Our tour group was scheduled (with confirmed appointments) to visit Mr. Kimura, Omiya Bonsai Village and Mr. Morimae on Saturday. However on Thursday we were informed that the gardens would be not be open because that’s the “switch out day” for the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition and the people would be in Ueno with their bonsai. Actually, that’s why we scheduled our visit during the closed day, but the artists forgot about the switch out day. No problem, Mr. Kobyashi made a few phone calls to the gardens and we immediately changed our schedule to Friday rather than Saturday one day early when the gardens were open.
BUT, God must have been smiling on our group. He knows I hate snow and 3-5 inches of heavy wet snow was forecast for Saturday. Although a bit of snow looks pretty on some bonsai, we did not need to get stuck in heavy traffic on the Japanese roads. It’s now Saturday morning and the snow began at 3:11am. How do I know it was 3:11am? Simple, jet lag…. It’s still snowing hard too and might continue tomorrow too.
On Friday morning we visited the garden of Award winning artist Masahiko Kimura. When we arrived a large truck was being loaded by three apprentices. Approximately 14 bonsai were groomed, labeled and tied to wooden boards for the trip to Tokyo and switch out on Saturday.
Next we visited the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum. Several of the sweet aromatic Japanese flowering apricot bonsai were in peak blossom. Photographs are not allowed in the museum nor the outdoor display area. However there is a section where photos are allowed in the garden, lobby and upper terrace. Of particular interest to me was a special display of old photographs, tools, maps and publications about the Omiya Bonsai Village. Of course I looked carefully and found an old photograph of a young Yuji Yoshimura leading a bonsai tour at Fuyo-en Bonsai Garden in the 1950s.
This is the 90th Anniversary of the founding of Omiya Bonsai Village and each of the few remaining gardens displayed a several representative bonsai of their artistry. This week’s display was from Seiko-en Bonsai Garden of Tomio and Kaori Yamada. She displayed a beautiful pink Japanese flowering apricot composition in her “Saika Bonsai” style which she innovated to combine unusual containers, ikebana and flowering species to increase the popularity of bonsai to the public, especially women.
Yoshi Nakamizu (Bonsai Network Japan) opened his new Bonsai Omiya Restaurant a couple of days ago we were one of his first groups to dine with him. The new restaurant is right across the street from the entrance of the Omiya Bonsai Museum. The food was colorful, well presented and delicious too. A few bonsai were used for decor as well as a beautiful rock planting in the welcoming tokonoma alcove.
We then walked through the Omiya Bonsai Village and the first stop was Mansei-en Bonsai Garden of Hatsuji and Haruhiko Kato, fourth and fifth generation bonsai artists. They also were loading a truck with bonsai for the exhibition. Continuing our visits we stopped by the Seiko-en Bonsai Garden of Tomio and Kaori Yamada. She wanted to have a group photograph with her in the garden entrance.
Down the road a bit we stopped by the Kuku-en Bonsai Garden of Isamu and Yukio Murata. The old famous Zelkova bonsai which once belonged to Prime Minister Yoshida was on display. Mr. Murata is the caretaker of the Imperial Bonsai Collection in Tokyo and I was surprised to be informed that several “imperial” bonsai are maintained at Kyuka-en Bonsai Garden.
Imperial bonsai Japanese five-needle pine
Around the corner, our final stop in Omiya Bonsai Village was to Fuyo-en Bonsai Garden of Hiroshi Takeyama. He specializes in deciduous and unusual bonsai and also forest plantings. It was interesting to see his winter protection for many delicate deciduous bonsai and tropical bonsai under blue tarps and cardboard boxes.
On the bus again we departed for Hanyu, Japan, home of S-Cube the garden of Seiji Morimae. This is the largest bonsai garden in Japan which is also like a museum of affordable bonsai, suiseki, display tables and other antiques. He is charismatic and his family and staff made us feel warm, especially on this cold day.
We enjoyed many views of Mt. Fuji on the way to Omiya, but unfortunately it was too dark to see the mountain again on our way home. That’s OK because most members were asleep after a chilly but sunny full day of enjoying and buying.