The two pine bonsai production villages of Kokubunji and Kinashi have merged to be part of the city of Takamatsu on Shikoku Island, Japan. According to 2014 figures, 219 bonsai nurseries shipped 75,000 bonsai valued at approximately US $2,400,000. A great number of the pine bonsai in Japan originated from Takamatsu where pine bonsai are King.
Hiro Yamaji, 2ndgeneration bonsai grower is no stranger to the United States. He has presented numerous programs and also been the headliner for many bonsai conventions and symposia. Mr. Yamaji was one of the international judges and demonstrators at the 2014 4thUS National Bonsai Exhibition. I first met Hiro during my first trip to Japan in 1970 when I was studying with Kyuzo Murata in Omiya Bonsai Village. During his honeymoon Mr. Yamaji and his bride visited my home and we have been friends for over 45 years. He took time from his busy schedule to show our tour the bonsai production areas of Takamatsu.
Nakanishi Chinshoen Bonsai Garden
We first visited the Nakanishi Chinshoen Bonsai Garden of Yoichi Nakanishi, a 5thgeneration bonsai grower. His garden is neat and immaculate, you could eat off the clean raked gravel and stone pathways. He specializes in pines, especially the Kotobuki Japanese black pine, Pinus thunbergii‘Kotobuki.’ This popular cultivar has very short, dark green straight needles and prominent white vegetative buds. It originated as an unusual tree from a nearby mountain and was collected over 70 years ago.
This bonsai could be yours for US$88,000.
Most of the larger Kotobuki Japanese black pines have been created by grafting buds or branches on to well shaped trunks of Japanese black pines. Many of his developed masterpiece bonsai are approximately 20 to 30 years old, but has numerous older masterpieces started by his father and grandfather. They are primarily propagated by grafting, however cuttings are successfully rooted when taken in March.
Hiramatsu Sunshoen Bonsai Garden
The 4thgeneration bonsai artist Koji Hiramatsu is the proprietor of the Hiramatsu Sunshoen Bonsai Garden. His father still helps caring, creating and training the bonsai. There are vast fields of Japanese black and Japanese five-needle pines being trained for trunk and branch development in the ground. They also grew the Cork bark Japanese black pines when they were popular. There are very few remaining.
The new specialty of Mr. Hiramatsu is shohin bonsai. He is an official instructor and officer of shohin bonsai organizations. Of course, pine shohin bonsai are in great number, he is also skilled with other species as well. Since Mr. Hiramatsu is fluent in English he is becoming a popular bonsai instructor outside Japan including the United States, Europe and Canada. He will be one of the international judges and demonstrators at the next 2020 7thUS National Bonsai Exhibition. He frequently hosts foreign students who want to learn his training techniques.
About 30 years ago Gerald Rainville, originally from Montreal, Canada, now living near Vancouver, Canada, came to study with Mr. Hiramatsu’s father. He now has a considerable bonsai and landscape business shipping bonsai throughout Canada. Mr. Rainville travels to Japan for a month long study period yearly. He was at the bonsai garden during our visit so he could attend the upcoming Nippon Bonsai Taikan Ten Exhibition in a few days.
During our visit we also met Evan Marsh, from Sydney, Australia who is now studying with Mr. Hiramatsu. Both Gerald and Evan were busy wiring Shohin Japanese black pine bonsai for sale at the Nippon Bonsai Taikan Ten Exhibition.
Hiramatsu Seijuen Bonsai Garden
After lunch we visited Mr. Hiramatsu’s uncle, Kiyoshi Hiramatsu at his Hiramatsu Seijuen Bonsai Garden which is next to Koji’s garden. This talented 3rdgeneration bonsai artist also specializes in pine and shohin bonsai.
There were a great number of bonsai neatly packed into his compact garden. He had a small shohin bonsai composition on display for us which included an unusual forest of Sekka Hinoki cypress. He was quick to mention he was going to allow two trees to grow taller for better design, or will add a few more taller trees.
Sanshoen Bonsai Garden
Our guide for the day, Hiro Yamaji brought us to his garden for a visit. He has seven fields full of pine bonsai in addition to his newly expanded and designed main bonsai garden and studio. Across the street he has another area with five quarantine greenhouses full of pine bonsai being prepared for shipping to the United States and Europe.
Arthur Skolnik and Marty Schmalenberg studied with Mr. Yamaji many years ago to learn his pine training techniques. Since Mr. Yamaji speaks both English and French, in addition to Japanese, he frequently travels to France to sell and teach bonsai.
Kandaka Shojuen Bonsai Garden
Keiji Kandaka, 4thgeneration proprietor of Kandaka Shojuen Bonsai Garden has one of the largest gardens in the area. Pine bonsai of all sizes and many different species and cultivars are well represented here. In the rear of his garden Mr. Kandaka has a small area devoted to his finest bonsai masterpieces, all pines of course.
The main focal point of his garden is a Japanese black pine garden tree which is over 200 years old, yet only about 10 feet in height. But, the fantastic and unique quality of this garden tree are the lower braches which stretch horizontally approximately 30 feet in length. The branches are trained flat, similar to a skirt, quite unique and well worth a visit.