Our group spent the morning at Kunio Kobayashi’s Shunka-en Bonsai Museum in the Edogawa Ward of Tokyo. The perfectly clear weather, but cool, gave us the opportunity to fully enjoy the quiet beauty of Mr. Kobayashi’s creative works and also of his fine taste of appreciating and sharing his sense of display. His museum has approximately 12 alcoves for formal bonsai displays and each was filled with bonsai appropriate to the season. Late winter and early spring flowering bonsai were featured including Japanese flowering apricots, Japanese flowering quince and Winter flowering cherries.
We were fortunate to have Taka Yamaji as our guide through the museum who explained the displays and answered questions. Taka is Hiro Yamaji’s son, who speaks perfect English is now an apprentice to Minoru Akiyama in Yamanashi Prefecture. Both Hiro Yamaji and Minoru Akiyama h past judge have been past judges at the US National Bonsai Exhibitions. Minoru Akiyama was an apprentice to Mr. Kobayashi who is also his son in law, (he married his boss’s daughter.) Mr. Akiyama was also the senior apprentice when Peter Warren studied with Mr. Kobayashi and they often now often work together. The bonsai world is small and complex with many relationships.
An old Japanese black pine bonsai
A close up of the Japanese black pine base. Please note that each layer of bark represents a year’s growth. There is a thin wire holding the bark from falling off.
This small Japanese black pine bonsai was displayed at last year’s Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition.
Mr. Kobayashi has again filled his beautiful garden with large size bonsai which is what his Chinese clients prefer to purchase from him. A few years ago he added another growing area on the rooftop of his suiseki display building. I spotted another growing area next door in the parking lot where he built his apprentice dormitory. He is running out of space, but continues to create and sell his bonsai.
A room was filled with carefully packed suiseki and wrapped display tables for next week’s 5th Japan Suiseki Bonsai Exhibition. I was told my suiseki to be displayed was among the pile.
Everyone on our tour thoroughly enjoyed the warm hospitality of the Kobayashi family and apprentices and now have a deeper understanding of Japanese bonsai.