Thursday, May 02, 2013

Apprenticing at Shunkaen - Day 1

I was expected, so they walked me with my luggage straight to my room, the old kitchen that they no longer use. Then the crew from a local paper seized the opportunity to interview me shortly, and then it was time to get to work. I de-leaved a plum, de-flowered an azalea, and then I got to thin and trim a japanese black pine, which took me most of the day and all evening.

It all felt surprisingly unceremonious. You walk through the door and pof! - you're part of the team. We have still to discuss the practical issues, especially of the monetary kind. I'm also not yet sure if I'll be able to get a visa for the period I'm hoping for, until October. I'd like to stay until next spring, especially with all the exhibitions during the winter, but my plants at home would face fairly certain death if I don't return.

Apparently, 10 pm is when all the magic happens. I felt pretty much finished with my work on the black pine when 'Oyakata', our master Mr. Kunio Kobayashi came into the studio to inspect. "hm, yeah looks good enough" he said, turned the tree almost 90 degrees to it's side, pulled out the BIG branch-cutter and tore away, cutting off perhaps two thirds of the foliage in big chunks. It's safe to say I was a bit surprised. Or to put it this way, I had been working on a millimeter scale for hours, pondering which bud to cut, while he chopped away at a decimeter scale, transforming the tree in about 15 minutes. He said he also changed the tree from a common and unsurprising piece to something much more interesting, expecting a four-fold increase in it's value. He never said so, but it was fairly clear that instead of chopping it down right away, I was given the chance to practice some thinning first. Pretty cool for a first day.

And now that I have found a spot with some wi-fi, I feel pretty well settled in.

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