Japantown's Cherry Blossom Festival, plus Bonsai

On a brisk Sunday, April 20, 2008, I drove to the city for its annual Cherry Blossom festival. I've been to it twice in past (2006,2007), once forgetting my camera, and once remembering it but having dead batteries. As the festival has many sights worthy of photographing, this year I came prepared. I didn't want to spend another year talking about bonsai, ikebana, or paper doll exhibits without being able to provide pictures.

Indeed, I, excited by having a working camera, I took an overabundance of pictures at the festival.

I drove around for half an hour looking for parking before finally saying, "if I don't find parking within the next ten minutes, I'm going home." (I normally don't need to look for parking for so long. In fact, the only reason I looked so long is because I was on the phone and hence less annoyed at the lack of parking.) I found parking two minutes after giving myself a deadline! :)

I walked from my spot, about a mile from the festival, and headed straight for the food booths. It was lunchtime and I, getting to festival much later than planned, was hungry. I glanced through the food booths. It turns out I'd already tried in past years all the unusual Japanese dishes suitable for lunch, and I wasn't in the mood to eat any of them again right then. I did observe that the imagawa yaki (red bean pancake) and takoyaki (octopus pancake balls) (neither suitable for lunch) both had really long lines, and made a mental note to investigate them later. Instead, I grabbed some sushi rolls and watched some of the parade.

I then made my way to the hotel in hopes that the bonsai exhibit was there again this year. It was! And I had my camera! I took a ton of pictures (see link above) as I browsed, at the same time listening to and watching (in glances) as a bonsai master demonstrated how to care for and modify a miniature redwood.

At the end of the presentation, the bonsai club was going to run a raffle to give away some bonsai trees and some knickknacks that were on the display table. I figured I appreciated the bonsai exhibit so much each year that I should help support it and its cause, and so bought a raffle ticket right before the drawing. I bought just one. The guy collecting money asked, "only one?" and I said, "one is all you need." (I also thought, "I feel lucky." I thought it would be neat to win, though I wasn't really buying a ticket to win but rather to support the organization.)

I won! One ticket indeed was all I needed. The small elm tree I won, which some of the bonsai people there estimated at ten to fifteen years old, was one of the nicer prizes available.

I chatted with some of the exhibitors to get advice on what I should do with my bonsai (e.g., where to trim it and how to care for it), then walked back to my car. I didn't want to wander around the festival carrying a bonsai.

As I trotted back to my car, tree in hand, I pondered the implications. When I saw the bonsai exhibit two years ago, I was so inspired I was tempted to start growing my own bonsai. I knew my meticulousness and my patience would be great boons. However, I was scared of the commitment required by a hobby where plants are typically grown for several decades. I didn't want the responsibility. Now, of course, I have the responsibility, without an option of passing.

In addition, as I walked, I thought about who I knew that was trustworthy and dependable enough to watch the plant when I'm out of town.

After depositing the tree in my car I considered my next action. Given that the bonsai exhibit was my favorite exhibit at the festival in past years--and I just saw it this year--, was it worth another twenty-five minute walk back to the festival to see whatever else there was? I wasn't sure, but nevertheless decided to return. On the way back, I noticed the imagawa yaki and takoyaki lines hadn't shortened at all.

I'm glad I returned. Back in the hotel, I got to see the cool exhibits on paper dolls, origami, and Japanese swords. I took even more pictures. :)

At 5pm the exhibits closed, and I decided to get a snack, vowing to wait regardless of the length of the line. The takoyaki line was a lot shorter, but I'd tried them at this festival before and they didn't excite me, so I got in the imagawa yaki line. I wait and watched breakdancers. Forty minutes later, I had my food.

Eating and walking yet again back to my car, I tried a different route and discovered a park with a good view of the city: an opportunity to take more pictures.

And that was my day.

Notes to self, as transcribed from conversations with others about how to care for the bonsai: Cut off branches that grow toward the center. You want the plant to spread out, not make a dense inner mass. Openness makes everything more visible. You can make the tree branch differently by cutting old branches. You can control which direction the new branches grow by choosing which side of a leaf you cut on. Leaves alternate (right-left-right-left) on each branch; if you want a branch to grow left, cut just beyond a right left. In fact, trim often: things that grow entirely straight are boring.

Being an elm, my bonsai should get broad daylight and water everyday. It should also get a half-strength solution of Miracle Grow every week. (The soil it's in has no nutrients.)

Obviously, there's many more tips on the web about caring for bonsai.

Sadly, other than watering regularly, I haven't done much to my bonsai in the three weeks between the festival and posting this entry. Perhaps this weekend I'll get around to trimming it.

1 comment:

mark said...

Bonsai: R.I.P.
Although I watered it, gave it good direct sunlight, and fertilized it occasionally, it passed away several months ago. I trimmed it only once.