43rd Kanuma Satsuki Festival
The main reason our tour traveled to Japan is to see Satsuki azalea bonsai. The 43rd Kanuma Satsuki Festival is probably the largest in Japan. It is held on the grounds of the Kanuma City Kaboku Center. The two acre complex includes: a permanent exhibition and sales area over a half acre alone, one and a half acre area auction area, and greenhouses. Additionally the complex has a garden tree sales field of seven acres, additional greenhouses, restaurant and a 66 acre wild bird forest, plus more. This is a truly unique center for Satsuki azalea bonsai production, exhibitions and sales. It’s the finest, largest and most complete garden center I’ve had the pleasure of visiting, I only wish shopping for plants was permitted for foreigners.
The temperature was 93F, which I’ve been told is not normal for this time of the year. The humidity was high as well with strong sun beating down on visitors. On my way to one of the dozens of vending machines to get a Japanese ice tea I passed another building selling wine. Although I don’t drink wine, I popped my head to see if they had anything else, and boy was I surprised! There was an excellent selection of bonsai display tables. There were several multi level shohin box tables, wooden slabs as well as others. After looking at them carefully I did not see any which would be different additions to my bonsai table collection, so I moved around looking to see what else they were selling. In the back of the store I found two caved root stands. The larger stand looked new like it was carved from a triangular piece of wood, while the smaller one is now in my hand carried luggage. I’ll have it for sale when I return home.
I could not believe the people shopping. There were carts full of Satsuki as well as other bonsai, vegetables, bedding plants, orchids, fruit tree as well as other items. The customers seemed to all have smiles leaving and I’m certain the Kanuma City Kaboku Center proprietors did as well.
The Satsuki exhibition was held in a large building and outdoors in special display buildings which look like two sided sheds on the ground floor. These are often used for chrysanthemum and other outdoor exhibits with a covered roof for protection. The outdoor exhibit consisted of seven long rows of bonsai, while the indoor exhibit had five long rows plus two large table areas where the smaller trees were displayed. Some of the trophy awards were actually larger than the Satsuki.
There seemed to be two different types of displays, those trained as traditional bonsai and others which were tall bushes where the flowers are to be appreciated. Even those taller bushier specimens, however, had training and looked like the beginnings of bonsai training. I think new cultivars are shown this way to make them popular for sale.
It’s interesting that among all the several Satsuki exhibitions we visited very few shohin bonsai size were shown. Perhaps I missed them or they were displayed in another area.
The Satsuki shown in the long rows, both indoors and out were traditional formal bonsai displays with companion plantings. Often two well developed Satsuki bonsai were displayed together, remember this is a Satsuki exhibition, not a bonsai exhibition. Nearly every style possible was represented, but I only saw a couple of Satsuki featuring dead wood because it rots away and is not permanent.