2016 Autumn Japan Bonsai Exploration– Part 1


Today the 19 members of Kora Dalager’s and my tour first went to Hanyu to visit Seiji Morimae at his Uchikutei garden. His business S-Cube, offers an extensive array of bonsai, suiseki, containers, display tables as well as antiques related to bonsai. His container prices are great and every time our group visits Mr. Morimae he has a smile on his face.


In the past Mr. Morimae published WABI magazine (World Artistic Bonsai Information.) This was a great publication, which was published when he had the time to sit down and write. It did not have a regular publication date. Sound familiar, but I’m trying to get International BONSAI on a more regular schedule. In the past three weeks TWO issues were published and mailed to our subscribers around the world.


Since Mr. Morimae has a busy schedule he has been offering his items through an extensive web site where you can purchase items on line. Currently blog site is only in Japanese and hope English will soon be coming. Please visit:


for his blog, in Japanese, but have great photos. In his most recent blog he has photos of Mr. Kimura and him standing next to some pretty large size bonsai from their trip to China last week.




Also S-Cube has an extensive web shop and can ship items around the world. Unfortunately he cannot ship bonsai to the United States. But the web site has great photos of beautiful bonsai, suiseki, containers, display tables as well as antiques. You can visit here:










After our visit we went to the garden of Masahiko Kimura to see some great bonsai, many of which are award winning trees as well as Kicho Bonsai (registered important bonsai) which are identified with a small label hanging on a branch. Most of the bonsai are large and heavy and belong to clients.






In the room with containers I noticed several carts with the five bonsai he is displaying this coming weekend in Kyoto at the Taikan Ten Bonsai Exhibition. It will be interesting to see how many of these five bonsai will receive awards. I’ll let you know.





I also noticed many newly created forest plantings on artificial stones using Tsuyama hinoki cypress. It will be interesting to see how he develops them in the future or if he just created them for sale.


Next we went to the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum. Photos were not allowed in the museum or the main display garden. But, there was an area where you can take some photos, also from the second floor balcony.


We visited the museum on the day when many of the deciduous bonsai hit their peak autumn color. There is beautiful old multiple trunk Japanese maple that is quite famous in Japan. However many Westerners would not appreciate the composition because it has only subtle beauty and antiquity. It’s not that large and impressive with fat trunks. But, if you sit back and simply enjoy and appreciate the beauty, without trying to find its faults, you will understand “Mochigomi” agedness in a container.




The top two Chinese quince bonsai in Japan were the area where photos were allowed. Looking at the lower trunk and surface root displays you can quickly appreciate why these two bonsai are well known and famous.


Also famous is an old Korean hornbeam in peak color. But this masterpiece bonsai was not in an area where photos were allowed. So I tried to get a photo of it from the second floor balcony, but it was far away.


After a delicious bento box lunch across the street from the museum came the most difficult part of this tour, for me personally, walking through the Omiya Bonsai Village with a cane and bad knee waiting for a replacement. This is the first time in the 17 years Kora and I have been leading bonsai tours in Japan, that she did not need to tell me to slow down.




First stop was Mansei-en Bonsai Garden, one of the oldest in Omiya Bonsai Village. Proprietor Hatsuji Kato and his son Takahiro are the 4th and 5th generation of the famous Kato family. Hatsuji Kato is on the organization committee for the upcoming 8th World Bonsai Convention in Omiya (Saitama). The logo for the event is a large size Sargent juniper said to be 1,000 years old. It has been at the Mansei-en Bonsai Garden for decades and a few years ago I saw a magazine article were Masahiko Kimura designed the bonsai.


Next we visited Seiko-en Bonsai Garden down the block. Tomio Yamada and his daughter Kaori are the 4th and 5th generation artists for their garden. Kaori has innovated “Saika Bonsai” which is kind of like ikebana mixed with bonsai. She is well known and a TV personality teaching Saika Bonsai. Many young housewives enjoy her art and her busy teaching schedule.

I believe Kaori Yamada is one of the three Japanese bonsai artist pioneers whose goal is to popularize bonsai for the public. Toshio Kawamoto, son of famous Tomichiki Kawamoto also wanted to popularize bonsai and after World War II. He invented Saikei, which is actually a registered trademark. Mr. Kawamoto wanted the public to enjoy bonsai, but trees were difficult to get and expensive after the war. So he invented Saikei which mainly uses inexpensive young trees and ordinary stones combined to present and idealized miniature landscape. Actually Saikei is a form of Bonkei, tray landscapes. He suggested that after the Saikei became established to take them apart and create individual bonsai, like a pre-training technique for developing bonsai. Saikei is popular around the world, except for Japan where the art is currently unknown.

The third Japanese pioneer to popularize bonsai for the public was Yuji Yoshimura, son of Toshji Yoshimura one of the leaders of the Japanese bonsai and suiseki world. Yuji Yoshimura was the first person to teach bonsai to foreigners in Japan in 1954. To expand his desire to teach bonsai to Westerners he immigrated to the United States, leaving his native Japan. His activities to popularize classical bonsai art is well known.

I feel fortunate to have studied with Yuji Yoshimura for 30 years and with Toshio Kawamoto for 3 years. To date I have not had the privilege to study with Kaori Yamada, but I have not yet completed my bonsai training, as I’m always learning.

We next visited Kyuka-en Bonsai Garden that is operated by Isamu Murata and his son Yukio, who speaks excellent English. This garden established in the 1930s by Kyuzo Murata now specializes in naturalistic bonsai with unusual species and grasses. In 1970 I lived and studied at Kyuka-en Bonsai Garden with Kyuzo Murata.




Our final stop for the day was at Hiroshi Takeyama’s Fuyo-en Bonsai Garden. Mr. Takeyama continues with his father’s art specializing in deciduous bonsai, group plantings and unusual species. His garden was superb and very colorful with many of the deciduous bonsai in peak autumn colors.



A well known and famous Chinese hackberry, Celtis sinnenis, had just dropped its leaves and the well ramified twigs were visible.




I needed to use a cane to walk through the village. This cane is special to me, as it belonged to my mother and was given to her by my Godmother, Adeline J. Geo-Karis, an Illinois state senator and politically the most powerful woman in Illinois, even more powerful than the Chicago Mayor, Jane Byrne.


Finally, on the bus on the way to our Tokyo hotel we were treated to a magnificent sunset with Mt. Fuji. Everyone on the bus went to the left side of the bus with cameras to capture the view. But, buildings and walls made it difficult to photograph. I could not take a photo because I’m vertically challenged, but fortunately, Les Allen was able to get a shot, as did Kora. Les took this photo.


Today was quite a busy first day for our tour. Tomorrow we leave Tokyo for Nagoya, another adventure.