Many trees we worked on were kept at the nursery, but Mitsuyasan regularly traveled to beautiful cities such as Kanazawa and Odawara to work on client trees which are maintained in the owners' gardens.
The bonsai master logged many kilometers on his van each year as he traversed the country. Mitsuyasan's longest drive was the sixteen-hour excursion to Aomori.
With all that mileage, it's not at all surprising that Mitsuyasan purchased a new van every two or three years. Unfortunately, I was living on the premises when one such was delivered to our doorstep.
In a sincere effort to maintain the van's new, pristine look, Mitsuyasan decided to throw an old carpet over the new one in the back of the van where the trees would be transported. Actually, the unstained and unfaded old carpet didn't look all that used. I was told to retrieve a bat and swing at the vertically held carpet to bang the dirt and dust off before fitting it to the van. Little did they know I was the Babe Ruth of bonsai. So swing I did – only to put the bat right through the carpet.
After my frozen stance thawed out, I picked my jaw off the ground, turned to Okusan (Mrs. Mitsuya), and said sumimasen ("I'm sorry"). Her response was to laugh continuously as she squeaked out a daijobu ("it's okay") or two. Once we had recovered our composure from my latest escapade, we fitted the carpet to the van. The old carpet had been exposed to too much humidity which had rotted the backing. So to trim it, all we had to do was fold the carpet – and it snapped apart.
The red carpet covered and protected the blue one below. When Mitsuyasan came to inspect our work, he pointed to my handiwork – an L-shaped "scar" in the carpet – and had a good laugh. At least my entertainment value remained high. So if you need a pinch hitter, give me a call. But when you're working on bonsai, leave the bat on the field and handle the trees with kid gloves.
In January, I needed to use extra care when handling the nine trees we displayed at the Meifuten Bonsai Show in Nagoya. This was one of the largest shows of the year with more than 200 trees. Our entries needed just a little TLC. The three kuro matsu (black pine) had any dead needles removed. Our other entries – buna (beech), tsubaki (camilia), sugi (cryptomeria), kaede (trident maple), momiji (Japanese maple), and ichoo (ginko) – needed just the surface soil and hachi (pot) cleaned. A few trees needed more koke (moss), so I scrounged around the nursery to locate what I wanted. It took just a couple of hours for this final cleanup and then the trees were ready for the show.
We loaded the van with nine bonsai shoku (stands) and nine accent pieces with appropriate dais. There is an art to carefully cramming outrageous amounts of bonsai-related items into one van, and I took careful notes. But that time, we could only manage to get eight of the trees into the van. Fortunately, Nakatasan, a colleague of Mitsuyasan who also lives in Toyohashi, had space in his van for our orphaned tree.
The setup at this show was a breeze because we were able to drive our van up to the display tables. This was the only show that gave us such a break. This gave me a little extra time to check out the baiten (vending area) that offered trees, pots, suiseki, and iroiro (various) bonsai-related items.
There was also an area where arrays of trees were shown in various stages of development.
There were demonstrations where the owners discussed the history and future plans for the trees, and some even worked on their trees. Maybe there was a future show tree among the group. Finally, I was able to stroll down the aisles and enjoy the splendor of the first major bonsai show of the year.
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