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.
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!