2015 Autumn Japan Bonsai Exploration– Part 1

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Kora Dalager and I brought 18 people for our exciting annual autumn bonsai tour to Japan. We have friends from Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, Kentucky, California, Washington, Puerto Rico, New York, England and Australia. A diverse group from around the globe with a wide range of climates for growing bonsai.

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On Wednesday we took our private bus to Hanyu to visit Seiji Morime and his S-Cube Uchiku-tei Bonsai Garden. The name comes from respecting his teacher Uhaku Sudo and the garden where he studied for about 20 years Chiku fu-en Bonsai Garden.

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As soon as we arrived he was anxious to show us his newest “prize” which is not open to the public. A few months ago he purchased the ENTIRE bonsai collection of the great bonsai philanthropist and promoter, Daizo Iwasaki. Mr. Iwasaki’s garden “Takasago-an” on Shikoku Island was one of the major highlights of our autumn tours. The garden was breathtaking and we watched it develop from a parking lot to a huge mountain completely filled artistically with old Japanese red pines from Korea, plus more. Unfortunately to the world, Mr. Iwasaki passed away a few years ago. It was probably the best and largest collection of bonsai in Japan. Numerous prize winning bonsai were originally created by Masahiko Kimura were in his collection.

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Mr. Morimae purchased the entire collection of 1,032 bonsai earlier this year. Of course he needed a place to keep them, so a new area was developed and tables with metal leg supports were used to keep the trees on large thick boards. This area is brand new, and currently under development. Japan recently experienced heavy rains and the aisles were muddy. This is NOT common for Japanese bonsai gardens, especially Mr. Morimae. Every piece of litter is picked up and last year on this blog I even showed Mr. Kobayashi washing the pathway before our tour. The gardens are immaculate, so kindly do not even look at the mud.

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There were numerous famous masterpiece bonsai, across the mud. So, of course I had muddy shoes by the time I left the new area. The sun was bright, right in front so had a difficult time taking photos.

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This entire row of bonsai belong to one of Mr. Morimae’s clients

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Our next stop was the private garden of Masahiko Kimura who specializes in large evergreen bonsai with lots of dead wood. He also has many vertical rock plantings and I even saw two new unplanted rocks for future masterpieces. Additionally two bonsai were prominent, a Japanese black pine and Needle juniper. My guess– they will be the top two award winning bonsai for the Taikan Bonsai Exhibition in Kyoto in a few days. We will see. I was only able to photograph the Needle juniper, but will probably get an opportunity to take better photos of these two trees in a few days.

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We then visited the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum and saw their special displays featuring pine bonsai from the bonsai artists in the bonsai village. The gallery had an exhibit of woodblock prints with bonsai, some from the 1800s. Original books were under glass cases while enlarged posters of the woodblock prints were hung on the walls so details could be easier studied.

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Following a delicious lunch at the Omiya Bonsai Restaurant we walked through the Omiya Bonsai Village making stops at Mansei-en, (Hatsuji and Haruhiko Kato- 5th generation artists,) Seiko-en, (Tomio and Kaori Yamada- 5th generation artists,) Kyuka-en, Isamu and Yukio Murata- 3rd generation artists) and Fuyo-en, Hiroshi Takeyama-2nd generation artist.) As we were walking through the bonsai village light rain began. By the time we were at our last stop at Fuyo-en Bonsai Garden the rain was a bit heavier, but it did not stop us from enjoying the bonsai. We can enjoy bonsai through the mud, water, snow and even windy conditions. I’ve even visited gardens with flashlights to see bonsai.

Mansei-en Bonsai Garden

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This room was completely dark, NO lights at all, but my camera did a pretty good job capturing the beauty of the bonsai in the alcove. I was not even sure what I was shooting at.

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Kyuka-en Bonsai Garden

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This garden featured many different species and many smaller size bonsai. The famous Zelkova bonsai was not there, where its been for over 50 years. The owner donated it to the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum. Mr. Murata and his son enjoy more of a naturalistic form for their bonsai.

Fuyo-en Bonsai Garden

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Normally this garden is ablaze with deciduous bonsai in their autumn colors. However, the weather has been a bit warmer than normal and the colors have not changed yet. Mrs. Takeyama mentioned that the Trident maples will not color up too much this autumn because of the hot summer temperatures. Many had burned leaves in the top section of the tree.

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