A Visit To Omiya Bonsai Village



We had a quiet morning visit to Omiya Bonsai Village. Most of the proprietors were at the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition so there was not to much commotion nor visitors.


Most of the gardens had their Japanese flowering apricots on display because they were in full blossom, mostly fragrant too.



Fuyo-en Bonsai Garden– Hiroshi Takeyama













Kyuka-en Bonsai Garden– Isamu & Yukio Murata





Seiko-en Bonsai Garden– Tomio & Kaori Yamada








Mansei-en Bonsai Garden– Hatsuji & Haruhiko Kato






Keeping the roots warm on a Japanese flowering quince





Omiya Bonsai Art Museum

There were extensive renovations under way so our visit was not too long.


2017 4th Nippon Suiseki Exhibition




6p4a0742Special display of bonseki from the Hosokawa School of Bonseki


The 4th Nippon Suiseki Exhibition is being held on February 10-14, 2017, in the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum on the 4th floor. The Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition is on the lower level.






Over 100 fine quality suiseki are on display from Japan and around the world.




There are many alcove displays and it is interesting to note that nearly scroll had a moon painting


Additionally historic water basins and display tables were on exhibit including one valued at $30,000. I also saw two of the same display tables in the bonsai exhibition and Mr. Kobayashi pointed out the authentic and copy.


The real thing! $30,000


Louise Leister


Mike Sullivan’s suiseki is special because it can be appreciated from both sides.


The other viewing side.


Hideko Metaxas



William N. Valavanis– This suiseki is special to me because the members of the Suiseki Study Group of Upstate New York gave me this stone on my 60th birthday (5 years ago) All members signed the bottom of the diaza which Bob Blankfield hand carved. They selected this suiseki because it is similar to a mountain range in Greece my grand parents came from.




It was very thoughtful that the Nippon Suiseki Association decided to hold their exhibition during the period of the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition.


2017 91st Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition­– Part 2





The second part of the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition opened on February 10 and ends on the 13th. All 300 plus trees from Part 1 were removed except for the Imperial Bonsai Display and two other special exhibits.


Japanese Hemlock




Part 2 is just as excellent as Part 1 in my opinion. A great selection of a wide variety of trees. The Nippon Bonsai Association split the trees into both parts well. Both parts had an impressive and colorful Japanese deciduous holly. Part 1 seemed to display more Ezo spruce bonsai, while I noticed many cascade pines in Part 2.




There were 179 display areas including 51 medium size exhibits and six shohin bonsai compositions. Important Bonsai Masterpieces (Kicho Bonsai) were ten in total for this part.





Five outstanding bonsai were selected for the Kokufu Award:


Chinese Quince


Chinese Quince



Sargent Juniper


Japanese Black Pine


General Bonsai Exhibits:_p4a0927

Dwarf Star Jasmine

6p4a0813Satsuki Azalea



Hinoki Cypress


Yesterday we spent the morning in Omiya Bonsai Village before returning to the Suiseki Exhibition and the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition. At the Mansei-en Bonsai Garden of the Kato family I noticed three of the six Kokufu Award bonsai. I found it interesting to learn that two the Kokufu Award bonsai were won by a husband and wife…


Dwarf Stewartia


Boston Ivy




Witch Hazel


Chinese quince


Japanese Flowering Quince



Japanese Maple



Japanese Maple NOT Trident Maple


Japanese Black Pine

Back to both the Suiseki and Bonsai Exhibitions to study more and see how the trees are made and enjoy the subtle beauty of suiseki.



A Visit To Shunka-en Bonsai Museum


1Kunio Kobayashi’s Shunka-en Bonsai Museum in Tokyo is always a highlight for my Japan visits.









There are ALWAYS new bonsai all over the place, mainly large size for the Chinese Market.



There were many large grafted Sargent juniper bonsai, all wired and just waiting to fill out for future sales. Julian Adams and I had a nice quiet lunch with Mr. Kobayashi before all the apprentices were fed. Currently he has three Japanese, three Chinese and one Mexican apprentices. Considering the number of trees he has, more apprentices are needed.






There are over 12 alcoves for formal bonsai displays. Mr. Kobayashi always shows his creativity in creating distinctive bonsai displays.










This Rose bonsai was recently wired. I wonder which new apprentice wired this tree?








During this visit I was impressed with the increased number, size and colorful quality of the koi in the pond, surrounded by bonsai. There was a sign in front of the pond I could not make out, so I asked Jin, one of the apprentices who speaks English. I waited and expected a flowery poetic name of the pond display or something like that . The sign was the name of the owner of the koi…… Still a great visit.

2017 91st Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition­– Part 1 Continued





Part 1 of this year’s Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition had 179 exhibits. However, there were five shohin compositions and each had at least five trees. Additionally there were 44 medium size compositions, each having a minimum of two main bonsai, plus companion plantings. That makes a total of more than 300 individual bonsai specimens in Part 1.


In Part 1 of the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition six outstanding bonsai were selected for the coveted Kokufu Award. After the entire exhibition is set up, and before it opens, a small group of officers of the Nippon Bonsai Association goes through the exhibition and selects worthy trees for the Kokufu Awards. There is no set number, but usually about five or six trees win. A special gold colored plaque is set next to the tree. Winning a Kokufu Award can be both good and can be bad. A bonsai can only win once. Therefore, once a tree wins it often is valued more and the price may increase. However, it is disqualified from future Kokufu Awards. That means bonsai brokers may have a difficult time selling the tree to a client in hopes of winning. Kokufu Award winners:

_p4a03961. Osakazuki Satsuki Azalea


2. Japanese Black Pine


Damaged container foot repaired with gold, respecting the antiquity of the 300-400 year old container


3. Japanese Five-needle Pine


Trunk detail not seen from front



4. Trident Maple



5. Sargent Juniper displayed with Shishigashira Japanese Maple


Shishigashira Japanese Maple



6. Chojubai Japanese Flowering Quince displayed on an exquisite table. This was my favorite bonsai in the exhibition along with the Japanese black pine above. This bonsai has changed hand many times and I saw it in the 2012 Kokfu Bonsai Exhibition.





Small plaque on top is designated for Important Bonsai Masterpiece Bonsai. The lower gold plaque is for the Kokufu Prize

There were 24 Important Bonsai Masterpieces or “kicho” bonsai in the exhibition. These trees have been designated by the Nippon Bonsai Association as special masterpieces because of their beauty or rarity of the species. Once a year new trees are entered for evaluation by the owners of the bonsai. I believe there are over 600 Important Masterpiece Bonsai now. They can be identified by small metal tags hanging on a branch or a silver colored metal plaque. These are often displayed on or next to a bonsai when on display. They are automatically accepted for display in the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition.











There were only five shohin bonsai compositions, but each was spectacular. It is interesting to note the current way of creating shohin bonsai compositions. Usually a box stand is used with an evergreen tree on the top. It faces one way or the other, but it always leads your eye to a side bonsai lower down, often a cascade style evergreen. This style of display is often seen as boring or static by Westerners.














Detail from the side









Shishigashira Japanese Maple



Remember, better quality photos from this exhibition will appear in a future edition of International BONSAI.

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2017 91st Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition­– Part 1



The 91st Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition is being held on February 4-8, 2017 at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum in Ueno Park, Tokyo, Japan. The exhibition is being held in two parts in order to display more trees. On February 9th, all two hundred plus trees will be replaced by another two hundred plus more masterpiece bonsai. Part 2 of the exhibition will be held on February 10-13, the same time as the Nippon Suiseki Exhibition, also in the same building on the fourth floor.




Observations on Part 1:

There are new backgrounds in the main gallery where most of the larger size bonsai are displayed. The old backgrounds are beige, smooth and shinny and are still being used in the other three galleries. The new ones are white with a slight texture like burlap and a bit reflective. Well, the entire room is bright white and quite a difference and improvement from the past exhibitions. The trees also photograph better too. The lighting is a bit harsh on many trees and some are nearly impossible to photograph. But, its important to remember that this exhibition is set up t display the beauty of the bonsai, not to provide a venue for people to photograph the trees. The new backgrounds must have been quite expensive for the Nippon Bonsai Association and I hope they can afford to completely change all the backgrounds in the other smaller galleries.





I noticed quite a few Ezo spruce bonsai in the exhibition, many more than in the past.


Also, I enjoyed seeing many more rock plantings this time too.



Additionally there was a Scots pine bonsai too! Perhaps a first for the exhibition.


The overall quality of the bonsai is superb, as always and I’m returning today to take some more photos, especially of the award winning bonsai.














I hope you enjoy these quick photos. Remember, you can see better quality photos in a future issue of International BONSAI magazine.