The 90th Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition is being held in two parts again this year in order to display more traditional Japanese bonsai to the world. Part 1 was held on February 5-8, 2016 and Part 2 on February 10-13, 2016, at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum in Ueno Park, Tokyo. On Tuesday, February 9th, all the bonsai are removed replaced with new trees. This exhibition was started in 1934 and was held twice a year in March and November for years. Count Matsudaira, who popularized shohin bonsai, was President of the Kokufu Bonsai Association who organized and sponsored the exhibition until 1964 when the organization dissolved and reorganized as the Nippon Bonsai Association. Today the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition is organized and run by the Nippon Bonsai Association, but sponsored by the City of Tokyo, Ministry of Education and NHK TV.
To many, including me, this is the highest level quality bonsai in the world, while many others enjoy the more naturalistic forms often seen outside Japan where they are more popular. Both Parts 1 and 2 each had 181 display areas, however there are a great number medium size bonsai which usually include two or more trees. In Part 2 there were only four shohin bonsai compositions which each had more than five specimens. So there are actually approximately 250 individual bonsai on display.
Seika Dwarf Hinoki Cypress
Because of teaching obligations at the California Shohin Seminar I was unable to attend Part 1 and it really bothered me to miss and not have the opportunity to study a couple of hundred beautiful bonsai. But one of my friends photographed many of those trees and I will have a complete report soon. This year, for the first time in modern history, photographs are allowed, but without flash. You should have seen all the cell phones snapping away as well as with larger cameras. While teaching in California I saw most of the exhibition on FaceBook where one individual posted over 200 photos alone. It was only a couple of years ago when I was limited to taking about a dozen photos for International BONSAI. I did not find the numerous photographers distracting, but remember a few years ago when visitors complained to the Nippon Bonsai Association that the click of cameras bothered their appreciation of the bonsai.
Hinoki Cypress from the Imperial Bonsai Collection
Koto Hime Japanese Maple
Many bonsai professionals have told me that the quality of bonsai in Part 2 were better than in Part 1. Enjoy the photos here and remember finer quality photos will be in future issues of International BONSAI after they are professionally corrected and adjusted. The prize winning bonsai will also be shown here in a day or two, as I was not able to photograph all the trees because of the great number of visitors.