Daiju-en Bonsai Garden
We took the bullet train from Kyoto to Nagoya where we boarded our private bus for the day. First stop was Daiju-en Bonsai Garden of Toru Suzuki, third generation proprietor of the garden. I was fortunate to have known all three artists beginning with Saichi Suzuki over 35 years ago. Mr. Suzuki lived near a temple in Okazaki where a special cultivar of Japanese wisteria was growing. It had individual beautiful purple flower racemes, which can reach a length of SIX feet! Really. My chopstick size cutting gift from Mr. Suzuki is now thicker than me covering my “great wall” bonsai display. So far I’ve only been able to grow ONE flower to 56 inches, but I’m really not a size queen and truly appreciate those flowers of any length. He was one of the pioneers of pine bonsai and is most well known for the introduction of the Zuisho cultivar of Japanese five-needle pine. In the early 1950s, now last century, he was part of a private study group including Yuji Yoshimura and Fusazo Takeyama, Saburo Kato, Hiroshi Takeyama’s father among other prominent leaders of the bonsai community at that time.
Toshinori Suzuki, Saichi’s son took over the family garden and continued to develop techniques. He specialized in Japanese black and five-needle pine, Needle juniper and Cryptomeria. His son Toru, is now the proprietor and a current leader of the Japanese bonsai community. He is in charge of the recent Nippon Bonsai Taikan Exhibition we visited a few days ago.
During the war there was a 350 year old Miyajima Japanese five-needle pine bonsai sitting behind a cement wall in Hiroshima when the bomb was dropped. It survived and is now one of the most well known bonsai in the United States which is now part of the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum in Washington, D.C. What I found out this trip is that Saichi Suzuki was the artist responsible for its training. Now, there happened to be another bonsai sitting next to this bonsai which also survived the blast. This large size Japanese black pine now is in the Daiju-en Bonsai Garden, under the care of the third generation proprietor. It greets visitors upon entry to this compact bonsai garden.
There are numerous award winning bonsai in the garden, created by Saichi, Toshinori and Toru Suzuki. Mrs. Suzuki speaks English as was a help answering questions.
Our next stop for the day was in the nearby Shimpuku-Ji Temple, established in the 6th century. Now reduced in size, it still has a quiet beauty. The head priest Mr. Omura is a bonsai enthusiast and has one of the best collections of bonsai in Japan. Although not numerous, most are masterpiece bonsai creations of Saichi and Toshinori Suzuki.
No, I did not need to walk up OR down those steps to reach the temple.
Mr. Omura greeted and welcomed our group to his temple and spoke a bit about it’s history. He even took us behind the large ancient altar to show us sacred items. But more important for our group was visiting his modern bonsai museum.
Mr. Omura likes Princess persimmon and has many including a special display in his gallery. He even toured us through his “back area” not open to the public where he maintains his bonsai and develop new trees, especially Princess persimmon. He likes unusual deciduous bonsai, my favorite group of trees, and has great specimens of Forsythia, Rose, Hydrangea, Ivy, Witch Hazel and more.
We had a delicious vegetarian luncheon which featured bamboo since the temple grounds sits in a bamboo forest. All the dishes, utensils, cups, trays and most of the food was made from bamboo.
Mr. Komura showed us a Chinese quince bonsai he is preparing for the upcoming Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition in February. He also has many of the past Kokufu Award winning bonsai in his collection. All the bonsai are maintained by Mr. Omura, but Toru Suzuki and Boon assist when needed. Clearly you can see the enjoyment he gets by appreciating his bonsai collection.