2016 Autumn Japan Bonsai Exploration– Part 2

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Today we only had two stops to visit bonsai gardens, but they were significant and quite a bit of time was necessary to view and study all the numerous details, which make each one unique.

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Our first stop was at Kunio Kobayashi’s Shunka-en Bonsai Museum in Edogwa, Tokyo. Upon first entering the garden you must go around a wall to see the main display area full of large size bonsai. Every time I visit I see something new and learn a lot. Also each time I come there are more and more bonsai, mostly large size for Chinese customers. He has even constructed a new display area on the roof of the building housing his containers and suiseki. If you can’t expand horizontally, you go up. I took a short video from the rooftop growing area and I’m pleased to report no bones were broken during my ascent and descend.

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I was fortunate to visit here in both February and March this year and was surprised to see so many new bonsai as well as older Sargent junipers, which are being grafted with a different cultivar. Many of his established bonsai are continuously being refined into higher level masterpieces.

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It was difficult to navigate through the crowded garden, especially with my cane, which found a comfortable spot to rest until we left. Mr. Kobayashi is taking the appreciation of bonsai to a higher level through the art of display. He built his museum primarily to show different levels of bonsai display in eleven different alcove display areas.

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As always, Mr. Kobayashi was busy, running around preparing suiseki for display at this weekend’s Taikan Bonsai Exhibition in Kyoto. Peter Warren will pick up the stones tomorrow and drive and set them up at the exhibition. Of course he made time to visit with us and gave everyone a new suiseki from the Saiji River. All they now need is about 30 years of weathering outdoors to develop patina.

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Mr. Kobayashi displayed this BONSEKI in one of the alcoves. Fine sand is arranged to present a landscape. The art of bonseki is older than bonsai and suiseki.

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We then took the bullet train to Shizuoka, however there were no views of Mt. Fuji because of the clouds. That’s OK because on the way home flying from Nagoya to Tokyo superb views are often seen. Fields of Japanese green tea were abundantly seen from the bullet train, which looked like low hedges.

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Nobuichi Urushibata

Our group went to see the Taisho-en Bonsai Garden of Nobuichi Urushibata and his son Taiga who apprenticed with Masahiko Kimura. Mr. Urushibata is one of the top leaders for shohin bonsai. His established garden is loaded with small trees, nearly all container grown and superb. He also has an entire room full of trophies he won in ballroom competitions. Unfortunately he hurt his back and is no longer dancing.

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Taiga Urushibata is becoming more popular as a world demonstrator because of his skill, friendly personality and the ability to speak English. I brought him to Rochester, NY, in 2009 for my Shohin Bonsai Symposium and hope he will return in 2018.

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Although is skilled and knowledgeable with shohin bonsai, his trees are much larger than his father’s diminutive jewels. Many of this bonsai feature distinctive dead wood. Also his garden has a quarantine house for exporting to the United States.

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Nobuichi Urushibata, left, and Jack Wikle, two of the world’s top shohin bonsai artists discussing trees.

Taisho-en Bonsai Garden features bonsai of all sizes in a newly designed immaculate well-organized garden.

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