2014 88th Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition– Part 1

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Japanese flowering quince, Chaenomeles speciosa

After an uneventful and on-time arrival in Tokyo our group was “welcomed” by cold and wet snow. NO, I did not order the weather, in fact the meteorological conditions were better in Rochester than Tokyo. But, my wife, Diane, did get stuck at the airport in Newark for several days on her way home from the California Shohin Bonsai Seminar.

 

Kora Dalager’s and my International Bonsai Tour Exploration this time includes 20 people from New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Australia as well as from the United States. Four close friends from my “Crew” in Rochester joined me this time which are members of the Suiseki Study Group of Upstate New York and also officers of the Bonsai Society of Upstate New York. Two of us will have suiseki on display in the new Suiseki of Japan Exhibition opening on Sunday.

The Parkside Hotel in Ueno is sold out because of the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition so our group had to stay in two different hotels. However, both groups meet together to attend the exhibitions and visits to the bonsai gardens.

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We met at our hotel and made the short walk to the Ueno Green Club, in the cold windy weather to take the complimentary shuttle bus up the hill to the Metropolitan Art Museum in Ueno Park for the exhibition. There were not large crowds upon our arrival at 9:30 am, but it became crowded near noon when many of us left to take the shuttle back to the Ueno Green Club to go “shopping” after a quick lunch.

The first Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition was held in March 1934 under the leadership of Count Matsudaira who was president of the Kokufu Bonsai Society, sponsor of the event. From 1934 until 1939 the exhibition was held twice a year in March and November. In the early 1960s sponsorship changed from the Kokufu Bonsai Society to the newly established Nippon Bonsai Association. For a comprehensive overview, history and photos of the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition, please check out Robert Baron’s excellent site at: http://phoenixbonsai.com/Days/Kokufuten.html

Although I’ve made several dozen study visits to the exhibition I was immediately startled by a color change of the new tablecloth color this year. A couple of days ago Peter Warren, who helped set up the exhibition, posted a few photos in his blog (http://saruyama-bonsai.blogspot.jp) which showed the new tablecloths. I thought that the color balance must be off between Peter’s photos and internet reproduction, but they were correct. In the past the tablecloths have been mostly a dark navy blue color and most recently light blue. This year they are a bright blue/green, my favorite color for bonsai containers. However, personally, the new color detracts from the quiet atmosphere of the presentation of the world’s finest bonsai. But, this is only my personal opinion, which might change during the next week during my many visits to the exhibition.

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Japanese hawthorn, Crataegus cuneata

Because the Metropolitan Art Museum remodeled a couple of years ago the Nippon Bonsai Association could not display as many bonsai as in previous years. Generally about 260 bonsai exhibits are shown. This year in order to present more bonsai the event has been scheduled in two parts, each lasting four days with a switch out day between when all the trees will be changed on Saturday.

The 2014 88th Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition– Part 1 was composed of 170 displays, including 29 Important Bonsai Masterpieces. After the exhibition is set up a group of judges awarded five coveted National Awards (Kokufu-sho). There were only five shohin bonsai compositions, a mame bonsai composition was not included in this part. There were 46 medium size  three-point exhibits which included a main bonsai, often two, and a companion planting. Considering that each shohin bonsai composition had six main bonsai and a side tree (all very consistent which shows the current taste of display) and most medium size exhibits had two trees nearly 300 individual specimens were shown. Two Americans, Doug Paul and Frank Cucchira, displayed Sargent juniper bonsai. Another exhibitor from Italy also displayed a Sargent juniper bonsai and received one of the five Kokufu-sho awards, the first time for a foreigner.

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Kokufu-sho Award, Japanese red pine, Pinus densiflora

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Trunk detail

 

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Kokufu-sho Award, Japanese beech, Fagus crenata

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Kokufu-sho Award, Japanese flowering apricot, Prunus mume

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Kokufu-sho Award, Sargent juniper, Juniperus chinensis var. sargenti ‘Shimpaku’

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Kokufu-sho Award, Japanese five-needle pine, Pinus parviflora

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Trident maple, Acer buergerianum

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Sargent juniper, Juniperus chinensis var. sargenti ‘Shimpaku’

Displayed by Doug Paul

 

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Japanese black pine, Pinus thunbergii

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Chojubai flowering quince, Chaenomeles japonica ‘Chojubai’

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Sargent juniper, Juniperus chinensis var. sargenti ‘Shimpaku’

Displayed by Frank Cucchiara

 

After our initial visit which was overwhelming because of the beauty we needed a breather and had lunch in the museum restaurant and went to the Ueno Green Club for a couple of hours. As soon as we went to the outdoor sales area I immediately saw a row of old Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition Albums. One of my close friends said he never saw me move so fast…. A sign in Japanese listed the older volumes and I was quite happy to add five missing books to my collection! The books are from the No. 3, 5, 9, 14 and No. 16 exhibitions. The list on Robert Baron’s site does not include a No. 16 exhibition, but apparently an album was published, because it’s now in my collection. I was happy and excited! Doesn’t take much does it? My quest continues for the dozen odd missing volumes however.

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Japanese black pine, Pinus thunbergii sold by Seiji Morimae, S-Cube

 

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Japanese five-needle pine, Pinus parviflora sold by Seiji Morimae, S-Cube

 

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Elevator at Ueno Green Club where thousands of visitors take to the second and third floor sales area

We later returned to the exhibition where I was allowed to take a few photos for International BONSAI. Last year during the remodeling the museum overhead lighting was changed to “pinkish” bulbs which might look good with other art, but not bonsai. Some of the Trident maple bonsai appeared to have pink bark, rather than the characteristically white coloring. Additionally, spotlights presented dramatic lighting on many bonsai highlighting flowers or twigs. All of these factors did NOT help with my photography, however hopefully my friend Joe Noga can compensate when color correcting and perfecting the images for my magazine. Having spent over 35 years teaching color reproduction, Joe has a calibrated eye for perfection with unequaled results. So, please note that the color is not correct in the attached photos. If you want to see the true beauty and color of the bonsai you will need to wait until June when the next issue of International BONSAI is released with photos from the exhibition.

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Chojubai flowering quince, Chaenomeles japonica ‘Chojubai’

More information to come after additional days of study, but these are my initial impressions. By the way, I believe this is one of “the best” presentations of the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition and can’t wait to see part 2 which begins on Sunday.

2 thoughts on “2014 88th Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition– Part 1

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