Archive for April, 2013

Tea room

Posted: April 30, 2013 in Japan
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Over the last few day’s a family friend of the Tanaka’s has started to build a new tea room here at Aichi-en. Oyakata has been helping out and along with some occasional manual labour from the apprentice’s it seems to be going well. There is a tea room here already at Aichi-en which, is next to the workshop and where I spend the majority of my time here. An effort is made to keep it clean but, you can’t seem to get away from that akadama dust. It just gets everywhere and hence the why the new one is being built. I’m going to miss the rest of its construction with my departure which, is a little disappointing but, I look forward to seeing it completed when I return. Here it is so far.
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It was kind of hard to get any decent pictures with the tree’s and stuff in the way but, I hope you get the idea.

Thanks for reading.

Well it’s not all kokufu tree’s & green tea and yesterday was preparing fertilising day. We use rapeseed here because it’s cheap and Oyakata buys it straight from where it is pressed, cutting out the middle man. The job of the apprentices is to load a spoon full of the rapeseed into tea bags then fold the end to seal it in. With two people it’s very quick.
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We did eight trays in total which, was twenty short of three thousand tea bags. It sounds bad and a boring job but, it was kind of relaxing in a way. Once you get your head down and get on with it time flies by. That will do for one fertilising anyway.

We started to place the bags on today once we had some more bamboo sticks. Depending on the size of tree we put more or less bags. Up to six.

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Thanks for reading.

The moment of truth..

Posted: April 25, 2013 in Japan
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Well, tonight whilst sat down after dinner in the workshop, I got the news that I was hopeing for. I have been excepted to do an apprenticeship here at Aichi-en in Japan.
After some discussion, the plan is that I will return home as planned next week to sort out some thing’s at home and I shall return in June to start my first year here.
I’d like to thank everyone for there continuing support and help in my journey to get here.

Thank you.

Nagoya castle

Posted: April 24, 2013 in Japan
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It was a really wet day today so we were given the morning off to go to Nagoya castle. Nagoya castle was built-in the 16th century and has a long history. I’m not going to go into all of that because this post would take forever but, check it out in Wikipedia if your interested.

The castle

The castle

I’ve seen pictures of Japanese castles before and I thought it would be big but, I still couldn’t believe the size of it.

The moat

The moat


Massive stone in one of the walls

Massive stone in one of the walls


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Wisteria in the grounds

Wisteria in the grounds

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White camellia tree

White camellia tree

The castle was famous for a white camellia but at some point or another it was lost and this is the replacement.

A model of the castle and Nagoya back in it's hay day. It's changed a bit now!

A model of the castle and Nagoya back in its hay day. It’s changed a bit now!


Views from the top of the castle to prove it's changed!

Views from the top of the castle to prove it’s changed!


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Back during the war the castle and a lot of the surrounding builds got destroyed. The castle has been re-built and the rest is a work in progress.

Some foundation stones of a building that got destroyed.

Some foundation stones of a building that got destroyed.

A new section that has been re-built.

A new section that has been re-built.

Golden Dolphin

Golden Dolphin

And finally a replica of one of the golden dolphin’s that reside on the top of the Castle. They are pretty famous and were/are (?) made of gold. They have been melted down several times and made smaller in hard times in Japan.

Thanks for reading.

Pint sized

Posted: April 21, 2013 in Japan
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Recently whilst emailing a good friend, the subject turned to shohin bonsai and what tree’s were here at Aichi-en. Aichi-en isn’t known for it’s shohin bonsai like some nurseries, which specialise on them. Even though Aichi-en have more bigger tree’s, it has a good mixture of all sizes. I had a walk about the nursery this morning and grabbed a few pic’s which, I sent to my friend. I thought I’d share them here as well. These tree’s range from shohin to slightly larger kifu size.
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Thanks for reading.

Well the day started off pretty normally, till I just started to work (de-needling/trimming a pine) and then it was decided that we were to spray the tree’s this morning (that’s the cool thing here you never know what the day will be like exactly). I say we, it was down to me and Peter. Everything was sprayed from the garden trees to the accent plants. Here’s a picture of the setup.

The setup

The setup

It’s a simple setup of a petrol (gas) pump, a hose and a vat full of potions mixed with water. Their were three components to the mixture, a fungicide (daconil), a pesticide (no idea what exactly) and a kind of soap designed for the job. The aim is mostly to kill aphids and spider mites at this time of the year. Peter told me at different times of the year, different chemicals are used for different pests.
Thip’s are a big nuisance here. When a de-leafed deciduous tree has got its second fresh new leaves in the summer they are very susceptible to thrips and if they get attacked badly the tree will be stalled for the rest of the year.

Peter spaying

Peter spaying

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My job consisted of navigating the hose (making sure it didn’t get tangled or caught up and that there was plenty of slack) round the garden. We went from north to south, up and down the aisle’s, doing both sides of each tree. It took two drum full’s (I think their 10 gallon but, I could be mistaken) and pretty much the whole morning.

Back home we are lucky enough not to have such aggressive insect attacks and we can get away with more spray on sight policy. So it’s more of occasional skirmishes rather than full on warfare. On the other hand our growing season/lack of summer (that’s when you get lots of sun and warmth, for anyone back home if they can’t remember) means the tree’s don’t grow so well. Win some.. lose some.. I guess…

By the way we the last few day’s have had highs of twenty-two degrees centigrade and fifteen at night if anyone was wondering back home.

Thanks for reading.

As I mentioned yesterday Oyakata kindly bid on a lot at the auction for me and won it. I think it was a close run thing because the seller pushed the price up and I think he wanted more. Oyakata stuck with my maximum bid and an agreement was made at that price.

The item I won is a chuhin size Suzuki Syuzan pot which is a Japanese, fairly modern pot maker. Syuzan is a very high quality pot maker who made pots in Nagoya. For that reason I thought it would be fitting to buy one as a momento of my trip to Aichi-en. The pots are considered such high quality that they are used along with Chinese antiques in Kokufu. For more information about Syuzan pots please refur to Peter Tea’s and Ryan Bell’s website’s.

Some nice patina on the pot.

Some nice patina on the pot.

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The chop

The chop

Well this isn’t actually my second purchase because when I came to pay Oyakata this morning he said that the first pot was a gift and I only had to pay the difference. Which was very kind of him and I’m very grateful. He’s a great guy, I feel very lucky to be here at this nursery and it only makes me hope more that I can get a position here at Aichi-en.

Thanks for reading.

8th Auction

Posted: April 8, 2013 in Bonsai Auction, Japan

Toady was an early start with breakfast at 6:00. After breakfast we had an hours drive to get to the 8th auction. It’s called the 8th auction because it is on the 8th of every month. However, this auction was a special one because it was the 50th anniversary and there were more people, more lots and people had driven from further away to come.

Normally the auction lasts for about four hours but, this one started at 10:00 and didn’t finish till 7:30ish. We then had to load up/help others load up and also tidy the place up and didn’t leave till gone 9:00.

As an apprentice (or at least an acting apprentice for now) I was helping out by carrying the lots sold all day and placing them by the buyers allotted number/space with the other apprentices/helpers.

Auctions in Japan are different to what they are like in the UK. Instead of the auctioneer building the cost up by a certain amount or percentage for each bid, the bidders call out what the wish to bid raising what they like till there is a highest bid.
There also isn’t have a reserve system. Instead the owner can bid themselves raising the cost as much as they want. Occasionally it can be quite close to what the seller wants and what the bidder wants to pay. There is some discussion and an agreement is often made. If not some lot’s are unsold which, happens in every auction.

The items that were mainly there were trees. Some plants/accents, rocks, some display items like tables, scrolls and a fair few pots. Oh, and a fridge! What bonsai auction wouldn’t be complete without a fridge?

The lots before selling

The lots before selling

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Some rocks

Some rocks

Proof of the fridge!

Proof of the fridge!

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The auction in full flow

The auction in full flow

Oyakata kindly bided for me on an item and fortunately we won it but, more about that at a later date. Really could do with some sleep right now.

Thanks for reading.

It’s been about a week now and it’s been tough/hard work in some ways but, I was prepared for it, I love it and wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s made me a little lazy on the posting front I have to say which I’m sorry for but, I can understand why some Apprentice’s with blog’s don’t post that often.

I made my first purchase today which was a pot. I had been pretty good till now but, I really couldn’t help myself. When I started out in bonsai my focus was always about the tree’s and I wasn’t really interested in the pot’s they were in. Later as I began to understand more about the tree and pot coming together to become one and harmonise (The pot making the tree and vice versa). I started to appreciate them a lot, to the point that I love them just as much as I do the tree’s now.

The pot I’ve bought is a Chinese pot. Chinese pots get a really bad press from all the mass market rubbish that those cheap Chinese elms come in but, if you didn’t know already a huge amount of the trees exhibited in the top shows in Japan are in antique Chinese pots. The Japanese believe if you have a quality old tree you need a quality old pot to put it in which, I totally understand.

The pot I have bought isn’t an antique but, it is a shinto high quality pot which was made in the 60’s. If I remember rightly the Chinese had a surge of making high quality pots around that time up to the 80’s.

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I really love the glaze on this pot which, I’ve seen pictures of this kind of glaze in pictures of Chinese pots. The glaze goes all round the bottom of the pot and on the feet which only signifies the effort and quality gone in to the pot. Also the indentation in the bottom of the pot and that it’s not just flat I think is another quality sign.
There is a good amount of patina forming on the pot from the last 50 years or so which really gives it an aged look.
The pot is a real useful size for a large shohin. I don’t have a tape measure handy unfortunately so can’t give exact measurements.
I don’t have any trees lined up for it but, I’m sure it will find a partner at some point. It quite easily could be used with many different types tree’s (maples, elms, flowering tree’s, etc).
I’m unsure how frost resistant it will be in the UK despite it’s quality and I don’t think I would really risk it to be honest. It will be used as an exhibition pot and not as a permanent home for a tree back in the UK.

Theirs a bonsai auction tomorrow, I’m running and I need my beauty sleep.

Thanks for reading.

Aichi-en

Posted: April 2, 2013 in Japan
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I got stuck in straight away when I got to Aichi-en helping to re-pot some big maples so, had little time to take some photo’s. However I took some photo’s around the nursery this morning with my iPad. I’ve brought my camera but, you know when you go away and theirs always one thing you forget. Well I left my battery charger behind.. Sigh.

Here some pictures of the nursery.

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A few random tree’s.

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Quite an interesting style trident

Quite an interesting style trident

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Cute shohin trident

Cute shohin trident


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Massive Chinese quince

Massive Chinese quince


Really stocky ume/apricot. Which Oyakata re-potted yesterday. It's never flowered yet.

Really stocky ume/apricot. Which Oyakata repotted yesterday. It’s never flowered yet.


Huge needle juniper

Huge needle juniper


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One of the maples I helped to re-pot yesterday

One of the maples I helped to re-pot yesterday

Awesome dwarf hinoki/chirimen. Khufu size. I'd love this one.

Awesome dwarf hinoki/chirimen. Khufu size. I’d love this one.

This is a persimmon for my mentor/John Trott back home. I believe this is the same variety as one he has which, he is trying to find out what kind of persimmon it is exactly. I will ask Oyakata about it when I have a chance.
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This black pine was part of today’s work.

Before

Before

It involved plucking needles down to five pairs on every shoot and removing excess shoots were there were more than two shoots. This weakens the tree with an aim to balance the growth and opens it up so light & air can reach the inner branches.

After

After