AUTUMN 2014 JAPAN BONSAI EXPLORATION– Part 7

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Stuck in Tokyo or a visit to Shunka-en Bonsai Museum In The Rain

Because of a delayed flight I stayed overnight at a hotel near Narita Airport. Got up early, worked on the magazine, wrote a recommendation for a close friend then took off to visit Kunio Kobayashi’s Shunka-en Bonsai Museum. I just got back to the airport and had the pleasure to ride on a bus, four trains, two subways and three taxis in order to visit bonsai in the rain, and well worth the effort.

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Bonsai look different in the rain and are difficult to photograph. Yuji Yoshimura taught me that bark texture and color are best when dry to see the details. Well, I did not have a hair dyer to dry off the trees and I have loads of Mr. Kobayashi’s bonsai in the sun, so simply enjoyed the bonsai in the rain and took some photos.

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Mr. Kobayashi was showing some Taiwan bonsai collectors some of his pine bonsai and explaining how he transformed a common appearing bonsai into an award winning masterpiece. Then they went into his studio where some satsuki trimming was demonstrated. There are three Chinese short term apprentices here and Mr. Kobayashi was checking their work and also cut off a large branch.

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A while later a small group from Mexico came to visit Shunka-en Bonsai Museum. Even though Mr. Kobayashi was busy, he spent a few minutes with me and we had lunch together that Mrs. Kobayashi prepared.

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The formal museum featuring many tokonoma of different formality is always of interest to me. The trees were different than when our bonsai tour group visited last week. A Camellia and Olive bonsai were also displayed.

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Enjoy the photos of beautiful bonsai I took in the rain. This IS the last blog entry as my flight to Chicago is “still” on time. I wonder how the flight from Chicago to Rochester will be.

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Enjoy your family and friends tomorrow on Turkey Day! I still have 98 of my best bonsai to put away for the winter. I’m especially thankful for my family and crew who will help.

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AUTUMN 2014 JAPAN BONSAI EXPLORATION– Part 6 (Final?)

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Today we visited the top bonsai gardens and collections in the Nagoya area on our private bus.

Daiju-en Bonsai Garden

Toro Suzuki is the third generation proprietor of Daiju-en Bonsai Garden in Okazaki, Japan. His grandfather, Saichi Suzuki, was one of the greatest pine bonsai masters of all time and is responsible for the introduction of Zuisho Japanese five-needle pine and the Princess persimmon. His father Toshinori Suzuki continued in his father’s footsteps of training masterpiece bonsai and added Needle junipers to one of his specialties. Many of the now common pine training techniques for shortening needles came from Saichi and Toshinori Suzuki. Toro Suzuki is in charge of the Nippon Taikan Bonsai Exhibition which finishes today.

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Toro Suzuki continues to specialize in Japanese black pine bonsai, but also has a great number of Japanese five-needle pine and Chinese quince. Dean Harrell from Virginia is currently studing with him along with a short term apprentice from France. They showed us around and answered all our questions along with Mrs. Suzuki who also speaks English.

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Shinpuku-ji Temple

Our next stop was at Shinpuku-ji Temple nearby, which was founded in 594 AD. The head priest Mr. Omura is a serious bonsai collector and has one of the finest collection of masterpiece trees. Among the famous bonsai are three Japanese five-needle pines which were created by Saichi Suzuki over 50 years ago.

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Siri Wish from Thailand

Every autumn Boon Manikivipart from California has been helping Mr. Omura for a week, this time with his student Siri Wish from Thailand. The only other “person” I know named Siri talks to me on my iPhone. They were removing the old foliage of beautiful Chinese quince bonsai, a new addition to the collection originally from Shinji Suzuki.

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One medium size Japanese five-needle pine was recently displayed in a Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition. I remember seeing this tree and commenting on the rough bark and short straight needles. Boon told me to look at the tree closely as every branch was grafted on to a rough bark Japanese five needle pine by Saichi Suzuki over 50 years ago.

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We enjoyed an unusual vegetarian luncheon at the temple featuring bamboo delicacies as well as bowls and eating implements.

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Aichi-en Bonsai Garden

Our final stop for the day was at Aichi-en Bonsai Garden. Proprietor Junichiro Tanaka studied at Daiju-en Bonsai Garden under Toro Suzuki and is now his son in law. Mr. Tanaka is the fourth generation proprietor of Aichi-en Bonsai Garden and has several trees started from his great grandfather from the late 1800s. He specializes in maple and pine bonsai, but has a great number of unusual species including a Kiwi and Japanese Andromeda. There is a lot of grafting going on there as well as redesigning old bonsai into magnificent masterpieces.

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Jun Andrade from Costa Rica is now studying with Mr. Tanaka along with Danny Coffey from the United States and John Milton from England. I found it interesting that Mr. Tanaka teaches is students in English and that he only has foreign apprentices. They showed us around and it was great having three English speaking guides pointing out interesting bonsai with background stories.

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Juan Andrade showing a heavy trunk Chojubai Japanese flowering quince

Tomorrow I leave for home, but will first stop in Tokoname city to visit one of my favorite artists “Reiho.” so this will be my final blog entry for this trip, unless I see something interesting.

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Julian Adams rubbing statue hoping to grow hair

I hope you have enjoyed my personal thoughts and photos of my bonsai travels. If you want to see better photos, subscribe to International BONSAI at:

http://www.internationalbonsai.com/product/IBM

If you would personally like to travel to Japan with me and experience a bit of the Japanese bonsai community and see fine-quality bonsai and exhibitions, consider joining me in early February for the 89th Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition which will be held in two parts (over 500 bonsai on display) as well as the opening of the 2nd Japan Suiseki Exhibition. Of course we will be visiting Omiya Bonsai Village, Masahiko Kimura’s garden, S-Cube (Seiji Morimae), Kunio Kobayashi’s Shunka-en Bonsai Museum as well as the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum. Information in our web site at:

http://www.internationalbonsai.com/page/1449251

or you can e-mail me at:

wnv@internationalbonsai

for a tour flyer.

Happy Thanksgiving, we all have a great deal to be thankful for this year.

AUTUMN 2014 JAPAN BONSAI EXPLORATION– Part 5

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This year the autumn viewing season for maples has been excellent. A sign in our hotel indicates the stage of leaf coloring in several of the popular viewing areas. It looks like we visited Kyoto at the best time, too bad I did not have the opportunity to visit any of the gardens.

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Last views of the 34th Nippon Taikan Bonsai Exhibition

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Sargent juniper, Juniperus chinensis var. sargentii ‘Shimpaku’

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Only three shohin bonsai compositions this year were displayed. In early January there is a huge shohin bonsai exhibition which fills the entire building.

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Shishigashira Japanese maple, Acer palmatum ‘Shishigashia’

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Japanese black pine, Pinus thunbergii. This masterpiece bonsai was created by Kenji Oshima and won the Prime Minister Award at last year’s Professional Bonsai Exhibition.

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Even the suiseki were carefully watered. Note the cloth placed behind the stone to avoid moistening the valuable display tables.

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Winged spindle tree, Euonymus sieboldiana

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Red flowering hawthorn, Crataegus sp. Looks like a contorted cultivar.

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Chojubai Japanese flowering quince, Chaenomeles japonica ‘Chojubai’ $7,500.

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Display table $8,500

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There were approximately 2,300 visitors to the exhibition on Saturday, the opening day. A few parting photos of some bonsai and general views.

AUTUMN 2014 JAPAN BONSAI EXPLORATION– Part 4

SIGN

The 34th Nippon Taikan Bonsai Exhibition opened this morning after the traditional ribbon cutting ceremony. The show was well attended and the crowds continued to increase until mid-afternoon. Although anyone could take photos it was a bit difficult with people getting in the way. Also the yellow and purple backgrounds did not help with the white balance and different lighting.

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Japanese five-needle pine, Pinus parviflora

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Rock cotoneaster, Cotoneaster horizonatlis

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Japanese yew, Taxus cuspidata

While setting up the exhibition I happen to notice a couple photos of my trees being assembled for a special exhibit. The photos were recognized but I wonder where they got them. So I asked and was told that Toru Suzuki asked for photos for a special World Bonsai Corner photo display. Then I remembered that I did send the photos months ago. Perhaps a bit of old age creeping up here, no just gracefully “maturing.”

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Bonsai displayed by members of the Bonsai Society of Upstate New York

At Hatsuji Kato’s Mansei-en Bonsai Garden in Omiya Bonsai Village I noticed Mr. Hirao preparing a large Kiyo Hime Japanese maple for this exhibition. The tree is perhaps the finest, and one of the largest Kiyo Hime Japanese maple bonsai. It received one of the Kokufu Awards in February’s Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition. At that time it was in a blue glazed antique Chinese container. Now it is planted in an unglazed brown container by Gyozan, currently the leading bonsai container artist in Tokoname, Japan, and it was difficult to photograph in Omiya. Apparently the antique Chinese container was too valuable to keep the tree during the growing season. I personally like both containers and would have both in my collection if I had this bonsai. But, I could not even afford the display table, let alone the valuable two containers and the tree as well.

KIYO HIME

Kiyo Hime Japanese maple, Acer palmatum ‘Kiyo Hime’ in February 2014

KIYO BACKGROUND

Kiyo Hime Japanese maple, Acer palmatum ‘Kiyo Hime’ in November 2014

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Zuisho Japanese five-needle pine, Pinus parviflora ‘Zuisho’

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Sargent juniper, Juniperus chinensis var. sargentii ‘Shimpaku’

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Akebia, Akebia quinata

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Japanese five-needle pine, Pinus parviflora

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Winged spindle tree, Euonymus sieboldiana 

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Japanese five-needle pine, Pinus parviflora

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AUTUMN 2014 JAPAN BONSAI EXPLORATION– Part 3

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Autumn In Kyoto

This morning a few of us visited a large flea market at the Toji Temple, which is near our hotel in Kyoto. We arrived early to avoid crowds, but were met with hoards of people including many foreigners looking and buying. Near the main entrance there was a large area with vendors selling flowers, plants, dried fruit and even bonsai.

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It appeared as though anything you wanted could be found here, antiques, clothing (new and old), jeans, car license plates from Washington state, snacks, old books, antique scrolls and inserts, dishes, light bulbs, cutlery, tools, bonsai tables, stones and even pins! Lots of good stuff and we left fully loaded with goodies. We did not visit the snack shops….

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TOJI

34TH JAPAN TAIKAN BONSAI EXHIBITION 

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Today was the set up and judging for the 34th Japan Taikan Bonsai Exhibition one of the main Japanese exhibitions . Earlier in the morning pre-selection judging was conducted narrowing down the 200 some entries for the prizes. The bonsai were grouped into three bonsai for: large, medium and small size evergreens, deciduous and satsuki. Selections were also made for suiseki, shohin bonsai, rock plantings, suiseki and literati bonsai as well. There were four trees selected for the large evergreens because one was selected for the Prime Minister Award. There was one Chinese suiseki alone, but I don’t know the name of the category, it won an award as well. The pre-selected entries were placed on long tables down the center of the exhibition room.

SHOHAKU

Large evergreen bonsai

LARGE DECIDUOUS

Large deciduous bonsai

LITERATI

Literati bonsai

ROCK PLANTINGS

Rock planting bonsai

SMALL DECIDUOUS

Small deciduous bonsai

At 2pm the final judging was conducted by some of the top bonsai artists and professional artists. The winning bonsai were immediately announced. After judging people were scrambling to put the bonsai in their designated display areas, many with scrolls, some with suiseki as well.

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JUDGING

The Prime Minister Award went to a large size Sargent juniper bonsai which was displayed by Shinji Suzuki for his client. This bonsai was originally created by Masahiko Kimura many years ago, who also won two other awards with a Japanese yew and rock planting.

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Sargent juniper Prime Minister Award

STEWARTIA DISPLAY

Dwarf stewartia, Stewartia monadelpha

STEWARTIA DETAIL

UME

Japanese flowering apricot, Prunus mume

YEW

Japanese yew, Taxus cuspidata

PAINTING

Japanese five-needle pine, Pinus parviflora, displayed with a western painting

KAKI

Japanese persimmon, Diosporus kaki

HAWTHORN

Hawthorn, Crataegus sp.

GOYO PINE

Japanese five-needle pine, Pinus parviflora

EUONYMUS

Burning bush, Euonyus alatus

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Sargent juniper, Juniperus chinensis var. sargentii ‘Shimpaku’

BEECH

Japanese beech, Fagus crenata

ENOKI

Chinese hackberry, Celtis sinensis

HINOKI

Tsuyama hinoki cypress, Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Tsuyama’

CITRON

Fingerd citron (Buddha’s hand citron) Citrus medica ‘Sarocdectylis

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There were several foreign apprentices working hard to set up their teacher’s client’s bonsai as well as the large sales area. Here are a few quick photos I took during this busy time. More photos will be included in tomorrow’s blog entry. If you want to see finer-quality, color corrected photos with a complete report on this important event for the Japanese bonsai world, kindly subscribe to International BONSAI at:

http://www.internationalbonsai.com/product/IBM

AUTUMN 2014 JAPAN BONSAI EXPLORATION– Part 2

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This morning was spent visiting the Shunka-en Bonsai Museum of Kunio Kobayashi in the Edogawa Ward of Tokyo. Fortunately, Peter Warren from England was at the museum and had time to show our group around explaining interesting details about the museum, containers and display, in proper English too.

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This weekend Mr. Kobayashi is holding an exhibition of his client’s bonsai so all of the apprentices were busy cleaning trees and polishing the tables and containers. Trees were actually being placed as we enjoyed their beauty. It was interesting to me to watch three apprentices carefully place a Japanese maple bonsai on a display table as one took charge to perfect the positioning.

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As in October, I noticed even more pieces of charcoal on the soil surface of many bonsai. Many of the pieces were quite large as well. Since many of the bonsai were transplanted in spring, it is easier to simply place the charcoal on the soil surface rather than repot the tree to add charcoal.

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Threre are even more trees here than when I visited the garden last month. Most of the additions were large size Japanese black pines, primarily being trained for the Chinese market. I noticed both copper and sissy wire on the same tree for shaping the form on Japanese black pine bonsai as well as iron bars.

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Japanese black pine bonsai with a price tag of US$30,000. It has great bark too!

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Mr. Kobayashi returned home from Taiwan yesterday and was preparing for a TV interview in the afternoon, yet he found time to greet us, sign books and host our group for lunch.

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After our visit with Mr. Kobayashi, Peter Warren and Mr. Suzuki drove our group to Tokyo Station where we took the bullet train to Kyoto. As we were waiting on the train platform we noticed Mr. Kimura who was in line to board the next car. He was traveling with Mr. Utusume, president of the Japan Bonsai Cooperative for professional bonsai artists. They were traveling to Kyoto so they could help judge the bonsai for the Taikan Bonsai Exhibition tomorrow. Mr. Kobayashi will be taking an early bullet train early tomorrow morning to also participate in the judging since he is the President of the Nippon Suiseki Association. Peter must drive the truck to Kyoto tonight with one of the Kokufu Prize winning bonsai as well as several client’s suiseki for display.

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Well know Chojubai dwarf Japanese flowering apricot growing over a stone.

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Mr. Kobayashi had several new containers on display from a new bonsai potter. One was especially unusual and colorful as well, fortunately I was able to add it to my collection. Now I must find a special tree for it so it can be displayed on Halloween.

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Upon arrival in Kyoto we went for a sushi dinner then stopped for Beard Papa cream puffs. They taste delicious with Japanese ice tea, well, they actually taste great by themselves too.

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AUTUMN 2014 JAPAN BONSAI EXPLORATION– Part 1

TITLE

“Bill Jumps A Broad- Again”

Kora Dalager and I are back in Japan showing ten people the best of the Japanese bonsai world and the Taikan Bonsai Exhibition in Kyoto this coming weekend. We have tour members from California, Texas, Virginia, Pennsylvania New York, and Switzerland.

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We had a beautiful, bright sunny day in the Tokyo area. Not a cloud in the sky which made photographing a bit difficult. BUT, it looks like I skipped town at the right time. When I left home, all my nursery stock, pre-bonsai and sales bonsai were put away for winter. Only 98 of my best trees were outside, and still are, even though Diane offered to move them in the garage. Buffalo, New York has received 50 inches of snow and are expecting ANOTHER 2-3 feet of snow now in the second wave of weather. It missed Rochester, this time, who know about the next few days…

I brought a large and heavy box of four suiseki for the 2nd Japan Suiseki Exhibition which will be held during part 2 of the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition in February. The stones need to be here now to be photographed for the exhibition album. I brought suiseki from Sean Smith, Mike Pollock, Jake Wilson as well as mine all carefully packed. I was afraid TSA would open the box, as it was well taped and sealed and I know they could never seal it again. The box was even labeled “Rocks” because it is X-rayed. It arrived in perfect condition at Narita, then I had to take it through customs.

The customs agent wanted to know what is in the box. I said four stones. She said stones? Why? I told her they were suiseki. She said what’s that? OK, so I needed to explain what a suiseki is and how they are displayed with bonsai and even wrote out the two Japanese kanji characters for suiseki. She was still clueless. Why are they here? For an exhibition, and they are not staying in Japan. Where is the commercial invoice? There is no invoice. How about a flyer? No flyer. Well, what is your occupation? I learned years ago it was too difficult to explain that I’m a bonsai artist and educator, so simply say “publisher” which is correct too. Then I showed her my name card and she said “Bonsai!” OK, just leave….

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We first visited S-Cube, the bonsai garden of Seiji Morimae, who is always a gracious host. We visited his garden first, rather than last on our schedule and the sun was great.

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In October I attended an auction at the Ueno Green Club for professional bonsai artists where Mr. Morimae purchased an old expensive famous Japanese five-needle pine. The tree needed wiring and shaping. I recognized the tree and when I went home found an old photo of it 70 years ago in my bonsai reference library. Mr. Morimae said Hotsumi Terakawa shaped the tree for him and it’s arriving soon. A few minutes later Mr. Terakawa unloaded the bonsai and it’s beautiful. It took him three days to wire and only removed one small branch. Of course Mr. Morimae had to adjust a couple of branches. He will now transplant the masterpiece into an antique Chinese mirror shaped container so the tree could be viewed from different sides.

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As purchased at auction

MORIMAE

After shaping

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Seiji Morimae and Hotsumi Terakawa

Our group next visited Masahiko Kimura where Marco Invernizzi is currently studying. I noticed a new unusual rock planting on an angle constructed of clay. Also new is a metal fence behind Mr. Kimura’s main display area. All the trees were immaculate and several were being prepared for display at the Taikan Bonsai Exhibition this weekend.

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Omiya Bonsai Museum was our next stop and we were lucky to come during BONSAN- A Special Exhibition. Bonsan is the practice of growing trees and flowering plants in hollows or depressions of stones; a practice presently called “ishitsuki”, or rock plantings today. An album was published showing old paintings of how bonsan were used in the 13th Century Japan. Entering the museum were two beautiful rock plantings, a Trident maple and Sargent juniper which was from Mansei-en Bonsai Garden of Hatsuji Kato.

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BONSAN

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Tomio Yamada displayed his Trident maple and I remember watching him create it in June 1970, nearly 45 years ago. Other bonsai in the gallery all featured bonsai with stones as well.

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Mansei-en was our next stop in Omiya Bonsai Village. As usual there were many famous masterpieces and some were being prepared for the Taikan Bonsai Exhibition. Masashi Hirao was there placing moss on a large Kiyo Hime Japanese maple bonsai. The sunlight was quite bright and the container could not be easily seen, but I noticed that it was unglazed brown. I asked Mr. Hirao about the container because this bonsai won one of the coveted Kokufu prizes in February and was in an Antique blue Chinese container. Why was the container changed? He said that the blue container just for the exhibition. It was transplanted afterwards into another container. There was no need to put it in such a valuable container now since it already won the highest prize in Japan and is no longer eligible for winning.

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Masashi Hirao placing moss for the exhibition. I’ll take a proper photo this weekend showing the brown container.

Tomio Yamada’s Seiko-en Bonsai Garden was next and his bonsai were quite colorful. I was immediately attracted to a Fingered citron bonsai with large, strange yellow fruit. Two other specimens of the same species were also displayed in Hiroshi Takeyama’s garden also.

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Kyuka-en Bonsai Garden was around the corner and that’s were I first apprenticed bonsai in Japan in 1970. Third generation proprietor Yukio Murata was watering and had a tooth brush in his hand. I thought he might be washing trunks as he went through his garden. But, after I asked him he said the toothbrush was used to clean out the nozzle because it gets clogged with debris from the deep well. He removed the nozzle to show me and also said he sometimes brushes his teeth as well while watering.

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Mr. Takeyama’s garden featuring deciduous and unusual bonsai was not quite a colorful as in the past, but it was a bit early for his garden. There were a few Japanese maples in bright red coloring and the Korean hornbeams were past prime. The autumn coloring during next few weeks are going to be spectacular in this garden.

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The excellent exchange rate is making for great buying and traveling in Japan now. Currently we are getting 118 Yen/ 1US Dollar. Have not seen that rate for years. This is an excellent time to visit Japan. Join us in February to see TWO Kokufu Bonsai Exhibitions, the 2nd Japan Suiseki Exhibition and also bonsai gardens in the Tokyo/Omiya/Hanyu area. Tour flyer can be found in my web site or e-mail me for a copy at: wnv@internationalbonsai.com