A New Beginning…

A New Beginning…

posted in: Bonsai | 12

Despite the sunny weather here in Osaka, there’s a heavy feeling hovering over today. I’ve been psychologically preparing myself for this day for months, but now that it’s finally here, I realize just how unprepared I actually am.


After nine years and countless life experiences, today is my last day living in Japan.


I thought for this post I’d take a stroll down memory lane, looking back on the past nine years studying and working at Kouka-en in Osaka, if only for my own sake.

In May 2008, after graduating from university in the US, I immediately moved to Osaka at the age of 22 to start my apprenticeship under Keiichi Fujikawa at Kouka-en nursery. I knew very little about the world and very little about bonsai for that matter, but I was ready for the new adventure ahead. Little did I understand at the time that my apprenticeship under Fujikawa-san would have such a profound effect on the way I view the world and operate within it.


Bjorn and Fujikawa-san in May 2008.


Fujikawa-san (whom I’ve come to call Oyakata) had never had an apprentice before I arrived, so it was a learning experience for us both. He spent countless, frustrated hours pounding into me the basics of watering, wiring, styling, and everything else necessary for success in the bonsai world. I remember that first summer in Japan feeling excited, nervous, anxious, and scared every second of everyday, fully expecting to screw up and hear Oyakata say “go home and don’t bother coming back!” Luckily, though, I made it through the fire of that first year unscathed and managed to hold on for eight more years. Throughout my experiences at Kouka-en, I’ve come to understand that an apprenticeship is perhaps less to do with learning bonsai and more to do with learning about one’s self, and it is those lessons that I cherish more than anything from my time here in Japan.



Japan has been the place I’ve called home for nearly a decade now, and leaving comes with all of the baggage (both literal and figurative) that one would expect. Oyakata’s family has become my extended family, and I owe them much for the time and effort they put into my education and growing up while at Kouka-en.



While it’s sad to say goodbye to my life, friends, and extended family here, I know that the road ahead in the US has much to offer, and I’m excited to share that journey with you. My wife, Nanxi, and I will be settling down in the southeast this summer to establish our bonsai nursery and school. We look forward to meeting many of you along that journey, and we thank you for your support!



Bjorn and Fujikawa-san in May 2017.

12 Responses

  1. Dave Martin

    I thank you for the times you have shared with us. It is obvious that there is a close bond between Fujikawa-San and yourself. I wonder if any other nursery owner would have allowed himself to be videoed in a blooper vid, laughing at himself at the same time.
    I wish you Nanzi andall at Kouka-en the very best for the future.



    i wish you the more success possible for your school in hoping one day to study in it
    where will be your school in japan?

  3. Jeff Granger

    What a wonderful learning experience for you in a beautiful country with a great teacher. You have certainly learned the art of Bonsai and I’m sure you will continue your love for the art where ever are. We will be fortunate to have you in the USA .

  4. Rick Brownell

    So enjoyed the article. You had a great opportunity in Japan. Make the best of it here in the US. Best of luck as you share your knowledge here.

  5. Teo

    Thank you Bjorn for sharing your experiences with us, I’ve learned a lot from your videos and I hope to learn a lot and
    from close!!I wish the best for you and your family,from Greece Teo!!

  6. Steve

    Great story so far Bjorn! Would love to hear more when you get yourself established in the US.

    I’m from Canada and would be very interested in attending your school or taking some courses when you offer them.

    All the best in the new chapter of your journey!


  7. Joe Daly

    I would guess it is a sad day for Fujikawa -san also, but at least the Bonsai World is richer for your introducing him to us, he always appeared to have a smile and understand the Western humour. Hopefully you will do further blogs from kouka -en whenever you visit Japan. I have learnt more from your blogs over the last few years than in my 32 years of creating Bonsai. Best of luck for you and Nanxi with your future in the U S.

  8. Joao Santos

    As said before, it was a sad day for the Fujikawa family for sure. In 9 years many bonds have been created and much experiences happend.
    I thank you for the knowledge you’ve shared and for having intruduce us Kouka-en and the Fugikawa family. If I ever visit Japan, Kouka-en will in the must go list.
    A new episode is starting in your life and I wish you all the best. Cheers.

  9. Harold Johnson

    So long Japan, welcome back to the USA!

  10. Philippe Pecquenard

    Thank you Bjorn for sharing your knowledge about bonsai and your open on the beauty of the world. I have enriched my technical knowledge by watching your interesting videos. I wish you good luck for this new installation. New country new variety of trees, I am looking forward to see these new creations. sorry for my poor English.
    Salutation de France

  11. Joe

    I’ve only just come across your videos but they are so interesting. I wish you all the best for your new life back in America!

  12. pavitra

    I absolutely love what you’ve done with this one. It has a long and graceful sway. it looks beautiful. I learn a lot from your videos. Great share. Great blog.