Welcome to the Hakuju-En blog! I hope to write once a quarter on bonsai, pottery, philosophy, display and techniques.
A bit about me: My name is Matt Ball and I started investigating bonsai when I was just 13 years old, after my sister had bought one and then I discovered bonsai. A few years of confusion and failure went by as I found my feet, with no one to teach me except for a sparse internet scene and a library, there wasn't much to teach me.
After meeting Bjorn Bjorholm in 2016, I agreed to visit Japan and meet the big names in bonsai in Japan. It was during that time in Japan I met the man who would be come my Oyakata: Nobuichi Urushibata San. it was shortly after this trip I had a workshop with his son; Taiga Urushibata, at which time he advised me to hurry up and apply for study at Taisho-En.
In 2017 I went to study with Urushibata San in Shizuoka, Ikeda, Japan for 90 days The first week was fun and exhilarating, the second week was challenging, and by 5 weeks I was worked out and homesick. By the end of the 90 days I didn't want to go home. There were so many ups and downs along the way it is difficult to explain every detail, however as these blogs roll on ill drop little stories here and there.
Shizuoka is a town away from Mt. Fuji, and from parts of the town there are stunning views of the famous volcano mountain.The Japanese have a huge reverence for the meltwater that runs off Mt. Fuji as a result, the Japanese use it to grow their tea, rice and vegetables, but most importantly their Rice. Shizuoka is famous for its tea, but not so much its rice or Saké for that matter. Mt. Fuji town is famous for the Saké as well as the mountain itself.
In 2018 I went back to study for a further 90 days, it felt like coming home, this time. During my trip in 2017, I became good friends with Taiga's apprentice, and so seeing him again was a great feeling. My Oyakata, had however, developed cancer again in his bladder, and had to have it removed. I felt really bad for him as he was in such bad pain the whole time. This put him in a grouchy mood a lot and I would often work around his temper. Patience was the lesson of the trip, for not only bonsai, but for difficult people. I still love Oyakata like a second father, though he was difficult a lot of the time.
I would very much like to go back again to Japan to study, I would very much be interested in visiting Koji Hiromatsu and if I get the opportunity to study with him I will take it!
Now that I have studied bonsai in such great depth, I have developed my own tastes and styles and love for certain species. I have honed my skills with Japanese Black pine, and you can expect some detailed blog posts on Japanese black pine (Kuro / 黒 / black + Matsu / 松 / Pine) Kuromatsu is a species I have invested alot of time into, and I hope to master the species one day.
Thankyou to those who have already signed up to this blog, and I very much welcome new people to come and read. I hope to announce many exciting things in the coming months and those who are subscribed will her about them first. Please let any bonsai friends you have know about this blog so they too can enjoy the exclusive content.