sherrod and Paul Kellum.
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.
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: https://peterteabonsai.wordpress.com/2011/12/24/the-strange-trident-maple/
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.
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.
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.
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!!!
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!
So, being there in early March, I felt really lucky that this spectacular Ume decided to bloom during my trip. This tree was one of the original plants which was grown from seed in 1896! I think it's much larger in person than the picture portrays. From what I've seen, currently white or dark pink flowers seem to be the most popular colors in Japan, its what you see most frequently in the show books. However, I think the light pink flowers are a nice change of pace. In this pic the tree is not styled for show, but I think it's absolutely beautiful as is.
The bark on this tree really blew me away and the tree has an old feeling you just couldn't re-create without the insane amount of time it took to grow from seed.
Pines are what definitely make up the majority of the garden at Aichi-En and there are hundreds of really great ones.
Usually, the way that I look at these pines, is by first looking at the overall appearance of the tree...
Then, I would crouch down lower to take a closer look at the trunk line, nebari and bark. I like this guy with nice movement and thick plated bark on a relatively skinny trunk.
Sometime around two years ago, when Peter Tea came back to the US, Aichi-En became a three apprentice nursery and the number of trees increased a bit because there was more Deshi power to handle the workload.
While Pines make up the majority of the nursery, they work on many other types of trees as well like this small Tosho or Needle Juniper in a high fired growing pot. These high fired grow pots last much longer than the terracotta ones you find in the U.S. Why don't we have these pots?
Speaking of Tosho and Peter Tea, did anyone catch Peter styling a Tosho in Kinbon back in 2012? I heard about this photo shoot, but did not see it until just recently. Congrats to Peter and Mr. Tanaka!
Another of the current full time Apprentice's at Aichi-En is John Milton showing me this impressive Sekka-Hinoki. I found out this is currently one of the most popular varieties of Hinoki in Japan. John is a really talented and nice guy originally from England where he worked at his families dairy farm before starting his apprenticeship. It was astonishing how knowledgable all the apprentices were and tried to learn as much as possible from them. If for some reason you haven't checked out John's blog yet, I highly recommend giving it a look. I've read every post, top to bottom. https://johnmiltonbonsai.wordpress.com/
One thing I thank John for really helping me to understand is the importance of leaf and twig quality in Bonsai. Generally speaking trees with smaller leaves, have smaller twigs and can become more ramified than trees with larger leaves and twigs. In Japan good leaf quality can increase a trees price exponentially. You know what they say, size doesn't matter 😉 I believe it's something we should pay more attention to with species where dense ramification is desirable. Not getting too deep into this subject right now, this doesn't mean you should throw away your trees with larger sized leaves. However, I think it's very relevant for us outside of Japan where we should be focusing on growing from seed, cutting and air layer with goals between 15-50+ years down the road where this will absolutely come into play. Using quality leaf size is at least one piece of the puzzle. We need to be growing those multi generational trees in order to push things to our full potential.
Here's a couple pictures from John's blog, along side Mr. and Mrs. Cooper at Taikan Ten.
John prepped there Japanese maple for the show and it ended up receiving a prize. John told me that the leaf quality of this tree was one of the best he's ever seen.
Besides from having all kinds of Bonsai related things back home, I also wish we could have vending machines like they do in Japan. There's always one close by because they are literally everywhere! They usually have both hot and cold drinks, coffees, teas, juice, soda and you can get food from most of them too. Really good coffee is like a buck fifty and you don't have to wait in line at Starbucks to get it. This one is right around the corner from the nursery where we could run off to grab a quick drink.
The only trouble I had was that you don't know exactly what you are getting. Like when I bought one and thought "Oh maybe it's Peach soda or Apricot juice or something let's try it... Oh... it says Ume on the side, that's cool, probably tastes Awesome".
In actuality, it just tasted kinda so...so... but I finished it because I didnt want to waste it. To my surprise I started feeling slightly buzzed after 😉
One day on a break, after grabbing a quick drink, we went for a walk with Juan and John, they showed me a cool park with a zip line you could go down which we all had fun trying. We also checked out this local shrine.
It was cool to see something like this located in the middle of a neighborhood. Some throw coins in the metal box with white writing on the side, like a wishing well.
Sometimes we would be working in the workshop when Mr. Tanaka would come in and say, "let's go." This meant wrap it up quickly because it's time to jump in the van and roll. Here's some pics at a bonsai nursery we visited during one of those times.
Here's the largest tree at the nursery, which is Black pine that greets customers as they enter.
For the most part the nursery seemed to specialize in smaller trees, and the prices seemed very good.
I've seen pictures and video of many of the top quality or more famous nurseries in Japan. However I was glad to see a range of different types of nurseries.
There were trees in all different stages of development and many projects that would be fun to take on. We had a great time looking through everything in search of little treasures.
Juan pointed all these little nails and branches out to me. Any guesses about what's going on here or what the goal of this might be?
This group of Chojubai Quince and Princess Persimmon all priced at approx. $45 usd.
Each nursery I visited in Japan was attached to the owners home. This makes things more convenient and something I'd like to do in the future.
Juan is bending this down slightly with his thumb, showing a slightly more compact design and a potential future potting angle for this exposed root Chojubai.
Mr. Tanaka ended up purchasing a field grown yamadori style Itoigawa from this nursery which is shown below. I was very happy that he had me wire and style it.
One thing I want to mention briefly is that I make no claims to being a professional Bonsai artist. My work is no where close, so please don't judge it too harshly. I am however a student of Bonsai and am trying to improve and achieve some long term goals. I felt very fortunate that Mr. Tanaka allowed me to gain the experience by working on this tree, when any of the apprentices could have done a much better job.
The first step for me was to clean out the old needles, downward oriented growth and thin out the areas that were too dense. Older needles grow on the interior of each shoot, it's the growth that is closer to the trunk. These older needles provide less energy for the tree.
I also remove the outer layer of the sun bleached bark, trying to get down to a cinnamon color. After this I used the water gun to try and remove the cinnamon color layer and get down to the brownish/red color without going too deep in the bark.
Then I started wiring and adjusting things into place to the best of my abilities.
I used two guy wires on the tree, one to bring the right hand side branch down so it came out of the trunk at a better angle. Juan pointed out to me that when anchoring to a Jin it's better to anchor closer to the base of the jin so there's less leverage on the Jin making it less likely to break.
So once again here's the before picture. I gave this one a go, then had Juan adjust everything to make it look much better.
Here's the result after I wired and adjusted.
Here's the result after Juan helped to re-adjust which in my opinion made a much better and cleaner over all appearance. He spread things out a bit more, created a small pad on the left hand side below the apex, better oriented the shoots and cleaned a bit more from the bottom of the pads.
While I mostly focused on wiring and styling during my trip I also came to Aichi-En at the start of repotting season. Here's Juan combing out the roots with bent nose tweezers on a Japanese Maple project.
I think it's a pretty good foundation for a really nice Bonsai.
Here's Juan getting crazy for his repotting scissors 🙂 You can buy these pre-bent or bend them yourself like we did while I was there. If you work on a ton of trees, it's really nicer to have this angle when cutting the bottom of the root ball.
Mr. Tanaka's had 'Tea' and now he has 'Coffee'. Here's the very talented full time apprentice Danny Coffee in full repotting mode. Notice the repotting jump suit and safety glasses.
Here's a trident that I repotted. I started by cutting the wires on the bottom of the pot, then used a sickle along the edge, popped it out, raked the bottom, cut the bottom roots until I hit hard wood.
Then started combing the roots outward with my tweezers while untangling.
I've got a big dust pan type thing which is used to catch falling debris while I work. It kind of looks like my knee is in it, but it's just the perspective of the pic.
And finally, here's John leaning back, checking the position and angle of the tree in the pot. So, that's all for now but part three is on it's way soon. Thank you so much for checking this out! I really appreciate it.
Right now i'm sitting at the Tokyo international airport waiting for my flight drinking a milk tea I bought from one of the million vending machines in Japan. I decided to skip second dinner and pass up Ramen for the second time today 😉
Over the past two weeks I did a visiting apprenticeship at Aichi-En Bonsai Nursery in Nagoya, Japan. Nothing but eat, sleep and Bonsai for two weeks. It was an incredible experience that I'll never forget. I'm going to be posting about my trip in five parts. I'm going to jump around a bit during each post and cover some different subjects including pictures I took around the Nursery, trees I worked on, day trips, technique and other stuff. Unfortunately, i'm quite the slow writer so I apologize if it takes me a while to get everything up. I really appreciate you checking this out and I hope you enjoy it!
When I wasn't at the Nursery this was home sweet home during my time in Japan. I thought it was pretty cool to stay in such a small room. The room was comfortable and not too far away from the nursery. The price was around $45/night and for an extra $5 you could get breakfast. It was really nice to have a hot shower and some peace and quiet at night which allowed me to help digest some of the thoughts and ideas from the day.
Here's the $5 breakfast which included rice, miso soup and coffee and tea. I was surprised to find that a lot of the food was pretty reasonably priced in Japan excluding a few things. I guess the portions are smaller which accounts for some of that. Fruit, which I usually eat a lot of back home, seemed to be more expensive. However, the fruit I did have was all very tasty.
Here I am at Aichi En on my first day. I was blown away by the nursery and trees. The nursery it self is bigger and more beautiful than I imagined, owned by Mr. Junichiro Tanaka a 4th generation Bonsai professional. If you're reading this there's a good chance that you have read some of the history of Aichi En, but if for some reason you haven't then you can check it out here-http://bonsaiaichien.com/history/
While I was there I kept thinking about how crazy it is that Mr. Tanka is a 4th generation Bonsai professional. This nursery was established in 1896. Can you imagine four generations of your family in love with Bonsai, passing down trees and learning techniques from generation to generation? I think I came to the conclusion that I have no idea of what that's like, but it left me in a sense of total awe and appreciation. I'm going to add pics from around Aichi-En in each of these posts starting with this shot of a large Black pine next to a frog water basin.
There are currently three full time apprentices at Aich-En and it was an honor getting to hang out with them. Here's the friendly smile of Juan Andadrade which I finally got to meet in person. Juan is from Costa Rica, speaks English and Spanish extremely fluently and some Japanese as well. This guy is headed for nothing but international Bonsai fame. While he's intelligent and has a scientific approach to things, he is also very down to earth and is fantastic at breaking concepts down so they are easy to understand.
Rumor has it, that he may be at least making an appearance in the US after his apprenticeship. Sure hope that is true! Here are a couple trees that Juan recently worked on. I got to see him clean up and style this bad ass twisty Shimpaku.
Juan is also on a short list of foreigners outside of Japan to have worked on trees submitted to Kokufu. Here's a spectacular Black pine he worked on for this years Kokufu exhibit. If you'd like to get updates on Juan and his work, check out his Facebook page.
I frequently followed Juan around the garden, trying to steal his knowledge whenever possible 😉
When we were not working on trees, he would often stop to point things out to help teach me. Like with this massive Trident he pointed out the back side...
Explaining that last year he used cement after scraping out the soft and pulpy wood from the wound. He explained that it's important for most deciduous trees to completely heal big wounds, otherwise long term health issues often arise. The cement provides the hard surface which is required in order to get wounds to close.
There are many old deciduous trees with nice ramification and twiggyness (is that a real word?) at the nursery. Good technique, good leaf quality and lots of time are all important factors in achieving this type of ramification. I sure hope we see more of this in the US over time.
Besides from looking at all the trees at the nursery, I always enjoyed peeking under the benches in search for pots! While the most expensive were kept inside the house. There were still tons of pots under every bench and many were really good quality.
Some of the benches were built like this one below with no nails or screws, all joint work. I'd really like to do something like this in my garden some day.
In addition to the main section of nursery, there is also a growing field near by. The growing field is full of trees that are still far from being in a state of being shown, but lots of great project trees.
The first tree I worked on was selected from the field above. There were maybe fifty or so trees similar to the one below in the field. This red pine was a good pick for practicing wiring, styling, bending and selecting the best front. I received a ton of help on each project I worked on at Aichi-En. Generally, Juan would give me pointers throughout and then help me to make adjustments to improve the overall final appearance.
A couple challenges with this tree are that Red Pines are known to snap and break easily. The other issue is the straight sections in the trunk line. In general I wanted to avoid vertical and horizontal trunk lines in order to create the best possible movement and flow. To achieve this I wrapped the areas of the branches and trunk line that we ended up bending.
Here's a couple pictures messing with different planting angles. Which do you like better?
In order to bend down the tallest branch growing up, we used a jack, stainless steel wire and a stainless steel screw in the trunk. The jack helps to compress the branch/trunk at a slow and even speed, while the wire was tightened to hold it into place. I gave the jack three slow half turns at a time, watching and listening.
Here's the final result for the day with the foliage wired into place. We decided to keep the branch growing straight up past the apex for the health of the tree and as a plan B in case the main branch we bent ended up dying from breaking it. I did get a small crack when bending the apex and after that point we did not bend it down any further. I was told that if the plastic rope is applied very tightly around the bent area keeping everything in place, then when you hear one small crack the chances are very good that the branch/trunk will live. However, if we went further and broke the branch more the chances of living would be drastically reduced.
At the end of my second night I did some exploring and walked all around the hotel. While I could be totally off, the streets of Nagoya made me feel very safe and relaxed. I checked out a few different shops and a Pachinko Center which is basically like a slot machine area in a casino, but on steroids. I found a small udon shop near by, sat down and pointed at a picture of what I wanted on the wall. It was a very nice way to end the day.
Thanks for checking this out! I've got a ton more pictures so expect more soon.