Japan International Bonsai Tour Exploration– Autumn 2013, Part 1


After a two hour delay and airplane evacuation in Chicago due to tornadoes, we finally arrived in Japan for our semi annual bonsai tour led by Kora Dalager and me. This time we have a good small group of eleven people including two ladies from Australia.


Moving one of the February Kokufu bonsai ten exhibition prize winning trees to be loaded for display in the Taikan Bonsai Ten exhibition in Kyoto. This bonsai belongs to a client of Masahiko Kimura.


Beautyberry and Firethorn bonsai in the container room.

Tuesday we first visited Masahiko Kimura’s garden, near Omiya, by our private bus. As always, his bonsai are spectacular and although I’ve been visiting his garden for over 30 years, the trees looked the best this time. Our tour enjoyed glorious, warm sunny weather, and the bonsai took on a special glow, which reflected their unique beauty as well the tender loving care of Mr. Kimura.


He was busy directing three apprentices moving large trees in preparation for displaying at the Taikan Ten Bonsai Exhibition rapidly approaching in Kyoto. Since judging day is on Thursday, they must be preparing to load them in a truck later on during the day or early on Wednesday. I think Mr. Kimura mentioned that he was only displaying seven or eight of his client’s masterpieces. He led me to an area where there were a large windswept Japanese five-needle pine and informal upright Japanese black pine, all manicured for display. Mr. Kimura asked me which is best and will win the coveted Prime Minister Award, the highest award in the exhibition. It was a tough question because both were magnificent. One was quite dramatic and had an active form with the several long windswept branches while the other had a quiet, triangular shape. When asked again I finally said the windswept was unique and interesting, but I personally preferred the informal upright Japanese black pine. I asked him which do you like, and he said the windswept pine, but did not know which would win in Kyoto. I wish both bonsai good luck. We shall see on Thursday.

On a lower bench I saw a group of Chojubai flowering quince in training pots, but am not sure if they were to be used for individual bonsai or accessory plantings. The entire public display garden seemed to have a new layer of gravel, without any weeds of course.


Small size Chojubai flowering quince.

After allowing our group to look and photograph his bonsai Mr. Kiura took a break from directing his apprentices and invited us to tea and then offered each of us our choice of a Taikan Ten, Bonsai Creator’s, or Omiya Bonsai exhibition album.

We need to move on to our other stops on our busy schedule because Sean Smith phoned me while we were at Mr. Kimura’s. He and his lovely daughter Savanna are being hosted by Seiji Morimae, S-Cube in Hanyu. Mr. Morimae wanted to make certain that our group would be at his garden by 3pm because he had a special visit arranged with the major of Hanyu City.


Omiya Bonsai Art Museum.


During the short bus trip to the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum, we ate lunch on the bus to save time. Autumn colors were quite bright on the deciduous bonsai. There were even a couple of Japanese flowering apricot bonsai displayed with golden yellow leaves. The first part of the display hallway in the museum features about five small display areas with stunning medium size bonsai on display. Each was displayed by different bonsai artists in the Omiya Bonsai Village. It was interesting to see what each artist selected to show.

I was particularly impressed with the Japanese five-needle pine bonsai displayed by Hiroshi Takeyama who does not specialize in evergreen species, but rather deciduous trees. People tend to limit the scope of bonsai artists to a few specific species or styles, but they are skilled with many different species and styles. For example Mr. Kimura is well known for his dramatic, old thick trunk juniper bonsai. However, he is also quite skilled with creating delicate forest and rock planting bonsai as well. The medium size Japanese five-needle pine bonsai shown by Mr. Takeyama is a good example of his diversity creativity.


Mansei-en Bonsai Garden entrance area.

We then took a walk into the Omiya Bonsai Village using a short cut.  However there was road work in the way of my intended path. There was a guard near the open road ditch, but I pointed to where we wanted to go, and not wanting to confront eleven foreigners, decided just to let us go through. Well, there is now a house where the road used to be so we had to take another turn to get to the Mansei-en Bonsai Garden of Hatsuji Kato and his son Haruhiko. Each time I visit this garden there seems to be more and more trees and especially new bonsai containers.


Private reception room at Mansei-en Bonsai Garden.

Many of Mr. Kato’s Japanese maples were turning red, some yellow. The Chinese quince were not quite turning red, but the award winning Twisted pomegranate was bright yellow. He had several bonsai in his three tokonoma (like all Japanese words are both singular or plural) were beautiful. There were many trees quite detailed and will probably be taken to Kyoto for the exhibition.


Japanese maple.


Twisted trunk pomegranate.

Down the street and around the corner we visited Seiko-en Bonsai Garden of Tomio Yamada and his famous daughter Kaori who invented saika-bonsai to popularize the art. There was a TV crew photographing one of his well known Shishigashira Japanese maple bonsai which was beginning to change color. We did not want to disturb the activity so only appreciated the beauty of Mr. Yamada’s bonsai with our eyes, not cameras. He has some of the finest and most refined bonsai in Japan, all neatly maintained in a small garden.


Kyka-en Bonsai Garden.


Historic and famous Zelkova bonsai.


Cacti and succlents.

Our next brief stop was at Kyuka-en Bonsai Garden of Isamu Murata and his son Yukio. His father, Kyuzo Murata introduced me to the Japanese bonsai world during my first apprenticeship with him in 1970. The garden has become smaller during the decades, but the trees have become more beautiful. Everyone admired the famous Zelkova bonsai in the garden. Mr. Murata was in Tokyo working on the Imperial Bonsai Collection, but his son, Yukio and wife Rumiko showed us around. Yukio speaks perfect English and has an excellent sense of humor. He asked when my other foot was going to break…. again. So, then I knew it to move on.


Fuyo-en Bonsai Garden.

Our last stop in Omiya Bonsai Village was to the Fuyo-en Bonsai Garden of Hiroshi Takeyama, the immediate past president of the Nippon Bonsai Associationn. He specializes in deciduous and unusual bonsai and has a distinct style for forest planting bonsai. This is my favorite bonsai garden in Japan because I have a fondness for deciduous and unusual bonsai. As always, his garden is a multitude of autumn color.


Hiroshi Takeyama with his Japanese five-needle pine bonsai and orchid arrangement.


Famous Sargent juniper bonsai.


Apprentice watering maple bonsai.


Zelkova bonsai.


Japanese maple bonsai.


Cascade Hawthorn bonsai in a custom made container made by Koyo.


Container lip detail.

Mr. Takeyama always has a beautiful bonsai on display in his reception room. However yesterday I was a bit confused with the composition. Next to his Japanese five-needle pine was a gorgeous white flowering Phalenopsis orchid with six huge sprays of perfect form. So, I had to ask and then remembered that Mr. Takeyama was recently awarded a special medal from the Emperor for his bonsai activity. So the orchid was a congratulatory arrangement. There are many types of tokonoma display, and Mr. Takeyama wanted to display the orchid he received.


Mayor Komei Kawata receiving new book book.


Our tour group with Mayor Kawata and Sean and Savanna Smith.

We rushed to our private bus to the city of Hanyu where Seiji Morimae has his bonsai garden. During the trip, Sean called, again, check on our exact location because Mr. Morimae, like most Japanese, are punctual and we needed to be at his garden by 3pm. Upon arrival to the S-Cube garden we were not allowed to enter but were told to get back on the bus. Mr. Morimae explained that we were going to the Hanyu City Hall and that I must make a few remarks.

We were welcomed by Mayor Komei Kawata, who we met last year when he came to S-Cube to welcome us to Hanyu. We were then escorted into City Hall, where all the city employees clapped to welcome us as we entered. So after I made a few remarks our entire group was escorted upstairs to a board room decorated with a beautiful suiseki and Japanese five-needle pine bonsai. This bonsai was displayed by Mr. Yamada many years ago in the professional Bonsai Creator’s Exhibition and is now owned by Mr. Morimae. The history of bonsai and suiseki is an important part of appreciation and respect which most people do not comprehend.


Japanese five-needle pine bonsai displayed by Seiji Morimae at the Hanyu City reception.


Setagawa tora ishi suiseki.

Mayor Kawata made a few welcoming remarks and told us about the sister city of Hanyu with Millbrae, CA. After presenting everyone with a small cartoon book of the city’s mascot he gave me a beautiful photograph of Mt. Fuji next to cherry blossoms, very Japanese. Of course I presented him with a copy of may newest book and the new issue of International BONSAI. Many photographs were taken.


S-Cube display garden entrance.

We returned to S-Cube where we enjoyed the remaining long day looking at Mr. Morimae’s huge bonsai, suiseki and antique collections. He is always purchasing bonsai collections, remodeling them and re selling. He holds monthly auctions at his garden Display room featuring antique bonsai, suiseki and other art. tracts bonsai professionals from long distances.Image

Sales area featuring antique bonsai, containers, suiseki and other art for sale.


A collected Sargent juniper bonsai.


Sumac bonsai.


Japanese red pine bonsai.

Mr. Morimae showed us another plot of land, twice the size of his present garden right in front of his entrance gate. Since it “was” a rice field, 1,000 dump trucks of fill soil was being brought in to raise the field to street level. This will be the new display garden for S-Cube and I look forward to watching it’s development. Knowing Mr. Morimae for over 30 years, I know it will be spectacular and will not take long before it looks attractive.

As we left S-Cube around 5 pm, Kora arranged for Mt. Fuji to be directly in front of the bus, beautifully silhouetted against the orange setting sun. Quite a spectacular ending for a spectacular day introducing our tour members to the Japanese bonsai world.

I’m quite pleased that over 30,000 people from over 107 countries are finding my blog interesting and watching my commentary on my “Bonsai World.” It is important to realize that my entries are mostly instant, spontaneous because I want to quickly share my discoveries around the world, as well as share information which I have learned during the past half century with other.

If you want to read and learn from more grammatically correct, edited, educational articles which have better photos (really! All color corrected and in focus) please consider subscribing to my International BONSAI magazine.


International BONSAI magazine is the first and only professional bonsai magazine published in the United States. Now in our 35th year of publication, International BONSAI, in full color, introduces information, articles and photos, some of which cannot be found elsewhere in English. The beautifully illustrated articles and photographs show beginners and advanced bonsai hobbyists how they can develop a bonsai collection from nursery stock, young plants as well as from collected trees. Information is also presented on bonsai exhibits, events, new plants and book reviews. Advance bonsai hobbyists are finding articles on bonsai display, Mr. Kimura’s classroom instruction and the shohin bonsai course valuable for their bonsai education. International BONSAI is an excellent addition to your bonsai reference library as well.

You can easily subscribe for 2013 (back issues promptly sent for the year) or 2014 or both year from our web site at: www.internationalbonsai.com/page/1403493

Upon my return home next week I must finish the 140th copy, the 2013/NO. 4 issue before participating at the Winter Silhouette Exhibition in North Carolina: http://www.winterbonai.com


One thought on “Japan International Bonsai Tour Exploration– Autumn 2013, Part 1

  1. Dear Bill:

    Thanks for the pictures and the commentary about the trip.

    It looks like you are enjoying the sushi. I counted 15 empty plates in front of you. It is probably not a record for you but maybe close to it. (burp!).

    Rick Marrriott

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