Meet Ryan Neil, American Bonsai Shokunin

iStock // tonisvisuals
iStock // tonisvisuals

In Japanese, the word shokunin literally translates "craftsman" or "artisan," but its meaning goes deeper. In Japanese culture, the term implies a deep commitment to mastery and excellence. A true shokunin is often on a lifelong mission.

Ryan Neil is an American shokunin, devoted to the art of bonsai. He has worked in the field for nearly 20 years, including six years as an apprentice in Japan. He manipulates trees, ripping and twisting them, to make living art forms.

In this short film, we meet Neil and learn a little about his bonsai practice. Enjoy:

Watch a Baby Polar Bear Open Its Eyes for the Very First Time

Zoo und Tierpark Berlin, YouTube
Zoo und Tierpark Berlin, YouTube

Sometimes, after a long week, all you need is something wholesome to lift your spirits. Here to do just that is the Berlin Zoo's newest resident.

In this polar bear video spotted by, a 5-week-old cub can be seen opening its eyes for the very first time as its mom, Tonja (pronounced like Tania), cleans and cuddles it. “While it was previously only able to explore its surroundings by groping and cuddling, the little bear can now see and hear things,” according to a translated version of the zoo’s polar bear video caption.

Like kittens and puppies, polar bears are functionally blind and deaf when they’re born. It takes polar bears several weeks longer to develop their senses compared to puppies or kittens, though—about 30 days total. Their claws come later, too.

The diminutive nature of newborn cubs may also come as a surprise. Although full-grown adults can tip the scale at more than 1300 pounds, newborns weigh just 16 to 24 ounces—about the size of a guinea pig. But they pack on the pounds quickly, and can weigh over 100 pounds by the time they’re 8 months old.

A Berlin Zoo spokesperson reportedly said the cub has a big appetite and ate a lot over the holidays (just like the rest of us, apparently). It’s now attempting to walk, but mom and baby aren’t expected to leave the cave in their enclosure before spring arrives.

According to DW Science, zoo staff don’t know the sex of the cub yet. For its protection, they plan to give mom and baby lots of alone time before they approach. Newborn polar bears are quite vulnerable—especially in the wild, where about 85 percent of the bears die before they’re 2 years old.

Meanwhile, zoo staff are keeping a watchful eye on the cub, courtesy of the infrared cameras they have set up in their den.


5 Facts You Never Knew About Groundhog Day


Why do we entrust a rodent to predict the weather for us every year? And exactly how accurate is Punxsutawney Phil? In the video above, we take a quick look at the strange history of a quirky holiday.