From my experience back home there is quite a romantic view of apprentice/deshi life in Japan. I’m sure this is true but, as I was told by my Sempai, it comes more after your apprenticeship. The reality is that it is hard work and you are completely at the mercy of your Oyakata. Obviously you have a choice whether you are here but, that is about your only choice. You have to do as your told, shower when your told, have days off when your told (with the Japanese work ethic, that’s not often) and your actions are accountable to your Oyakata so, even on your days off, he should know what your up to (to a certain degree). Basically giving up your freedom and doing your time, eating rice for up to 5 years.
There are many trials & tribulations and certainly not all you do will be working on bonsai tree’s. It could well be anything from cleaning floors to washing cars.
You will be pushed, tested and pressure will increase to perform.
A lot does depend on where you apprentice and who your Oyakata is. Some places are unpaid and hours vary (maybe 6:00 to late at night at times).
If you work hard, try your best and do as your told you can’t go too wrong.
However it is probably one of the best place to learn and become a good bonsai artist. People should be aware though, that just because someone comes to Japan to learn it doesn’t make them good. Not all people who do an apprenticeship, Japanese or foreign (even for five years) actually end up really talented and people should be wary of this looking to artists when the return. Also be aware of blogs etc, where they don’t show their Oyakata’s corrections. Everyone gets corrected especially near the beginning of your apprenticeship. Maybe near the end if your good they may do minor or no corrections.
Some people maybe wondering why I’m going on about this. The reason is that Oyakata asked us if we could try to find some apprentice/s for Daiju-en (where he apprenticed) and I didn’t want to paint apprentice life to be something that it isn’t.
Daiju-en has a pretty traditional apprentice life, with weeding in the morning, unpaid, the gate is locked early evening, the tree’s are big and heavy etc. So, It’s not the easiest place to apprentice but, the Oyakata (Suzuki San) is a very generous person and the family is really nice. The nursery is very famous/prestigious, it’s the birth place of the zuisho white pine and most of the tree’s their, are pines.
Daiju-en photo’s courtesy of Juan.
So, if you are a committed, driven, passionate about bonsai, hard-working person who is looking to do an apprenticeship then, please contact me with a comment or email (email@example.com).
Up next will up a post on three red pines I have worked on.
Thanks for reading.