Within a week, we had three birthdays at Aichi-en. Aiki (center/oldest)March 30th, Yoshiki (right/middle) April 4th, Hiyu (left/youngest) April 6th. Here is a shot of all three of Mr. Tanaka’s kids together for Aiki’s Birthday.
Since the last couple of post I’ve wrote as been pretty heavy on Bonsai, I thought I’d lighten it up this time around. As I scrolled through the photos I’ve taken this last month, I’ve decided to pool some of the random ones out and share them with you. Also, I’ll touch upon some of the things I did during, “Golden Week,” in Japan, plus a little R&R time with a customer.
Golden Week happens every year in Japan and is pretty much a group of holidays lumped together into about 9 days during the end of April and the beginning of May. This is also the time of year where many workers get paid vacation or at least take it a little easy. I was sitting in the workshop when Mr. Tanaka pointed out the Golden Week dates, then quickly added that Golden Week is meaningless to Bonsai professionals because we work everyday (awwww…). If you would like to know a bit more details about Golden Week in general you can click here to visit our good friends at Wikipedia. Here are some of the things I did during that week.
The first thing I did during Golden Week was clean up the walkway! Mr. Tanaka laid out this stone path about 3 years ago and now wants to add cement to fill in the gaps. In the gaps were a variety of small rocks/dirt and weeds. I was on hands and knees cleaning the gaps out in preparation for the cementing.
We then took the K-trunk to the hardware store and picked up some dry cement. I would have to say that no matter how hard or dirty the work is, Mr. Tanaka is always there working just as hard as I am.
Once we got the cement into the gaps, we thoroughly washed the walkway with water to remove the excess cement and solidify the remaining cement. Here’s what the walkway looked like after it dried a bit. Now it’s nice and clean and we don’t have to worry about weeds growing there anymore! I guess it’s really a plus for me. ;o)
The following day we set up this pole and flag. The pole itself is about 7 meters long. The last day of Golden Week is Children’s Day and it’s customary to put up these fish flags. The top flag is just a colorful design flag whereas the lower three flags represents the father, mother and children. (I must have stood there for 15 minutes looking up at the flags waiting for the wind to catch it just right to get this photo) We had this pole up for about two more weeks after.
This is a large ceramic turtle that is positioned along the stone walkway. I looked down at it and it looked up at me and we felt connected for a few seconds. Kind of like when you look at someone and you can tell they’re thinking the same thing as you are? For me and the turtle it was, “we’re going to be here for awhile…”
Here at Aichi-en, May is the time to defoliate our maples. Here’s Mr. Tanaka defoliating a large multi trunk Japanese Maple. Normally we cut off the large leaves and one leaf from a pair of leaves. Sometimes I forget how big some of the trees are seeing them outside . Once they’re in the workshop, is when I realize just how big they are.
As I was defoliating a Trident Maple, this lizard jumped out and tried to Bite Me! Well, not really, it just came out and looked at me. I guess it was wondering what all the commotion was about. Amazingly, the lizard stayed in the tree during the whole defoliation. When I put the tree back on the bench, the lizard was still in it! Perhaps it’s use to seeing me all the time. On Trident maples, we normally defoliate every leaf that is on the exterior of the tree.
One Saturday morning I was sitting in the workshop drinking a cup of coffee when Mr. Tanaka walks in and says, “Let’s go!” I quickly got up to leave and it turns out we were going to a big annual antique show. For those that recognize the building, it’s the same building that Meifu-ten is held in.
What’s A Monkey Park?
During the last days of Golden week, I was sitting with Mr. Tanaka during Breakfast just like any other day and he says, “Today we’re taking the children to the Monkey park and you’re coming too.” I was like, “um… What’s a monkey park?”
It turns out it’s a childrens theme park that is half primate preserve and half amusement park.
It’s Not Always Bonsai Work with the Customer, Though it is Still Work
In Japan, sometimes the customer will invite us out to do different thing from a evening dinner to a special activity such as fishing. It’s sort of their way of saying thank you for all the work we’ve done for them. It doesn’t stop there though, because there’s a much deeper meaning to the invite. It’s a combination of friendship and their feelings of obligation to take care of the bonsai artist that makes Bonsai available to the public. This was Mr. Tomomatsu’s way of supporting the art community and motivating us to continue what we do. It’s sort of a support your local art program type of thing.
Since invitations from customers have such a deep meaning, we as proffessionals (and apprentices) have an obligation to accept and to enjoy what the customer is giving us. When the customer sees that we’re having a good time, they are even more satisfied and happy.
So Mr. Tanaka and I got up at 3am, and by 5:30am we were out in the open seas fishing with Mr. Tomomatsu, Mr. Fujiwara and Mr. Tanaka (the weekday helper at Aichien).
This is one of the rare times where I get to wear my sunglasses in Japan. Just about nobody in Japan wears sunglasses. Apprentices especially can’t wear them because it makes them too, “cool,” as Mr. Tanaka would put it. Here’s me in action! Turns out I just got my hook snagged on something. For awhile there, I thought I got something big!
Unbeknownst to me at the time, this Red Sea Bream was to be the only fish I caught that day. Interesting fact about this fish is that it is a prized fish in Japan. It is normally served at celebrations and festive occasions. It was a little late in the season to catch these fish but I guess I was lucky.
Well, after about 8 hours of fishing, these were all the fish we caught (I say we loosely since I did only caught one fish). As you can imagine, there was a lot of fish lunches and dinners in the following days. Mostly, sashimi which was great! It was a good day.
Well, there you have it. A little bit more of the things I’m doing in Japan. It’s mostly work for sure but we get to have fun here and there. Thanks for coming along for the ride!
I’ll end this post with this photo of Mr. Tanakas pot. One of the highest quality Japanese Antique pots I’ve seen so far. It also has a great deal of patina on it as well (the pot is actually red). Mr. Tanaka commented that, “this pot is almost too good to sell!” Hahaha, almost…
Thanks for reading.
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