Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Everything Just As It Should Be

Starting and stopping without warning, the streets of Tokyo hold many wonderful surprises. Whenever I go out rollerblading I love exploring unknown territory. Starting and stopping without warning, the streets of Tokyo hold many wonderful surprises.

Recently I found myself in an interesting warren of backstreets. In a neighborhood that seemed to have fallen asleep a number of years ago, I came upon a very unusual bonsai shop. The sign out front proudly proclaimed, "Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week!"

"Wow," I thought, "even in Japan, there's no way bonsai are that much in demand!"

As I rolled to a stop I saw an elderly man in the back of the shop who appeared to be sleeping sitting up. To my surprise though, the minute he sensed my presence he opened his eyes looking wide awake and attentive.

"Very impressive," I said to him. "Having a bonsai business that is open twenty four hours a day, seven days a week."

"Have a seat and we'll talk," he said. "If you are impressed, it is likely for the wrong reason."

Suzuki-san introduced himself and told me he was 78 years old. By the time he was 35 he had three children and had taken over a family cut flower and bonsai shop in a fashionable part of town.

"I had a lot of money coming in, a lot of money going out, and very little free time to do anything except keep up with all that needed to be done," he said.
"Besides missing the time I couldn't spend with my family, I had an itch to study Zen that left me feeling very restless."

"At the age of 40, I finally understood that if I sold the shop and bought the house and yard you're sitting in now, I would have a LOT less overhead, and I would thus need to make a LOT less money in order to provide for my family and be happy."

"You see, I already had a strong following for my bonsai. By simplifying my life I finally had time for my family and sitting zazen as well."

"All this sounds wonderful" I said, "But how does your story lead to the sign that says you're open for business 24/7?"

"Ah," he said, "the sign is meant to be a cosmic joke."
"My business is largely run on trust and appreciation, and there is no need for me to be present in order for business to be conducted."
"I know most of my clients, and most of them are very familiar with the signature of my work."
"When I begin a piece I usually have a particular client in mind. I call him when I'm done, and purposefully leave his bonsai amongst other work that isn't quite finished. I then take off visiting temples and looking for interesting stock in countryside nurseries, confident my client will know which piece is his. So far no one's ever come by and picked up the wrong bonsai."

"Fascinating" I said, "But don't you ever worry about theft?"

"People don't steal bonsai," he said with a chuckle. "Even in Japan, they don't see the value in it."
"Besides, people can't imagine stealing something that seems to be there for the taking."
"We are sitting here amongst a few hundred thousand dollars worth of my work, and I believe the best way to protect it is by not keeping it behind a fence. This is a wonderful feeling!"
"Nothing to lock up, nothing to worry about, and everything just as it should be."

"Please come sit zazen with me some time, and I'm sure we'll become good friends."

 

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