Towards the end of every month, bonsai professionals gather at a selected nursery for a night auction. The night auction is local to Central Japan and features material a step up from the 8 Auction, or Youkakai.
The first thing I noticed is that trees and pots to be auctioned sat in a fairly dark corner of the yard. One could only look so closely before the event started. Not that anyone complains – we were too busy with our gyoza, fried rice and miso soup. They tend to feed buyers well at auctions.
Trees and pots for sale
Once the event began, trees were carried inside one at a time – by Peter Tea, among others – and placed on a turntable were everyone, maybe a dozen buyers, could see. The folks up front had a great view of the trees, and they often handled them to get a better sense of what they were bidding on.
Examining a tree
This was my favorite part of the event. Prospective buyers had less than a minute to decide how to bid on each tree. I found myself sizing up trees with interest, appreciating the good points, noting any flaws, finding the front of the tree and making mini-development plans all in about 15 seconds. When the bidding slowed down, the auctioneer looked at the seller to check if the last offer was adequate. If not, the seller and buyer reluctantly made offers until the tree either sold or the next lot was brought in.
Sold trees were grouped by buyer on the ground – this is the part I helped with. As the event is fairly informal, the auctioneer mentioned the buyer’s name when handing me each tree. I then ran into the dark and found the appropriate cluster of trees.
The auction lasted about two hours and a lot of trees changed hands. Afterwards there was a mad dash to cram everything into vans ahead of sometimes long drives home.
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