Posts Tagged ‘Kuromatsu’

Not every body knows but, Aichi-en has two plots of the nursery a couple of blocks apart. The second area which is least know, we refer as the field. It contains very low concrete benches and a little growing bed area. Most of the tree’s there are very raw, in development or just too big too fit on the nursery. They are watered and mainly taken care of by Mr Tanaka’s mother and acts as an overflow. Recently a Chinese buyer bought about ten field grown black pines and when we where there loading them on to the truck Mr Tanaka asked us to bring back this tree for me to wire.

Most of the tree’s their are nothing to write home about but, there are a few gem’s amongst it all. This tree is one that me and Juan had eyed up a long time ago because we knew that it had some potential to make a nice tree one day. It’s an old collected tree but, still very raw and reminded a little of the collected material back in Europe.

The main feature of the tree is the old shari on the trunk and this is what I wanted to show in styling.

To start off I pulled needles and cleaned the inside of the sabamiki to see what branches & structure I have to use.

I removed a few ‘definate don’t need branches’ and looked at both sides. Either of them could be made both having plus and negative points. In the end though I went with my initial gut choice and what I believed would make the best tree in the future.

Somewhere around this and having made the decision I gave Martín the all clear to remove a big branch going up.

If I had chosen the opposite side as a front then this would have been the main branch, which was one of the main plus sides of using the other side, it being thicker and older branch. Using this side though, it was useless and had to go.

I then set about wiring the branches into place. It wasn’t the easiest of styling’s, with young branches black pine can be very brittle but, they are strong and can handle a few small breaks.

Finally with an up-potting here was the initial styling result.

It’s still very raw and has a very long was to go but, I hope it’s a step in the right direction and on its way to being a bonsai one day.

As I was taking the final picture a happy geisha came to view the tree to my surprise, just like you see in pictures of exhibitions in Japan!


The yearly maintenance on black pines/kuromatsu (Candle cutting, needle pulling and any necessary thinning) has been going on now for a short while as we start pretty early at Aichi-en. We start with the biggest and work are way down to the smallest over the span of a month.

This is the second tree that I did this year.

 And after work.

There are many tree’s at Aichi-en, from recently purchased to the span of the nurseries existence.  This tree actually falls close to being here from the very beginning, one of the longest here and has seen all four generations of Aichi-en. From Mr Tanaka’s great-grandfather’s time, it’s been here for one hundred years. Originally a collected tree (yamadori) it was styled and designed by him. The shari isn’t actually original and was made by Mr Tanaka’s great-grandfather though, to look at it now you really couldn’t tell. 

This tree actually features in Mr Tanaka’s grandfathers book from twenty years ago. Recently an apprentice here decided to go home and Mr Tanaka kindly gave us a copy each.

 This book contains some pictures of old Aichi-en tree’s, some of which  were made here & still are here today and some that have been sold or no longer with us. 

This is the same black pine by, twenty years ago.

The tree has in fact not been changed or re-styled since. It does though gradually naturally fall slowly in the pot over time. Each time it’s re-potted it is re-angled back up but, it continues to gradually fall and hence the current picture angle of the tree. The tree has got wider/more full and although it’s not really visible from the photo’s the thickness of the bark has changed significantly. As Mr Tanaka said (as I made this observation) twenty years is a long time and tree’s develop a lot.

This is a picture of Mr Tanaka’s grandfather at the time of the book making.

This is a picture of the first two generations of Aichi-en. Mr Tanaka’s great grandfather and grandfather.
It was nice to hear some stories behind some of the tree’s here at Aichi-en the other day whilst looking at the book with Mr Tanaka. With such a long history and heritage it is humbling to be a part of it, work with them and as today marks my official date of two years here since my return, after my trial period. It is nice to reflect, be grateful and think what the future holds. An apprenticeship is a marathon to be run daily, with ups and downs, It’s not all good or all bad, happy times and sad times. At the end of the day though I feel that I’m a very lucky person, this is a life changing experience and for certain it’s one of the best things, if not the best thing I’ve done in my life! The future is uncertain but, it certainly is bright.. Onwards and upwards…!!!!

On my return to Japan we have been pretty busy with the past Meifu-ten and The impending Kokufu-ten. Mostly the work has been styling/wiring with the occasional black pine/kuromatsu needle pulling.

I thought I would share a few of tree’s that I have recently wired and they are all black pines.


This is a kifu sized black pine.
I didn’t get round to taking a before picture, I should have done because it wasn’t a bad transformation. The tree was very dense, I pulled all the old needles and thinned out a fair bit before wiring.


Another tree I did was this shohin black pine. Again unfortunately I didn’t get round to taking a before pic. This also was a bit of refinement work for sales.
It is looking a bit yellow here but, has greened up since coming out of the cold for a while.


This is a Kuro is a variety called kotobuki. I have seen these back home and they are known for having very small needle length. In recent years they have risen in price as the Chinese market (with their recent wealth) finds them very desirable.
I believe the origin of the variety was discovered in Takamatsu’s Kokubunji town in the 1970’s by taking a bud and grafting. The variety won’t come true from seed and needs to be grafted.

I can’t take credit of the needle pulling, that was done by Oyakata. After he had studied the tree for a pretty long time he gave it to me to work. I was a little too keen and had laid down the first wire before taking a picture but, It hasn’t been bent here.

This was the tree after I finished wiring and styling.


It is a shame that this tree doesn’t really have a lower back branch, it is the one thing that it is really missing. Saying that I don’t think it turned out too bad. The four branches all had to be bent down. With three of them it was possible to do by hand with a little brute strength and a guy wire but, the second one on the right needed the jack to bring it down. With the second branch on the left I decided to split it into two separate pads as it naturally did this with its structure and I thought it would help to give the tree a little more depth as it only has four branches and an apex.

This picture was before Oyakata corrected. I haven’t taken a picture after, since the only corrections made were a couple of tweaks at the back, lowering a couple of small branches.

That’s it for now. Off to Tokyo to set up our Kokufu baiten to Tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll have a few pics to share. Thanks for reading.