Time Out Tokyo presents: Mambonsai class

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Time Out Tokyo presents: Mambonsai class

What do you get if you cross the Latin mambo dance form with shrunken, Japanese bonsai trees? Don't worry - there's no straightforward answer to that. But, then, the creator of 'mambonsai' isn't a straightforward man either. He goes by more than one name, for starters, and we suspect that the one he uses to introduce himself to Time Out is not the one his mother gave him. 'Nice to meet you,' he says with no detectable irony; 'I'm Paradise Yamamoto.'

Our Japanese staff have met him before, of course, back when he was claiming to be Santa Claus. Obviously a man for all seasons, he's packed away his fake beard and red bobble hat, and now he stands in the Time Out office clutching a pair of small sakura trees, already starting to bud, and a plastic carrier case full of tiny people. He's not mad, we ought to explain, just very passionate, and his enthusiasm is such that he wants to share it with others, specifically at a mambonsai class being held at the Time Out Café & Diner on April 3.

Before we try and tempt you further, perhaps we'd better explain what mambonsai is. Just prepare yourself for the hard truth: there's not a lot of mambo involved. The mambo part of the word comes from the fact that one of Paradise Yamamoto's many roles in life involves playing percussion in the Tokyo Panorama Mambo Boys. Here he is entertaining Fukuoka...



In his less guttural moments, Paradise-san allows his mind to run free through the fields of moss that he compresses into the roots of potted bonsai trees. It's more involved than it looks, and genuinely relaxing - like gardening on your kitchen table. Allow our editor to demonstrate.

1. Meet your bonsai...


As you can see from the picture, Jon has very little bonsai experience. He obviously hasn't been up close to one before, and he's nervous. However, in order to get on in the mambonsai world, he'll have to get over his initial coyness quickly, as the next step involves fumbling around in his new-found friend's undergrowth.

2. Bring on the dirt...


Emptying the contents of the bonsai pot on to a freshly plucked Japanese newspaper, Jon is encouraged to ensnare the roots of the plant in a piece of twine - supplied, at no extra cost, by Mr Paradise. This is not to ensure that his tree can't escape, but to help bend it to his creative will during the following stage.

3. Re-pot your bonsai...


With the tree safely back in its cage, Jon holds the trunk in a position of his choosing, then - having fed the twine through holes in the base - ties a tight knot so that there's no chance of the tree moving. He then refills the pot with the dirt from the newspaper.

4. Get mossy...


Part of the mambonsai process is moss collecting - a hobby that actually led Paradise Yamamoto to the idea of mambonsai in the first place. Using damp moss from Mr Paradise's personal bag, Jon creates what farmers call a field, but artists call a blank canvas. Then he sits back for a breather.

5. Admire handiwork...


During said breather, Jon admires his handiwork, just as the title of item number five suggests.

6. Apply the finishing touches...



Field/canvas now ready, Jon is allowed time to mooch about in the carrier case full of miniature people, and finds the necessary characters to create a scene from an England that predates his own birth. Each to his own, we say. 'Tally ho!' and 'Last one to the Café & Diner in Ebisu is a numpty!' Or something of that nature.

We very much hope to see you there on April 3. Make a reservation by email, stating your name, phone number and the number of people.

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