2022 42ND Nippon Bonsai Taikan Exhibition– Part 3

A few parting images from the exhibition. The attendance was not as previous years, but the bonsai were of a higher quality. This exhibition often includes hanging scrolls, suiseki and other art as accessories as well as grass plantings. The new black color background made the scrolls really stand out, perhaps a bit too much. Most of these professionally produced bonsai exhibitions often consider the owner’s taste. Remember most of these masterpiece bonsai are not cared for by their owners. Professional bonsai artists generally care for their trees, usually at their garden.

Generally, the common current trend of display often tells a story or reminds viewers of natural scenes. However, nearly all Japanese bonsai display indicates seasonality. This can be done in three ways, the condition of the tree, scroll theme or the accessory. This is important. What about evergreens? Although many species have a winter purplish color, most do not. In this case the scroll, accessory planting or figurine must indicate the season. The seasonality of evergreens, which are always “evergreen,” is suggested by a scroll, perhaps a mountain scene for winter or waterfall for summer. I really like the Nippon Taikan Bonsai Exhibitions because the entire composition can be expressed by the artists and visitors can easily study Japanese aesthetics.

Many of the displayed bonsai have been awarded the title of “important bonsai masterpiece” classification or “kicho bonsai”. They are carefully judged and require a judging fee of about $200. Then if the tree is considered worthy of the title the owner, not artist pay about $10,000. These trees are nearly always accepted when selecting bonsai for displays. Most often the trees are simply displayed and may include a small important masterpiece bonsai hanging on the tree, but not in front. Other times the owner really wants to show off his expensive masterpiece and will include the silver metal plaque in front of their bonsai. Most exhibitors, however, truly love the art and simply want to share their beauty with the public, and no indication is visible. Others want you to know they own such an important masterpiece and leave the identification tag on the tree, or sometimes display their plaque. The worldwide bonsai community is the same everywhere. Some display for the love of their art and others want praise and recognition. I’ve even seen bonsai displayed anonymously, with no owner’s name. But even these trees require hundreds of dollars (yen) entry fees, transporting charges and also must pay for the rental of display tables, scrolls, accessories and even containers. The professional bonsai artist generally offers these services. Way back in the 1990s I know of one professional artist who took 17 truckloads of his customer’s trees for exhibition.

Bonsai lovers and inhabitant’s Mark and Rita Cooper from England displayed one of their new Shishigashira Japanese maple bonsai. But without any indication of its important bonsai masterpiece status. They simply wanted to share their bonsai. It did win an award, I know, because I was one of the judges. They commented to me they now want to enter this bonsai in the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition in Ueno Park, Tokyo, in February. But they must first find or rent a suitable container, because the quality and size of the present container are not of the top level to be accepted in the exhibition. There is more to displaying a bonsai than to walk into your garden the night before a show, select a tree and clean the container, hopefully, add moss and take it to a show. Many of the bonsai in Japan, and now in the United States as well are taking years to prepare their trees for show.

On Sunday afternoon the bonsai community, organized by Seiji Morimae, sponsored a charity auction for the people of the Ukraine, which has a sister city relationship with the city of Kyoto. Even the Kyoto mayor attended the auction. He really likes bonsai and attends this exhibition yearly. It’s always good to have a high-level politician who likes bonsai on your side. 

Approximately 75 bonsai, important bonsai masterpieces, suiseki, containers and other art were donated. Mashiko Kimura donated four of his bonsai for the auction including a certificate of authentic. Perhaps the most valuable bonsai auctioned was a large prize winning multiple trunk Chinese quince which is well known and also an important bonsai masterpiece. Mr. Morimae is a master auctioneer and quickly sold all the items in just less than two hours to about 40 bidders. But, to be fair, he had a large army of apprentices moving the trees all the time. Many were four-man size. Oh, the beautiful Chinese quince sold for about $850,000, PLUS a 5% buyers fee of about $40,000. I’m certain the new owner will have someone to care for the tree, or perhaps a professional bonsai artist purchased it for resale.

Traveling half way around the world to spend a four-day weekend at the exhibition was a very rewarding tiring learning experience to personally because I have not been able to enter Japan for three years. Now I’m tired, remember the weekend before we drove 6,000 miles to participate in the Pacific Bonsai Expo in California. But I can sleep on the plane ride home, because we leave on Thursday for the Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expo in North Carolina. To be honest, I’m displaying the two maples from the Pacific Bonsai Expo in North Carolina as they are show ready. I did not even unwrap the display tables. All ready to roll! Oh, in the meantime I must help Diane with handling the fire damaged home. We now have a “tentative” move in date of March 10th. Of course, it will be snowy and the beginning of transplanting season. Good thing I’ve been blessed with a loving, hard working beautiful wife and dedicated crew to help with whatever is needed to keep me going to improve and spread bonsai. Good thing I’m bionic! I hope you have enjoyed my trip through this blog.

The New Kyoto Bonsai Garden

In March 2021 The Kyoto Bonsai Garden opened in the middle of the Daitokuji Temple complex. A preopening was held in November-December 2020. The Covid pandemic caused delays and the formal opening was March 20, 2021. Most of the bonsai in the preopening exhibit were from the Tanaka Foundation and other prominent bonsai artists.

We had the opportunity to visit the Kyoto Bonsai Garden, my first time yesterday before we returned to the Nippon Bonsai Taikan Exhibition about 20 minutes away. The concept of a bonsai garden was the dream of Seiji Morimae, who designed the garden and is the general manager. Last year Mr. Morimae sent me photos of the garden before the opening and I compiled a four-page article in the 2021/NO. 2 issue of International Bonsai Online, the new free digital edition of International BONSAIwhich can be viewed and freely subscribed at:www.internationalbonsaionlie.com. The four-page article has been attached to the end of this blog.

Although I’ve seen many photos of this new garden, my personal visit blew me away. The elegant serenity of the “Zen” garden featuring about 30 bonsai is beyond description. Mr. Morimae spent considerable time designing the garden. An unobstructed view of each bonsai masterpiece clearly shows the beauty of each tree. The stroll garden welcomes visitors into another world.

There is a long narrow entryway into the garden. All the bonsai on left were created by Maahiko Kimura. Directly opposite these bonsai is a special display of stones, originally from the Saburo Kato Mansei-en Bonsai Garden in Omiya. These stones have been carefully arranged leading visitors from the ancient Chinese taste, the origin of stone appreciation and bonsai, to the contemporary Japanese taste of stones. There were several old famous bonsai on display which I remember from 50 years ago. I’d like to show the old photos with their developments, but unfortunately my bonsai reference library has been carefully cleaned and safely packed away until our new home is completed.

All of the displayed bonsai are large, quite large, four man trees. A long exhibit building shows the formal display of smaller, common size bonsai.

Any trip to Kyoto will not be complete without a visit to the Kyoto Bonsai Garden, which is located in the Daitokuji Temple complex, specifically in the Hoshun’in sub temple. The 850-year-old Daitokuji Temple is one of the most popular gardens in Kyoto. Mr. Morimae has not finished his dream yet, as a new modern bonsai museum is in the works directly behind the Kyoto Bonsai Garden to be completed in a few years.

2022 42nd Nippon Bonsai Taikan Exhibition– Part 2

Today the exhibition quietly opened on time, but without a ribbon cutting ceremony, which was cancelled because of Covid. The large crowd of visitors was missing as were foreigners. However, within an hour the exhibition was filled. And the vendor area many foreign customers. I’ve been doing this for several decades and have noticed foreigners head straight to the sales area first, then when they run out of money proceed to look at the trees. By early afternoon there were quite a few foreigners, even Peter Warren from England with his wife and young son Leo.

Often there are several Persimmons displayed, in addition to many Princess persimmon which were colorful and used as accessories for larger bonsai. This time, there was only one larger size but full of fruit and colorful foliage. I’m traveling with Julian Adams from Adams’ Bonsai in Lynchburg, Virginia, and author of the best-selling book, Growing Pines for Bonsai. He is particularly interested in the larger sized Persimmon because one of his specialties are Princess persimmon. Julian and I are frequent travelers to Japan together. All I need to say to Julian is let’s go back to Japan and he is ready. This trip was a bit different as we met up at our Kyoto hotel. He traveled through Dallas, Texas where his suitcase was left for a couple of days. He kept complaining that he had no clean underwear or socks. I have a suitcase filled with clean underwire (baklava all gone), but he did not take me up on my offer to borrow a pair. You will need to ask him if he went commando for a few days.

At 2pm I lead a walking tour through the exhibition in English. Approximately 25 people visitors from the United States, England, Australia and Serbia atoned and asked questions. Even several Japanese natives joined in. One more walking tour is scheduled for Saturday afternoon. On Sunday afternoon at 2pm Mr. Morimae is organizing a big charity auction benefiting Ukraine. Lots of good trees will be auctioned including award-winning bonsai from the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition. More later on this exciting event.

2022 42nd Nippon Bonsai Taikan Exhibition- Part 1

The 42nd Nippon Bonsai Taikan Exhibition opens in a few hours from now at 9am, Friday November 25 and will continue through Monday, November 28, 2022. The event is being held at the Miyako Messe in Kyoto, Japan. This is one of the largest and most famous bonsai exhibitions in Japan.

Today, Thursday was set up and judging day. A new change this year is the alcove display backgrounds are black, not the usual light green. The yellow is still being used, however. This was my first shoot with a black background so I’m still learning how to photograph, I need Joe Noga for a distance learning session tomorrow. Hopefully the next photos will can be improved.

As the vendors were setting up the professional photograph for the commemorative album were being taken. At 2pm the judging was supposed to begin, but it rather started earlier at 1:30pm. This is the direct opposite of “Greek Time” which usually begins almost an hour after the opening.

Again, I’ve honored again for the third time to be on the judging panel. This year I noticed that the judges were actually bonsai artists and head of the numerous Japanese bonsai organizations. In the morning the top two, three or four examples were selected in the morning for the final judging in the afternoon.  They were classified as large, medium and small evergreen, deciduous and satsuki. There were also sections for rock plantings. literati and shohin bonsai compositions. Finally, there were three categories for suiseki: daiza, water basins and figure stones. For the first time there was a three way tie for an award. So we voted again with the same result. However, on the third time voting we had winner. Actually, any of the selected bonsai were beautiful and are award worthy, and most received one of the numerous awards.

Fortunately, I was able to get a few photos without the crowds today, tomorrow will be more difficult until late afternoon. On both Friday and Saturday, I’ll be leading a walk thru of the exhibitions in English. I hope to be able to improve my photography. More coming tomorrow.

Pacific Bonsai Expo- Bonus Part 5

In addition to the 73 bonsai displays the Pacific Bonsai Expo had two artistic displays.

“How Big Was Naka’s Bird” was designed by Eric Schrader, featuring numerous origami paper Tree Swallows handmade by Linda Mihara.

The display featured a copy of John Naka’s textbook and a Juniper bonsai. Suspended among the origami Tree Swallows was a small Juniper bonsai. This large unique sculpture was near the entrance dividing the bonsai exhibition and vendor’s area.

“Bonsai Deconstructed” another giant sculpture was a collaboration with Aaron Packard, curator of the Pacific Bonsai Museum; bonsai was shaped by Ryan Neil, container was made by Ron Lang, concrete stand by Austin Hieztman, round glass sculpture by Coutrney Branam and the large hand cut paper background was created by Tahiti Pehrson. Combining five different media to present a single unified sculpture was a difficult task and masterly executed to the delight of the visitors to the Pacific Bonsai Expo.

As an extra bonus to finish this blog I thought I’d like to share some images of the excellent companion plantings.

Docent tours of the bonsai exhibition were conducted nearly every hour by bonsai authorities. Even I was asked to share my thoughts of the trees and how they were presented.

Marc Arpag again drove 1,000 miles today, but it was a bit different going through two blizzards near the 7,000 ft. summit of Elk Mountain. The second blizzard was a few hours later. Semi-trucks were strewn along the highway because of the slippery, drifting snow and black ice. The temperature also dropped to 14F for a long time. Good thing our trees are winter hardy. Marc’s tropical Parrot’s beak’s shohin bonsai was brought into the hotel nightly to protect it from the from the frigid temperature. We even put it into a plastic bag behind the front seat for extra protection.

Now, we are nearly home, only 13 hours and 886 miles to travel. Before I leave for Japan in a few days, Diane and I must still select paint colors, new appliances and furniture. Additionally, I’m very blessed to have friends and Diane bring all my winter-hardy bonsai under protection from the winter weather. I’m extremely looking forward to attending and help judge this year’s Nippon Bonsai Taikan Exhibition in Kyoto. I’ll also be conducting a few walking tours of the exhibition, in English of course. I hope you enjoyed our adventures. Look forward to new blogs from Japan.

Pacific Bonsai Expo- Part 4

The Pacific Bonsai ExpoAn Exhibition of Extraordinary Bonsai is being sponsored by Eric Schrader and Jonas Dupuich.

People patiently waited outside for over an hour before the doors opened. When the exhibition opened at 9:00 AM, hordes of buying customers descended on the sales area. I believe attendance was limited to just over 800 daily because of fire safety regulations. All the tickets were sold out early, but a few day tickets were available.

Three professional bonsai artists, Bjorn Bjorholm, Ryan Neil and William N. Valavanis selected all the bonsai for the exhibition. Over 250 submissions from across the United States, mostly from western states. The judges were instructed to select the best bonsai, but keeping in mind to design an entire exhibition with trees of different species, styles and sizes. Only 73 displays of bonsai were displayed because of limited space and in order to present the bonsai in a clean area with without distractions and being crowded. Actually, there were 98 individual bonsai shown counting the individual shohin bonsai and medium size displays. Each bonsai and shohin bonsai composition were allowed one six-foot table for display.

As the exhibitors arrived all day on Friday and Saturday morning, each tree was given a final inspection for moss arrangement, branch positions, because often they are changed when transporting. The display tables were polished, again, containers cleaned and polished to perfection. The companion plantings were adjusted as well as were the displays. Once completed well-known professional photographer, David Fenton, photographed each tree. The artists were encouraged to check the final images on a large size monitor.

After photographing, each bonsai went to a preassigned area. Generally, all the trees were displayed by size: large, huge, medium size trees and shohin bonsai compositions. Also, the trees were positioned alternating with evergreen and deciduous species, as well as height for interest.

Each photographed bonsai and display will be in the forthcoming commemorative album which can be ordered at: www.pacificbonsaiexpo.com/products/pacific-bonsai-expo-commemorative-album-pre-order.

On late Friday afternoon, after everything was set up, the 45 exhibitors who are showing 73 bonsai display areas judged the exhibition before the event opened to the public. They were given judging sheets to assign evaluation numbers for determining the prize-winning trees. I was so pleased there was not going to be a “People’s Choice Award” because frankly speaking, the public does not even know what they are looking at. They will always select a colorful flowering tree or a forest, rock planting or tray landscape. So, at the Pacific Bonsai Expo the actual exhibitors, who I respect and know bonsai, can make educated evaluations.

At the Saturday evening Award Banquet, the winners were announced. Randy Knight’s huge Ponderosa pine he collected and styled by Ryan Neil, won the Best of Show Award. Congratulations Randy, well deserved!

The vendor area, by invitation only, included 27 vendors from four states. These vendors are some of the finest vendors in the United States. They brought fine quality bonsai, pre-bonsai, containers, tools collected trees, clothing, jewelry copper wire, display tables and more.

Bonsai conventions, symposia, shows and other events have been common in the United States for about 60 years. I know, because I had to skip my high school graduation in 1969 to attend an ABS Symposium in Philadelphia, PA.  All of these displays and conferences have been organized, sponsored and run by non-profit bonsai clubs, societies and organizations. It seems to me, personally, that the best organized and educational, events are now being privately sponsored such as the Pacific Bonsai Expo, Artisans’ Cup, Brussel’s Rendezvous, Winter Silhouette Expo and the US National Bonsai Exhibition. A professional privately sponsored, well organized event, puts the individual’s reputation and livelihood on the line.

Now that the successful Pacific Bonsai Expo has finished, I feel it is important to once again thank Eric Schrader (Bonsai LLC) and Jonas Dupuich (Bonsai Tonight LLC). This joint project was made possible by the generous support from the bonsai community. Not many people can say that authoritatively, I have sponsored seven US National Bonsai Exhibitions and 30 symposia with my friends in, New York. I truly look forward to working with the Pacific Bonsai Expo for many years to Rochester come to raise the level of bonsai and unify bonsai in our great United States.

Pacific Bonsai Expo- Part 3

The Pacific Bonsai Expo- An Exhibition of Extraordinary Bonsai is being sponsored by Eric Schrader and Jonas Dupuich, both skilled professional bonsai artists living in Alameda, California. Held in the Brick Yard, a unique ship building yard, the wide space has excellent natural lighting, which allows the beauty of bonsai to shine. This historic event for the west coast is being held on November 12-13, 2022.

Three professional bonsai artists, Bjorn Bjorholm, Ryan Neil and William N. Valavanis selected only 73 bonsai for the exhibition from over 250 submissions from across the United States, mostly from western states. Only the finest quality bonsai were accepted and were limited to only 73 trees, both huge and tiny, so each tree composition has adequate display areas. Many famous and well-known bonsai are being displayed, some for the first time.

Exhibitors and vendors began to arrive, unload and display their trees and supplies. A small army of dedicated volunteers designed and erected four long seamless backgrounds. It was very classy and I am honored and proud to have two bonsai in this historic exhibition.

All trees were professional photographed before displaying which will be included in the forthcoming commemorative album which can be ordered at: www.pacificbonsaiexpo.com/products/pacific-bonsai-expo-commemorative-album-pre-order.

Tomorrow I’ll report on the, judging, photographing, displaying vendors and more, but I’ve included a few bonsai today.

Pacific Bonsai Expo- Part 2

On Monday and Tuesday Marc Arpag drove just over 1,000, with me as navigator. Wednesday, we took off again at our normal departure time 4:00 AM!

It was dark, of course, and we suddenly ran into a snowstorm. Mark and I know how to drive in snow coming from Rochester, NY where the season average snowfall can easily top 120 inches. Marc is an excellent driver and we were following three snowplows for quite some time. There were flashing lights and strong winds all around, and we kept going, slowly, but carefully.