Well this is only the second post since we returned home from Japan two weeks ago – sigh! Trying to catch up on work which sometimes seems to make vacations not worth it…of course they are though. Morgan’s company Digital Revelations is working with a company in Santa Monica called Digiboo and we are very close to putting out our first digital movie kiosk so things are very busy. More on that at another time.
For many of us before our first trip to Japan, and for those who have never been, the word Green Club was unknown but in listening to stories from people who had been to Japan this place sounded like bonsai nirvana. Since the US Department Agriculture stopped the shipment of trees from Japan to the US obtaining high quality bonsai has been very difficult and frankly if your teacher doesn’t have access to trees or if someone doesn’t decide to sell their collection most of us have a very difficult time finding good trees. Of course we can purchase raw stock and over the years create a great tree but the key is over the years and lots of patience. Also, try to find a great shop to buy bonsai pots – high quality ones and antiques – or suiskei in this country. Certainly there are a few to be found but very few.
So hearing stories about the Green Club in Ueno Park in Tokyo really caused me to stop, ponder, and begin to strategize on how I was going to get there. I searched on the Internet endlessly for photos of this place but frankly never found any. A year ago Jonas, his blog is referenced on this site, posted about a dozen photos of the Green Club. Why no one posts about this wonderful place is beyond me, or perhaps I just never found the right photo site.
Well I took about 50 photos at the Green Club to provide you with a few of perhaps the finest place on Earth in one location to purchase anything and everything related to bonsai and suiseki. Over the next two posts, we will upload about 37 images for you. Due to the style of the blog we use the images need to be under 750 pixels wide – so if there is a lot of interest in higher resolution images please let us know and I will post them so you have access to the full resolution images.
So sit back with a cup of coffee/tea/beer and marvel at what we know as the Ueno Green Club.
The Ueno Green Club is located in Ueno Park in Tokyo. It is located on the north western edge of the park just down the street from one of the entrances to the Ueno Zoo. A short 10-15 minute walk from the Ueno train station. It is a three story building with what appears to perhaps be a parking lot on both side of the building and during the Kokufu show it is loaded with trees, stones, pots, stands, tools, and whatever else related to these arts. The Green Club opens at 9:00am and closes around 6pm. It is open at the same time the show is running and there are buses running from the Green Club to the show and back – and for free.
We always approached the club with a great deal of anticipation as to what we might see and I realize it is hard to describe in writing what this feels like; however, if you can go back to your childhood or at least mine and remember what it was like on 12/24 with the childish anticipation of Christmas morning – you will get the idea.
The problem with the Green Club, a good problem I might add, is that the place is overwhelming. We spent at least 8 hours there on our last trip and thought I did a decent job of taking my time to see what was available. However, when I take a look at these photos we hear in our head – “how did we miss that stand?” or “how did we miss that stone?” etc.
Due to the expense of having booth at the club, vendors try to stack up stuff everywhere and who can blame them but what it leads to is many people simply missing things. I can’t tell you how many times in looking at these photos I see a stand that something was sitting on and went “man I should have seen that stand as it would be perfect for…” So our lesson learned is that the next time I’m going to take photos but look at them at the hotel that night to see what we missed that day.
Our two experiences say try not to buy much the first day of the show because there is very little discounting on the first day. Of course we did not heed our own advice and still purchased a great suiseki, stand and three small bronzes. Of course the second rule is – if you love what you see buy it because it might not be there the next day! As the show progresses the discounts get better and if you have the patience, luck and any money left the last day can be a bonanza as discounts abound and often deep discounts; especially if it has been a slow show for the vendors.
Also what I learned from Mary this year, Jeff’s wife, are these rules: 1) Never ask a price until you are ready to buy; 2) It is always better to buy multiple things at the same time from the same vendor; and, 3) negotiate hard and don’t give up if they say no the first time. We watched an marveled at her ability to negotiate prices we thought when asked would cause her to be escorted out of the room, but time and time again she succeeded where others had failed.
The vendors pay according to location at the Green Club with first floor costing the most, then decreasing in this order: second floor, third floor, and then outdoors. Let me say how much courage it takes as a vendor to be out doors and then have it rain 8 out of the 9 days the show was open. Yep that is exactly what occurred this year.
Well enough of us rambling so here are the photos, but a last note before: even if your budget is low please make this trip to Kokufu and the Green Club. There is nothing like it in the US period. The trees are outstanding and the Green Club is well just look at the photos.