A few days ago Mr. Nobuichi Urushibata passed away.

I met Mr. Urushibata back in 2007 when I first came to his nursery to study. I arrived in Japan with little to no language and managed to negotiate myself to Taisho-en.

My first interaction with Oyakata (A word that means something along the lines of teacher, mentor, guardian in Japanese) was a chat where he warned me in broken english with a stern face that my time at the nursery would not be a holiday and I would need to be “like samurai”. He maintained the stern face for a few moments then broke out in laughter.

From that point forward I learned about how kind, caring and passionate he was. Over many visits and much time he guided me through my bonsai learning and provided me with much life advice.

At a base level I was always blown away with his child like enthusiasm for bonsai, whether that was finding new trees and stock, styling or just generally carrying out maintenance. He always carried out his teaching with a smile and could see the humorous side of things when they went wrong.

I would see him out in the garden in the early morning, just walking around looking at trees before others arrived to begin work. I never got the sense that he was working a job but rather following a passion and it was inspiring to watch.

I feel very lucky to have met him and spent time learning under his guidance. I owe so much to him from what I have learnt and I feel that he played a large role in shaping me into the person I am today.

I will miss him a lot but I carry with me many fond memories of our time together.

Rest in peace Oyakata.