2016 Winter Bonsai Silhouette Bonsai Expo

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The 4th Winter Bonsai Silhouette Expo was sponsored and organized by Dr. Steven Zeisel with the support of the UNC Nutrition Research Institute and the Cabarrus County Convention and Visitors Bureau. It was held at the magnificent museum like venue on the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis, North Carolina, near Charlotte. The exhibition featuring leafless deciduous bonsai was staged in the rotunda of the building framed with imported Italian marble walls and floors under the dome, which is the tallest south of Washington, DC. This year there were 73 bonsai in the exhibition.

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Best of Show, Japanese Beech, displayed by Sergio Cuan

 

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Best Deciduous Bonsai, Shishigashira Japanese Maple, displayed by Joe Noga

 

I have been privileged to participate in all four editions of the exhibitions and this year’s show was leaps and bounds finer than in the past. Exhibitors put considerable effort into their overall displays as well as preparing their prized bonsai. A large number of exhibitors traveled from the state of Florida and many defoliated Figs, Bougainvillea and even a dwarf Jade to expose the fine twigs, rarely seen because these species are broadleaf evergreens. The beauty of each bonsai was digitally captured by Joe Noga who spent most of the weekend photographing each bonsai. It is too bad that he did not have the opportunity to photograph individual displays because creativity of most of the displays was innovative as well. So, please enjoy my photos while Joe processes his images, which will be posted on the exhibition’s web site at a later date.

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Best Conifer Bonsai, Sargent Juniper, displayed by Ed Lauer

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Best Fruiting Bonsai, Deciduous Holly

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No, its not a Trident Maple, its Willow-leaf Fig!

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Additionally, demonstrations were presented by Owen Reich, Rodney Clemens, Adam Levine and Wm. N. Valavanis who also lead a critique of the entire show and individual bonsai. An expanded vendor area brought several new vendors who offered their bonsai, pre-bonsai, art, containers and much more for visitors. Both the public and bonsai hobbyists attended to see the beautiful naked bonsai. An auction prior to the Saturday evening delicious dinner helped to defray the costs of producing this beautiful exhibition.

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Steve Zeisel is to be congratulated, again, for producing such a fine display of bonsai during a dark period of the year. But, the splendor of each bonsai truly was shining through the dark skies. I look forward to next year’s Winter Bonsai Silhouette Expo during the first week of December.

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2016 Autumn Japan Bonsai Exploration– Part 7 (Final)

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Today we visited the city of Tokoname, which is well known in the world wide bonsai community for producing excellent bonsai containers. The city of Tokoname is one of the oldest pottery towns having been established in the 12th Century. It is best known for producing toilets, sewer tiles and teapots. Bonsai container production has dropped significantly and currently less than ten kilns are producing bonsai containers. It must be remembered that there are many different quality levels of Tokoname made containers. The importation of contemporary Chinese containers is probably the reason for the kiln closing. Many of the Chinese containers are better quality and less expensive than some low quality Tokoname containers.

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We visited the show rooms of several different kilns both before and after lunch. The first stop was at the Yamaaki Kiln, which produces very fine quality containers of “normal” sizes. Mostly unglazed brown, they began to produce containers with a light blue glaze. They have not produced any new containers in the past three/four years.

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Reiho mixing glaze

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Dipping the container into the glaze. Note the drainage holes are plugged with corks, which are quickly removed after dipping.

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The famous Reiho seal put on the bottom of all containers.

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Mr. & Mrs. Reiho. She makes great smaller containers.

Shuho Kiln was our next stop which specializes in beautiful and unusual glazed containers. We saw mostly small and shohin bonsai containers.

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Typical street scene where the bonsai potters live and work.

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Mr. Shuho near one of his kilns.

The Ikko Kiln makes all sizes of bonsai containers, both glazed and unglazed. The detail work is superb, as are some pretty unusual glazes.

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Mr. Ikko and his son.

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Another one of my favorite kilns is the Koyo Kiln, which specializes in mostly smaller size glazed containers. Since I specialize in deciduous species, its no wonder why I prefer Reiho and Koyo containers. I noticed a rather unusual companion planting container, which looks like a doughnut, complete with a hole in the center. I picked one up and hope it makes it back home in one piece, if not I have Superglue. Plans are to use it in one of my displays at the Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expo on December 3-4, 2016 in Kannapolis, North Carolina. More information at: www.winterbonsai.net

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Mr. Koyo with a great publication!

Our final stop was at the Gyozan Kiln, which is currently considered to be the number one potter in Japan. All of the containers are hand built, using no molds. Most of his containers are unglazed, but Gyozan is now producing glazed containers. His wife paints designs and figures on some of the small containers. I’ve been looking for a special container for my Dwarf ezo spruce bonsai. I showed Gyozan a photo of the bonsai with dimensions and he is going to make a container for my tree. Hopefully I can pick it up in April during our tour to Japan for the World Bonsai Convention.

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He had a rather unusual display at this year’s Nippon Bonsai Taikan Exhibition in Kyoto. Gyozan displayed his new design for a container holding both the main bonsai and companion planting in one piece.

GYOZAN.jpg

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Mr. Gyozan will also be demonstrating at the World Bonsai Convention in April.

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Tomorrow we fly home, into the snow for me, in time for Thanksgiving. I hope everyone has enjoyed my blogs, as I enjoy sharing new things I see and learn. Keep watching for blog entries next week from the Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expo in Kannapolis, North Carolina and then the next day from China for the Global Bonsai Summit. Have a good and safe Thanksgiving!

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Pretty large size Lucky Kitty ready for Christmas!

2016 Japan Bonsai Exploration– Part 6

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Genkokai Bonsai & Suiseki Exhibition

On Saturday and Sunday S-Cube sponsored and produced a special exhibition for the Genkokai, a small group of bonsai collectors with high quality refined bonsai and suiseki. Held in the Hoshu-In Buddhist temple, established in 1608, the complex is normally not open to visitors. This temple is in the Daitoku-Ji complex of numerous smaller temples of the Rinzai School of Japanese Zen including the popular Daisen-In on many garden tours.

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The Genkokai is headed by Seiji Morimae comprised of his clients who want to share the beautiful bonsai and suiseki collections. He has superb taste in bonsai, suiseki and display.

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Seiji Morimae designed the displays in the individual 11 rooms of the temple, each holding one to several bonsai or suiseki. Along with the help of his S-Cube staff Mr. Morimae presented an excellent selection of bonsai and suseki. They all suggest seasonality in a quiet atmosphere.

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Even though the lighting was dim, each tree and stone could be clearly seen, studied and appreciated. The low light, in good taste was not conducive for photographing, especially since it was necessary to sit on the floor for each display, not good for my knees. A single 100 watt light bulb was the only source of light for each room. But, it is important to realize the purpose of this exhibition was not to take good photos in sufficient light, but rather to move your soul while appreciating bonsai and suiseki from private collections which are never or rarely displayed.

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I was truly touched with this entire exhibition and the atmosphere of the presentation. Not too many exhibitions do that for me.

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In another building there were two rooms filled with beautiful bonsai, suiseki and display tables for sale by S-Cube.

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The Genkokai Exhibition was a moving and learning experience personally for me which featured stellar masterpiece bonsai and suiseki. I appreciate Mr. Morimae’s hard work, taste and desire to share the beauty of his client’s trees and stones. It’s important to realize ALL these items must be packed up and trucked back to Hanyu by his friendly and hard working staff. This year only three trucks were necessary to move all the items. Even his wife and daughter were there to help and host visitors.

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We were too late as this Japanese black pine bonsai was already sold.

 

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This Japanese five-needle pine was also sold. Each one of these two sold bonsai are about the same price of a new Chevy Suburban!!

 

2016 Autumn Japan Bonsai Exploration– Part 5

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Nippon Bonsai Taikan Exhibition– Part 2

The exhibition opened this morning after the ribbon cutting ceremony. Initially the show was packed, and then slowed down as the day went on, like me. Yesterday I walked (hobbled with cane actually) 2.9 miles photographing and watching (learning) during the judging.

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There were a large number of foreign visitors today from Germany, France, England, Italy and Canada too! Jerry Rainville studied bonsai with Hiroyoshi Yamaji about 40 years ago. I remember meeting this giant of man when Chase Rosade and Lynn Porter visited Shikoku Island to see pine bonsai. He was originally from Montreal and had a bonsai store with Arthur Skolnik. Jerry completed his studies in Japan, married his Japanese sweetheart and settled in the Vancouver area of Canada where he has a large scale bonsai nursery. Jerry returns to Japan each year to help another one of his teachers, Koji Hiramatsu for a month during a bonsai festival. This year the festival and the Nippon Bonsai Taikan Exhibition dates were not too far apart so he stayed to help Mr. Hiramatsu and his father with their sales area at the exhibition.

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Since the exhibition was now set up there were opportunities to get a few overall views of the show. Note the different colored background. It’s quite difficult to photograph a pine or maple with yellow foliage against a yellow background. The blue and green backgrounds can also be challenging with certain colored trees as well.

 

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Award winning Dwarf star jasmine.

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There were a few special large displays, including one organized by Kenji Oshima. Each year his displays feature a different species. One year it was Trident maples or Hinoki cypress. Last year he featured Korean hornbeams. If you look back in my archived blogs you can see the past displays. This year five Shishigashira Japanese maples were featured, all masterpieces. This is an old dwarf cultivar of Japanese maple, which has been in cultivation for over 300 years. When I saw Kenji today I asked again, do all these bonsai belong to one collector? He said yes and he cares for the entire collection. The collection must be huge and I must make a visit sometime.

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This small size Shishigashira Japanese maple was not part of Mr. Oshima’s display. This fine quality bonsai was probably started from an air layer. Great taper too!

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The sales area was open and crowded, until about 3 pm. Bjorn’s teacher had one of the best displays of good trees. In particular there was a large size Shishigsashira Japanese maple bonsai. Bjorn had a great one for sale when the show opened. It can be seen on the left side of the display area and can be purchased for only US $55,000.00. Well, someone knew quality and it was quickly sold…. But I think Bjorn said there was another Shishigashira Japanese maple bonsai back at the nursery, which was better. I wonder if that tree will appear on the sales area tomorrow?

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There were some stunning, unusual and well done companion plantings, but I was only able to photograph a few as I was concentrating on the bonsai. Tomorrow I’ll try to take more photographs.

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At the end of the day, for me, as I was trying to get enough energy to return to my hotel, I noticed one of our tour members carefully studying the “best of show award bonsai.” Kurt Smith owns the Flower Market specializing in bonsai in Michigan. He recognized quality and was carefully looking at the bonsai from all sides appreciating the antiquity of the Sargent juniper. This type of serious dedication is typical of our tour members as they continue to see how the bonsai are created and developed after the initial impact of the exhibition passes.

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2016 Autumn Japan Bonsai Exploration– Part 4

 

1Nippon Bonsai Taikan Exhibition

The Nippon Bonsai Taikan Exhibition is the largest bonsai exhibition in western Japan held in Kyoto, just down the street from the Heian Shrine. Professional bonsai artists select trees from their clients who want to display. It’s kind of easy to have a tree accepted for this exhibition, much more than the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition, which is highly judged. Entry fees are similar, $500 and $1,000 spots, depending on the size. So actually there is a wide quality range of bonsai in the Nippon Bonsai Taikan Exhibition. This year there are some pretty awesome bonsai. Each year the quality seems to go up. I can’t figure out where all these beautiful bonsai come from. Very few are repeated and the top winners from the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition are also displayed here.

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Set up and judging day are on Friday this year, which is quite interesting an educational for me. I appreciate the privilege of watching and photographing. The exhibition committee headed up by Toru Suzuki does the pre-selection for awards in the morning. They select the best three or four bonsai from each category.

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Then those finalists are brought in a long row for the judging which begins after lunch. This year there were 13 judges, primarily the heads of the various bonsai organizations: professional, amateur, two shohin societies and suiseki. Additionally art critics and other politically important people are included. So, actually, ANY tree, which is selected, is high quality masterpiece. And, those finalists who do not win the “best deciduous, shohin, suiseki, forest, literati and evergreen categories” also win other awards. I saw and heard one judge ask “what kind of tree is this?” It was a maple….

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Remember a few days ago I showed a cart full of bonsai in Mr. Kimura’s garden? Well, I was correct. One of those won the top Prime Minister Award. I wonder if I could get president-elect Trump to sponsor such a top award for the next US National Bonsai Exhibition?

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Technology is GREAT!

Before, during and after the judging, during the non-crowded times I began photographing the bonsai. I had a problem with my camera, which I could not figure out, the display screen was bright green. No problem, I simply turned on my personal wifi hot spot and got connected to the Internet free. Then turned on Facetime on my iPhone and called Joe Noga in North Carolina who corrects my poor images for the magazine. He has taught color reproduction for over 35 years at the Rochester Institute of Technology, one of the finest photographic and printing colleges in the United States and retired to North Carolina. He helps me adjust all photos for my magazine and is official photographer for the US National Bonsai Exhibitions and also the upcoming Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expo in North Carolina next weekend.

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I showed him the green display screen through Facetime and we figured out the Expo Disk used to set the white balance was put on the lens backwards. My operator error! So, while I had him on the iPhone, I showed him a bit of the exhibition and he even greeted Mr. Kimura and Peter Warren as they walked pass. The remaining photos came out OK.

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Please remember the photos posted in my blog and Internet forums are MY versions. The perfectly adjusted photos, which are in focus and in the correct color balance, will appear in a future issue of International BONSAI. So if you want to see perfect photos you will need to subscribe:

http://www.internationalbonsai.com/product/IBM-652343450

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These photos were taken before the entire exhibition was set up was finalized, trees are being moved and better views will be coming tomorrow after the exhibition opens.

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As my good friend and assistant Alan Adair says, enjoy the “Bonsai Porn” photos.

PS: I was just thinking: Does this mean that Bjorn and I are “Bonsai Pornographers?”

2016 Autumn Japan Bonsai Exploration– Part 3

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Daiju-en Bonsai Garden in Okazaki, Japan, is one of the most famous bonsai gardens in Japan because of the historical contributions of the Suzuki family. Established by Saichi Suzuki in the early 1900s the garden continued with his son Toshinori’s leadership. Now son and grandson Toru Suzuki operates the garden.

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Saichi Suzuki is responsible for the introduction and developmental techniques for the Zuisho Japanese five-needle pine. He wrote a 32 series article, which I had translated for International BONSAI several decades ago. This article describes, in detail, how Zuisho was discovered, propagation methods and techniques Mr. Suzuki experimented with. Also information is shared on growing pine bonsai. Mr. Suzuki discovered many of the techniques for pine bonsai, now standard practice around the world.

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Japanese black pine created by Daichi Suzuki.

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He is also responsible for the introduction and popularization of the Princess persimmon. I remember seeing the “original” Princess persimmon Mr. Suzuki displayed at the Taikan Bonsai Exhibition in the early 1980s with my mother on one of my earlier trips to Japan. It truly was the hit of the show as nobody had seen anything like it before. This began the Princess persimmon boom in Japan. There are many species like this which became popular during the decades such as Dwarf stewartia, Hibiscus, Nishiki Japanese black pine and Zuisho, just to mention a few. Many are no longer cultivated in Japan and I remember, to my shock, seeing fields of two to three foot tall developed Nishiki Japanese black pine plowed under because they were no longer popular and valuable for sale. Too bad this species is prohibited to be imported to the United States. During one of my last visits with Saichi Suzuki he gave me a rooted cutting, the size of a chopstick of a little-known Wisteria cultivar which has blossoms SIX feet long. That’s even taller than me, but that’s not saying much. To date I’ve only been able to grow a single flower to 56 inches in length, but I’m still trying. Also the original cutting the size of a chopstick is now well over 12 inches in diameter in my main bonsai display area and puts on a spectacular show every other mid-May, depending on the winter.

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Toshinori Suzuki inherited Daiju-n Bonsai Garden after his father’s passing. He continued to refine the new growth trimming techniques for Japanese black pine which have been featured in several Japanese language books. He also liked Needle juniper and Japanese cryptomeria, two new growth labor intensive species. Toshinori Suzuki created many of the top masterpiece Needle juniper bonsai in Japan. Bonsai awards were abundantly won by both Saichi and Toshinori Suzuki. Mr. Suzuki’s first apprentice is Yasuo Mitsuya and Kenji Miyata. One of his last apprentices is Kenji Oshima from Okayama, now an award winning bonsai artist.

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Needle juniper created by Toshinori Suzuki.

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Award winning Chinese quince by Toshinori Suzuki. He won this award about 40 years ago.

Toru Suzuki, a leader of the current modern world, took over his father and grandfather’s legacy and continued to specialize in pine, juniper and Chinese quince bonsai. An interest and study of suiseki makes him an authority on this subject. He is on the list of authorized bonsai instructors of the Nippon Bonsai Association, and frequently travels around the world teaching and demonstrating bonsai. A few weeks ago he traveled to the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum in Washington, DC, on the grounds of the US National Arboretum presenting a demonstration working on the Japanese black pine his grandfather donated to the US National Bonsai & Penjing Museum, now part of the original Japanese bonsai collection. The National Bonsai Foundation was formed to support the activities of the museum and additional information on Mr. Suzuki’s visit can be found at:

www.bonsai-nbf.org/celebrating-the-national-bonsai-penjing-museums-40th-anniversary/

Information on that site can also be found on joining this worthy organization to help support of the first public bonsai collections in the world and our nation’s only bonsai museum. The organization also has a Facebook presence– Bonsai Circle (National Bonsai Foundation) a free public group with many interesting article and photos:

www.facebook.com/groups/bonsaicircle/

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Japanese hawthorn

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Hardy Kiwi! Diane has one, but it does not look like this yet….

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Most professional bonsai artists in Japan make a significant amount of their yearly income by displaying their client’s bonsai in large exhibitions such as the Taikan Bonsai Exhibition, opening on Saturday in Kyoto and the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition in February in Tokyo. Clients are required to have a “handler” to have their bonsai judged and accepted for display. Additionally, display tables, mossing, companion planting and perhaps an antique Chinese container rental may be necessary, as well as perhaps years of preparation. Usually this is performed at the bonsai artist’s garden, which can be quite expensive as well as the $500 to $1,000 entry fee. Don’t forget the transportation costs too, which can run up if one lives in western Osaka and the exhibition is in Tokyo, a good day’s drive away. I remember, many decades ago, in the height of the bonsai boom in Japan when Toshinori Suzuki took 14 truck loads of his client’s bonsai to the Taikan Bonsai Exhibition. Tomorrow Toru Suzuki will take, or rather the apprentices will take and carry 14 bonsai in three truck loads. Unfortunately, the popularity and times have changed in Japan BUT the commitment of the bonsai artists and quality and refinement of bonsai continues to rise.

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Mr. “Bonsai Crazy” on left answering questions. He speaks perfect English and is a popular bonsai teacher in the United States. Currently he is an apprentice to Toru Suzuki.

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One of the older building in the 6th century Temple complex.

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Head priest and bonsai collector Mr. Omura teaching before he welcomed us at lunch.

We continued on our private motor coach to the Shinpukuji Temple, also in Okazaki about an hour away. Julian Adams and I visited years ago which required $50 taxi cost, each way of course. Our timing today was perfect to partake in a special Buddhist luncheon, which was included with our tour. This year was different, however, as we did not need to sit on the floor as tables were added, as well as an English diagram of all the different goodies handed out before the meal. ALL of the cups, chopsticks, spoons, plates, dishes and tray were made of bamboo, harvested on the grounds of this temple complex from the sixth century. Most of the food items were bamboo also, all delicious.

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As we were finishing head priest Mr. Omura came to welcome us to Shinpukuji Temple and invited us “behind the scene” to his extensive bonsai collection of developing trees and those not at their peak display, such as Witchazel and other spring blossoming species. We then walked trough the tall and stately bamboo and Japanese cryptomeria forest to the temple’s museum.

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The main museumlevel has an entry alcove usually featuring a large chrysanthemum suiseki and seasonal bonsai. The bonsai of the day was a large Persimmon. The lower level museum houses priceless antique Buddhist art, as well as contemporary pieces.

Upstairs on the main level a row of bonsai featured autumn fruiting species, especially Princess persimmons, a favorite of Mr. Omura. An outside area had about two dozen larger bonsai of many species. Most of the bonsai came from the Daiju-en Bonsai Garden of the Suzuki family, including many antique bonsai from Saichi Suzuki. One of the most famous Needle juniper bonsai in Japan is owned by Mr. Omura. The other most famous Needle juniper bonsai was seed earlier at Daiju-en Bonsai Garden.

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Mr. Omura proudly showed us one of the bonsai which received one of the coveted Kokufu Sho Awards, highest level award in Japan at the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition three years ago. His bonsai was a medium size Japanese five-needle pine bonsai, grown from seed, not grafted. In the reception room I saw, for the first time, the actual award certificate for a Kokufu Show Award.

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Finally, Mr. Omura showed me his Chinese quince he plans on entering in next year’s 91st Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition in February. I wish him luck and look forward to seeing his bonsai naked in the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Gallery where the fine twigs and colorful unusual peeling bark can be appreciated. Of course it will a pleasure to greet him again in Tokyo as well.

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NO, I did not go up, nor down these steps to the main temple. My cane and knees don’t like steps……. We were driven up by a private car.

2016 Autumn Japan Bonsai Exploration– Part 2

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Today we only had two stops to visit bonsai gardens, but they were significant and quite a bit of time was necessary to view and study all the numerous details, which make each one unique.

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Our first stop was at Kunio Kobayashi’s Shunka-en Bonsai Museum in Edogwa, Tokyo. Upon first entering the garden you must go around a wall to see the main display area full of large size bonsai. Every time I visit I see something new and learn a lot. Also each time I come there are more and more bonsai, mostly large size for Chinese customers. He has even constructed a new display area on the roof of the building housing his containers and suiseki. If you can’t expand horizontally, you go up. I took a short video from the rooftop growing area and I’m pleased to report no bones were broken during my ascent and descend.

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I was fortunate to visit here in both February and March this year and was surprised to see so many new bonsai as well as older Sargent junipers, which are being grafted with a different cultivar. Many of his established bonsai are continuously being refined into higher level masterpieces.

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It was difficult to navigate through the crowded garden, especially with my cane, which found a comfortable spot to rest until we left. Mr. Kobayashi is taking the appreciation of bonsai to a higher level through the art of display. He built his museum primarily to show different levels of bonsai display in eleven different alcove display areas.

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As always, Mr. Kobayashi was busy, running around preparing suiseki for display at this weekend’s Taikan Bonsai Exhibition in Kyoto. Peter Warren will pick up the stones tomorrow and drive and set them up at the exhibition. Of course he made time to visit with us and gave everyone a new suiseki from the Saiji River. All they now need is about 30 years of weathering outdoors to develop patina.

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Mr. Kobayashi displayed this BONSEKI in one of the alcoves. Fine sand is arranged to present a landscape. The art of bonseki is older than bonsai and suiseki.

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We then took the bullet train to Shizuoka, however there were no views of Mt. Fuji because of the clouds. That’s OK because on the way home flying from Nagoya to Tokyo superb views are often seen. Fields of Japanese green tea were abundantly seen from the bullet train, which looked like low hedges.

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Nobuichi Urushibata

Our group went to see the Taisho-en Bonsai Garden of Nobuichi Urushibata and his son Taiga who apprenticed with Masahiko Kimura. Mr. Urushibata is one of the top leaders for shohin bonsai. His established garden is loaded with small trees, nearly all container grown and superb. He also has an entire room full of trophies he won in ballroom competitions. Unfortunately he hurt his back and is no longer dancing.

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Taiga Urushibata is becoming more popular as a world demonstrator because of his skill, friendly personality and the ability to speak English. I brought him to Rochester, NY, in 2009 for my Shohin Bonsai Symposium and hope he will return in 2018.

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Although is skilled and knowledgeable with shohin bonsai, his trees are much larger than his father’s diminutive jewels. Many of this bonsai feature distinctive dead wood. Also his garden has a quarantine house for exporting to the United States.

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Nobuichi Urushibata, left, and Jack Wikle, two of the world’s top shohin bonsai artists discussing trees.

Taisho-en Bonsai Garden features bonsai of all sizes in a newly designed immaculate well-organized garden.

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