The sales area is a major part of most bonsai gatherings. The sale of bonsai, suiseki and other accessories for the training and appreciation of the arts is necessary for the professional bonsai artists.
The Nippon Bonsai Cooperative is the professional organization for bonsai artists and growers. A small corner lot, near the Ueno Park Zoo has been leased to the Nippon Bonsai Cooperative for many decades at a low rental price. Across the street is the headquarters for the Nippon Bonsai Association, which is a different organization from the professionals.
Approximately 20 years ago the Nippon Bonsai Cooperative organization removed the old low buildings and constructed a new, state of the art multi purpose, three story building for sales, exhibitions, meetings and judging for the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibitions. Each of the professional bonsai artists/growers was accessed a certain percentage of the building costs and they are all stockholder owners of the building, not the rented land.
During the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition they provide complimentary continuous shuttle bus service from the Ueno Green Club to the exhibition which is held in the Metropolitan Art Museum, about 10 minutes away. They want, and need, the customers to visit and shop in their sales area. Although sales are drastically down from the “bubble years” in Japan, bonsai business is still big.
There are two main sales area of the Ueno Green Club, indoor sales for high end items and outdoor sales for others. Don’t get me wrong, you can still spend tens of thousands of US dollars (not Japanese yen) for individual bonsai, containers and suiseki outdoors.
The first floor of the building contains the major bonsai artists’ sales areas, as does the second floor. The top third floor is dedicated to the sale of shohin bonsai, containers and other items.
Outdoors you can find almost anything you want and are not even looking for to enhance your growing and appreciation of bonsai and suiseki. Old containers, antiques and scrolls are offered for sale, in addition to tools and suiseki. Sometimes old Kokufu Bonsai Exhibitions are available, but I was fortunate to find them first this year.
The outdoor sales areas are considerably less expensive to rent than the warm and comfortable indoor areas. This was evident during the worse snowstorm Tokyo experienced in 45 years a couple of days ago. No, I did not bring the snow from Rochester. You could not even see the bonsai for sale outdoors and vendors were quickly carefully brushing the cold wet snow off the delicate branches to avoid damage. It’s also not nice out there when its windy and quite cold.
Major Japanese bonsai collectors, and occasionally foreign visitors too, make pilgrimages to the exhibition and sales area yearly which the vendors are quite thankful for. They bring their finest items for sale. Oh, photographs are allowed both inside and out. It’s cheaper to take photos than buy a container for over $5,000.
Like in the United States, bonsai is still a “cottage industry” in Japan and vendors are friendly and help each other. Anyone who travels to Japan to see the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition should make the Uneo Green Club a destination to see what is currently popular and experience the hustle and bustle of the bonsai industry of Japan. Who knows, you may even purchase something to the surprise and appeciation of a Japanese vendor.