Daytrip to Yamanashi

In early December I joined Oyakata and Yusuke on a trip to a clients. The client lives in Yamanashi which is about a 3 hour drive from Obuse towards Tokyo. Our mission was to move all the clients trees from his yard into a small workshop where they stay for the winter months. I was very excited to get to go on this trip because it’s not often that I get to go to a client’s house for work, normally it’s just Yusuke being he is the only apprentice with a driving license. Along the way I saw some beautiful scenery and took many pictures which I will share with you.

Yusuke buying our breakfast tickets

First stop was a rest area for breakfast. This is a ticket machine that has a picture of all the different types of foods you can order. Once you see the one you want, you put you money in the machine, pick your meal and a ticket pop out. You then take this ticket to a counter where someone collects it and makes your order. I find this a little strange. It seems like it would much easier to just tell the person behind the counter what you want and just skip the whole ticket process. Maybe the cooks just get tired of taking orders from grumpy people who haven’t had their morning coffee! If that’s the case, the ticket process makes more sense.

View of Lake Suwa with breakfast

The rest stop overlooks the town of Suwa which surrounds this large lake, Lake Suwa. Great view to have over breakfast! Later on that day we drove back through Suwa and I got some closer views of the lake. It seems like a cozy little town and I would recommend my parents to go visit it for the day if they were ever to come visit me.

Japanese Motorcycle Gang

At one point I was about to nod off when I heard a loud rumbling coming up from behind the van. It was a Japanese motorcycle gang. They were all riding Yamaha and Kawasaki bikes. Oyakata said that Japanese motorcycle enthusiasts like, but don’t often have Harley Davidson’s. For some reason they just don’t look as cool as Americans do on them as they are much larger bikes.

Next up, the sight I had been waiting for all morning…

Mt. Fuji

 About halfway to Yamanashi we could begin to see the top of Mt. Fuji. It was a perfectly clear morning with no clouds in the sky. Yusuke was driving the van at this point and every time I went to take a picture he would slow down about 15 mph helping me to get a better shot. I think he quit doing that after my tenth picture! One of my hopes is that before I leave Japan I can hike to the top of Fuji and see the sunrise. It’s supposedly a long and tough hike, but I imagine the view from the top is worth it.

Minami Alps from Yamanashi

The town that this client lives in is known for the grapes that are grown here. I am told that they are some of the best in Japan.

When we got to the client’s house, we went straight to the workshop and began cleaning. In the picture above, that is half of the area where his bonsai are kept. The other half has 3 benches which hold some of the larger trees. You can see in the upper left corner there is a structure which holds a shade cloth. His maples are placed here and in the hot days of summer the cloth is pulled over them for protection.

Inside workshop, storage area prepped.

We placed plastic tarps over this area so that when the trees are watered, the excess would run off the table. We started placing trees in the far end first with larger trees on the back row.

Each tree carefully placed and positioned.

This tree received top prize at a past Kokufu exhibition

This is about 1/3 of the client's pot collection. I wonder whats inside the boxes?

We put up this bench to hold more bonsai. As you can see there is plenty of windows for sunlight to enter and support the trees through the winter months.

Not all the trees were big. Another Kokufu Prize winner.

After Oyakata was satisfied with the placement of the trees, we did a little more cleaning and tidying up then had tea with the client and left. The whole process only took a little over 2 hours.


We stopped at this rest stop for lunch. Though most people in Japan don’t celebrate Christmas and the stores and TV are not pumping plastic snow down everyone’s mouth, as it is back home, I did occasionally see decorations.

When we got inside the rest stop and made our way to the restaurant, there was a showcase at the front door showing the different meals you can order. My eyes shot to a particular one imdeiately….you could say it was love at first sight!

I'll have THAT one!!!!

After we had  our lunch we were back on the road. Oyakata knows every little shop that sells bonsai and antiques in our area of Japan, so on our way back we stopped by a little nursery that was located on top of a sushi restaurant. It was a fairly small collection but occasionally he will have a nice pot or a tree that Oyakata sees potential in.

Ezo Forest

 I saw this Ezo forest above and though it was cool. As I took a closer look at it, I noticed one end that looked as if this forest was originally a branch from a larger tree.

We left without buying anything but there was a nice antique Chinese pot I liked a lot. But at around $1200 it was a little out of my price range that day. Oh well…not the first time it has happened! We made our way back home passing through the town of Suwa and round the lake that lies in the middle of the town.

In the distance you can see the highway that we took earlier that morning on our way to Yamanashi.

A swan shaped ship on Suwa Lake...

It was a long day, but well worth it. I had fun seeing new places and as always seeing new trees. As we made our way around the lake and out of the town I managed to snap one last shot before I nodded off in my seat…

Thanks for reading and stayed tuned…more adventures to come soon!

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12 Responses to Daytrip to Yamanashi

  1. Bill Valavanis says:

    I enjoy your posts! Please keep them up.

    What was the name of the client, Murata?


  2. tim burke says:

    thanks tyler, good to have you back on line, keep the posts coming, i love to here about the day to day over there. how is your japanese?

    • tylersherrod says:

      Tim, its been nice to have access to the outside world again! My Japanese is getting better everyday. I’m not fluent by any means, but I know just enough to be dangerous! Ask me again this time next year and hopefully I will be able to tell you that I am fluent! Thanks for visiting the blog!

  3. Jeremiah Lee says:

    Awesome Adventure indeed! Thanks for sharing, what a collection?!!! Really enjoy seeing the pictures and reading your stories.

  4. bonsai eejit says:

    Great post, love to see life in Japan.

  5. Sam Edge says:

    Tyler I wonder if by paying the machine the owner doesn’t have to worry about money going into the pockets of employees? Also likely cuts down on wrong orders since what you want is on the ticket. We saw these on our last trip as well. Reminds me of diners in the 1930s with the food windows. Pay and open the glass door and grab your lunch.

  6. Janet Roth says:

    Mas once told me that often those places with machines are part of a chain (even seemingly small local places) – and yes as Sam surmises it is a way for the owner to watch the money. I suspect that it also helps, as Sam suggests, with the order processing, and maybe for keeping good track of what what people are buying so you can tailor your menu and your buying.

    • tylersherrod says:

      Janet, it is a smart system indeed, just a little impersonal. It may be a little more difficult to get a good meal suggestion from these machines, but since my japanese is a little rough, the pictures do help! Thanks!

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