[From October Issue 2010]
Owner of Midoriya Nicogusa
Bonsai (tray cultivation) is a type of cultivation that was born in China and brought to Japan during the Heian period (794 ~ 1192). With bonsai, you grow plants in containers of varying widths, usually measuring 30 or 50 centimeters (cm). At the bonsai shop Midoriya Nicogusa in Kichijoji, Tokyo, they mainly sell small-sized bonsai trees of about 15 cm in height and potted moss of about 5 cm in diameter.
Shop owner OSHIMA Megumi enjoys answering customers’ questions about bonsai, while also teaching bonsai classes at various cultural centers. She is both a licensed color coordinator and interior decorator. Oshima even designed her shop’s Japanese-styled interior.
“If you give it enough care, a bonsai will live for decades,” says Oshima. “It will continue to grow and its trunk will get thicker every year. Knowing that it will last, taking care of the tree becomes enjoyable. Even after many years, you will always find pleasure in it.” However, Oshima was not always a bonsai dealer. Initially she worked at an electrical appliance manufacturing company. “It was a stable but predictable job. And I kept wondering if I should continue doing it.”
Then she encountered bonsai. “I was given a lovely bonsai from a friend but soon let it wither. The regret made me study why it happened and, in the process, I became fascinated with bonsai,” she recalls. Oshima went to bonsai classes and started to sell her own bonsai at flea markets. Before long, she was asked to sell bonsai at a department store. Although her bonsai continued to sell there, she was dissatisfied with some of the conditions and the care given to them. “It’s better to have regrets about something after trying, than not to try at all,” she says. Oshima then decided to open her own shop.
However, in her shop’s first year, not much sold. “I thought it would be difficult to attract customers with only bonsai so I started the shop as a place to sell bonsai and other variety goods. The problem was that there were already so many variety shops in Kichijoji. Those goods didn’t sell at our shop, and the dead stock just kept accumulating.” But soon after she changed it into a bonsai specialty shop, her number of regular customers increased.
Some bonsai trees are said to be more than 1,000 years old, with some costing more than 10 million yen. The bonsai sold at Nicogusa, however, only cost around several thousand yen each. “There are various ways of thinking about bonsai,” says Oshima. “Some people are conservative, while others do as they like in cultivating their bonsai. Some say that you should take the time to study proper bonsai technique. Others prefer to leave bonsai to professionals and just enjoy looking at them. There are even those who criticize bonsai as unnatural gardening that forces plants to grow in small flowerpots.”
For Oshima, it is fine to have various ways of thinking. “I want people to enjoy bonsai more casually. A tree that seems lonely actually has living strength. Some trees endure nature’s severity yet grow quite large. I think the expression of nature’s power is what small-potted bonsai is all about.”
Text: SAZAKI Ryo