And the war has begun. This morning saw a slightly earlier start so I could press my shirt and slacks and don the formal wear which only gets an occasional airing. It never fails to surprise me how many other professionals stop and say that they have I have scrubbed up well. Its a yearly tradition. I even went so far as to cut my hair incredibly short so I now can do a passable impression of Bonsai Eejit. I added my own twist by keeping my trademark mini-mutton chops slightly longer. Once again, everyone was surprised that I shaved up well, so much so that Taiga Urushibata mentioned it every time he saw me. I smell bromance.
A steady trickle of customers and business throughout the day saw us kept busy. Akiyama did well for the first day and I made a couple of sales which I had been working on for a few days. Many hobbyists may not approve of the financial aspect of bonsai, but as a professional, sales equals being able to pay bills, more sales equals buying material for yourself to work on. Lots of sales....well I will tell you what that equals when I experience it. I've heard it's a nice place. One of the crucially different aspects to my apprenticeship versus the likes of Mike Hagedorn or Ryan Neil's was that from day one I was heavily involved in the sales aspect of things. Going to auction, selling trees to clients, dealing with fellow professionals and so I am able to operate within the Japanese Bonsai community with a fair amount of ease as I was taught the rules and way to behave. Even in Japan, the community is small and everyone knows what everyone is up to, and so bad news travels fast. Reputations can be destroyed with a dodgy deal or two and so it is important not to upset the balance. Pay your dues, don't squeeze the price too low and make sure everyone is happy.
Times are tough in the marketplace and people struggle for sales; the economy, an ageing and ever decreasing number of enthusiasts and the lack of new material make things difficult, yet nothing is being done to rectify the problem. Much like the sketchy yamadori sales in europe, a short term, make money fast approach will end in tears, whereas building a healthy, stable and self sustaining community is the only way forward. This is what is happening in the United States with the formation of the Portland Bonsai Village and the self disciplined yamadori sellers. This coming from the land of hard sell capitalism would make Marx proud, as I often mentioned to the aforementioned Mr. Neil.
There are signs of improvement in Japan but there needs to be more people making trees. I had a long conversation with Akiyama who is trying to decide if he should sink a lot of money into a juniper which will need ten years before it becomes showable. It needs grafting with new foliage and redeveloping and the sum of money required to do that will disappear for a long while. If he had younger clients, he could sell them the dream, but when money is tight and life expectancy is getting shorter where do the priorities lay? Finding something to improve quickly and double the investment, or building a future masterpiece, potentially losing money if the risk doesn't pay off? Sadly there are too many professionals who have moved away from making trees, a cursory glance at a years worth of Kinbon magazine will show ten times less different artist than it did ten or fifteen years ago.
Sadly I didnt take any more pictures today, but I have one from November which is an example of how I feel now, after a long day on my feet. Now I'm waiting to go and meet a client for dinner but I feel like
Over and out. Onwards and upwards