The National Bonsai Hall of Fame has been established to identify and honor individuals who have achieved excellence in the art of bonsai and who have contributed to the advancement of bonsai in the United States. The National Bonsai & Penjing Museum wants to recognize those who have dedicated their lives to bonsai in the United States and to fostering a greater appreciation for American bonsai. This recognition is presented at the annual National Bonsai Foundation reception which includes a plaque and award.
Nominees must have been a resident of the United States and have made significant contributions to the art of bonsai in the country. This is an excellent opportunity to recognize individuals who have significantly contributed to American bonsai. Nominations for induction into the National Bonsai Hall of Fame may be made by anyone in writing and can get specific information from curator Jack Sustic at the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum.
Last year in 2014 the first inductee to the National Bonsai Hall of Fame was John Naka from California. The American Pavilion was named for him because of the impact he had throughout the world, especially in his native United States. Additionally both Mr. Naka and his family have donated several of his beautiful bonsai to the Museum.
Yuji Yoshimura’s donated his Crape Myrtle bonsai his father started from a cutting over 80 years ago
At the 2015 National Bonsai Foundation Reception at the Bonsai & Penjing Museum I had the honored to announce my teacher Yuji Yoshimura as this year’s inductee into the National Bonsai Hall of Fame. Mr. Yoshimura two daughters, Yoko Said from Boston and Emi Suzuki from Tokyo along with grand daughter Sasha Said received the commemorative container award from the newly appointed arboretum director Richard Olson.
Yuji Yoshimura was a second generation bonsai artist who was a born in a bonsai garden where his father was apprenticing in 1921. He combined the training from his father, one of the major leaders of the Japanese bonsai and suiseki world, with his horticultural degree and his natural artistic talent to promote and teach classical bonsai.
Yuji Yoshimrua’s Kofu-en Bonsai Garden in Tokyo
First bonsai class in September 1952
He was the first to open classes to the public in 1952 in Japan and co-authored his iconic book in 1957 which became the first authoritative bonsai book in English, now it its 40th printing. His book established the English style terminology used throughout the world today. Mr. Yoshimura wanted to spread bonsai on a wider scale. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden offered him a one year fellowship to teach bonsai in 1958. When he arrived he brought over one ton of teaching material in 22 cases including many bonsai.
Yuji Yoshimura teaching in California in the early 1960s
Mr. Yoshimura loved America and after his fellowship decided to immigrate in order to teach bonsai. He traveled across the country many times teaching bonsai. In 1959 he established the Yoshimura Bonsai Company which later evolved into the Yoshimura School of Bonsai in Westchester County, New York. During one of his teaching trips in California he urged the bonsai leaders to organize and this resulted in Bonsai Clubs International. Additionally, his students organized the Bonsai Society of Greater New York and they later organized the American Bonsai Society.
In 1965 Mrs. Yoshimura and his two daughters joined him in New York. He continued to teach and traveled to Australia, Hong Kong, England and India teaching classical bonsai art. In the 1980s he promoted the art of suiseki and co-authored a book on the same subject. He was a prolific author of articles, both in Japanese and English.
Harry Tomlinson and Yuji Yoshimura in Nottingham, England
Mr. Yoshimura’s dream “to establish a place American bonsai hobbyists could give their treasures knowing their trees would be cared for and viewed for years to come” was expressed to arboretum Director, John Creech and Mr. Yoshimura’s dream did come true!
Dr. John Creech and Yuji Yoshimura at the National Arboretum in September 1973
To honor Mr. Yoshimura’s lifetime devotion to the instruction and appreciation of bonsai the Museum named the “Educational Center for Learning” in his name.
Having studied classical bonsai and lived with Mr. Yoshimura I’ve had an insight which others have not had. He spent an extraordinary amount of time and effort preparing for his classes and demonstrations. People never knew this and most did not appreciate this effort which also took tolls on his health and family. He was extremely strict with me and once told me his father hit him with a hammer because he did not handle a camellia bonsai properly.
He did not have a personal bonsai collection, but would rather see his students have finer quality bonsai. Mr. Yoshimura inspired, taught and encouraged me to continue his teaching and promotion of classical bonsai.
Yuji Yoshimura teaching Wm. N. Valavanis how to properly use a concave pruner in September 1969
Yuji Yoshimura and Wm. N. Valavanis presenting a program on Evaluating Bonsai in the 1990s
Yuji Yoshimura reached the top of his field, something few accomplish. He was a self-proclaimed perfectionist and never compromised. Two of his favorite words I heard continuously during workshops were “impossible” and “hopeless” to describe plants brought for training by students.
Yuji Yoshimura, Frank Okamura and John Naka
Mr. Yoshimura broke his Japanese bond, sacrificed his family and health to promote classical bonsai. I feel fortunate to have known him for 30 years as a teacher, close friend and advisor who opened my eyes to the true beauty and understanding of classical bonsai art. Mr. Yoshimura was a true pioneer of bonsai education who will never be forgotten. His teaching was the stimulus for making bonsai as popular as it is today. I’m certain Mr. Yoshimura would be honored that a person he originally assisted to organize bonsai teaching was the recipient of the first National Bonsai Hall of Fame Award.