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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!