2016 90th Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition– Report 2


Sorry for the delay in this second report, but I wanted to make certain the information presented here is correct and needed to check the official program for Part 1 of the exhibition. Thanks to Larry Ragle who with his wife, Nina, are on our tour. The tour, except for me, was fortunate to visit Part 1 and Larry took photos of the Kokufu Award winning bonsai so this report would be complete because I was unable to attend.


In Part 1 there were 4 Kokufu Awards (National Awards) presented. After the exhibits are finally arranged another select group of bonsai artists select outstanding bonsai for this coveted award, the highest award in Japan, and probably the world as well. In the United States we also have a National Award at the U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition. Once a bonsai receives the Kokufu Award, it is not eligible again to compete, but can be again displayed. Usually the price and value increase, but not always. A bonsai artist cannot encourage a client to purchase the bonsai from him in anticipation of winning, because they can’t. Oh, I just thought of something. I mentioned purchasing a bonsai from “him,” not “her”. I can’t think of a woman Japanese professional bonsai artist. Perhaps there are a few, but I have not seen them active in this exhibition. Interesting…



Trident Maple


Sargent Juniper


Shohin Bonsai Composition


Chinese Quince

In Part 2 five bonsai received a Kokufu Award. Although I missed attending Part 1, I was able to see photos of all the bonsai, but not the actual trees. There are differences between looking at photographs and actually appreciating the beauty and atmosphere of bonsai in person. Several professional Japanese bonsai artists mentioned to me that the trees were better in Part 2 than in Part 1, but both are considered to be the finest in Japan for that year. Some foreign visitors suggested that Part 1 was better, but that was probably a personal opinion, not that of a professional Japanese bonsai artist who is familiar with the overall picture of the entire exhibition and also of the judging selection process which took place a couple of weeks ago.



Chinese Quince


Sargent Juniper




Sargent Juniper


Japanese Flowering Apricot


I found it extremely interesting that a Chinese quince bonsai was selected from each part of the exhibition for the Kokufu Award. Images of both, next to each other are presented here so they can be evaluated. Both are probably seeding grown, first in the field, then completed and refined in a container. Obviously the first one with the fattest trunk was allowed to grow in the ground longer than the second tree. But I’m not certain it is the oldest. Both have been trained with different design feelings. The fat bonsai looks much younger to me and has had less training than the thinner trunk bonsai. The lack of a stable base with surface roots of the larger specimen does not suggest stability. Probably most westerners would prefer the fattest trunk bonsai? Although the beauty of bonsai is a personal view, there are certain basic design elements that are important in all bonsai and many people have decided to skip those and just create interesting bonsai that please them, which is fine on a personal level. I personally feel it IS a good thing that every one does not like the same design, as it would be boring to walk into an exhibition and see all formal upright style Japanese black pine bonsai. We need bonsai of all designs, and in many different styles, and species to present a well balanced bonsai exhibition.

















After studying the bonsai, display compositions, companion plantings and display tables in the exhibition I went to the upper balcony over viewing the main gallery where the larger bonsai are displayed. Large size bonsai are also shown on the same floor, only in a smaller gallery with shorter ceiling. I got tired and needed to sit for a while. Looking at the overall room full of beautiful bonsai I noticed that there were mostly evergreens. So, I counted the trees in that one main display gallery. There were only 16 deciduous bonsai, while there were 58 evergreens.



Main gallery with large size bonsai, a sea of green beauty

Well, as long as I was at that level and did not need to climb any more stairs I counted the medium size bonsai in the mezzanine. There are also medium size bonsai in the next smaller room that normally have the shohin bonsai compositions. This count was much more time consuming because each display had one, two or three bonsai in a composition, depending on size. There were a total of 63 bonsai in that gallery and 36 were deciduous and 27 were evergreen.




Mezzanine gallery with medium size bonsai




Smaller room with medium and shohin bonsai

Approximately 20,000 people visited the 90th Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition and I’m certain everyone enjoyed the beauty of the bonsai as much as I did. Check out future issues of International BONSAI for finer quality images

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