Welcome to the Saruyama Blog, intermittent and generally off topic. Occasionally you might see some trees...and weird ones at that.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

There are times...

When you wonder what the hell you are doing. It is 4.30 am and I am sat in a service station outside of Kyoto waiting for the sun to rise. We have just driven from Tokyo, stopping half way to try and squeeze ten trees in to a space that can only take eight. An hour of rearranging and shifting valuable trees around, including a recent prime minister's award winner and there was no solution to the puzzle...other than to take two cars.

I often wonder how there are not more accidents involving bonsai, but it all seems to work.

Tomorrow sees the setting up of the Taikanten and for the first time ever, I am helping to take trees along. It will be an interesting experience I'm sure. Pictures available somewhere on line if someone sneaks a camera in.

I've been in Japan less than a week but it feels like a lifetime ago that I was at home. A fairly packed schedule was made even more hectic with an unxpected trip to Osaka for a large shohin auction...as in the auction was large, not the shohin.

It was an interesting experience, the price of trees fluctuates from year to year and I was suprised at how cheap some things were, and the price of things I thought would be cheap. No doubt next year the autumn winds will blow and it will be reversed.

I managed to pick up a few things including one for myself, but as always with auctions its the ones that got away which I remember...as Jim Bowen used to say, look at what you could have won...

A genuine yamadori shohin juniper....which sadly went just a little bit more than I was prepared to pay. My left kidney has already been mortgaged, so...I had to say goodbye.

If the gods had smiled on me, I could have made this little bad boy from both sides as they were equally as beautiful. I love the idea of trees without fronts, or rather the viewer and creator not being fixated by one singular front. There are a good number of trees out there that look good in pictures taken from a specific height and directly from the front...but when you see them in real life, it looks somewhat different. Masterpiece trees should look good from any viewing angle, not just where the three bits of wire line up. Often when I am doing a demo, I will talk about design options, good points, bad points etc, then start working on the tree...invariable the first question will be, where is the front?

Creating a tree is an organic and fluid process and over time, especially with raw stylings, the front may change slightly, 5 degrees here, 10 degrees there. If we start to become fixated on a front because we stuck a marker in there then the process becomes less fluid and more static. If the tree decides to grow in a different way than we would hope, or our technique causes terminal branch faliure, then we need to change direction slightly. As long as we are there or thereabouts on the first styling and repotting, then no major root work needs to be done to change the front by 10 degrees in any direction or orientation.

Dont take what I have said as meaning you shouldn't have a front to a tree, there is always a viewing angle which is better to look at and that is the one which should be presented to the viewer. What I mean is don't forget the other sides, look to create branching structure that looks good alround.

Anyway...it's all change at the Chief's again, Yannick Kiggen is back for more, he will hopefully be starting a proper apprenticeship if he can get a visa. Hopefully it will be longer than two years because lets face it, in two years you only scratch the surface and the scars begin to heal over, it isnt until the scars are so deep that they last forever and you never forget...(stares off into the distance)

I wish Yannick all the luck in the world, he has already made a good impression, except fr the other day when he forgot to water a maple...so in honour of this new beginning...let's play....

"It's a lot / it's a lot like life...forget all about equality"

I should sleep more really shouldn't I...


  1. Yes you should :-)

  2. yes , but sleep at the right time !! as always what you tell us is really interesting ,,, but often at odds with how we might imagine things are in that neck of the woods,
    pity you didn't get that shohin , Mr Greedy will soon be going for smaller trees the way he feels just now !

  3. Yep, I've had my eye on that shohin Shimpaku from Mikunien for quite some time. I liked it better in the smaller pot...probably removed to a cheaper piece for auction? Retail was 100k yen. What did it go for at auction Peter?

  4. O well Peter you never know where that shohin may turn up in the future ;)