The 6thJapan Suiseki Exhibition is being held at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum in Ueno Park, Tokyo, on February 14-17, 2019. This is the same venue as the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition, but in a different gallery on the 2ndfloor. Seiji Morimae was able to get a five year contract to hold this prestigious exhibition of stones, and it looks like it will likely continue with his and Kunio Kobayashi’s leadership of the Nippon Suiseki Association.
It was Norio Kobayashi’s (no relation to Kunio Kobayashi,) dream to elevate the art of bonsai by having an exhibition in an art museum. He succeeded, and in 1934, with the assistance of Count Matsudaira, a now annual exhibition of miniature trees can be enjoyed. Norio Kobayashi was a pioneer in bonsai promotion and published the monthly Bonsai magazine for 518 issues. This year marks the 93rd edition of the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition. For a couple of decades, the exhibition was held twice a year, but changed to an annual event in 1960.
I found it interesting that in 1934 museum officials did not originally want to display bonsai because they were “dirty” with soil and “smelly” from organic fertilizers. That was the main reason soil needed to be 100% covered in green moss. The bonsai exhibition is now held on the bottom levels of the current art museum with ceramic floor tiles. The suiseki exhibition is held in a 2ndfloor gallery which is carpet covered. No water is allowed in this exhibition which is the reason why water is not included in the water basin displays of suiseki, the traditional and formal way of appreciating suiseki. Also, that’s why there are no accessory plantings displayed with the stones.
Eel River suiseki displayed by Larry & Nina Ragle
Suiseki displayed by Ron Maggio
2019 6th Japan Suiseki Exhibition Statistics
7 Featured Entries
32 Alcove Displays
1 Guest Entries
82 General Exhibits
18 International General Exhibits
14 Suiseki Accessories
The crown jewel of the exhibition was a rare appearance of the famous bonseki (original term for suiseki) “Sue no Matsuyama” a temple treasure of the Nishi Hoganji in Kyoto. The stone has an approximate 500 year history of being appreciated in China and Japan. The stone, of course is millions of years old, however age is determined in the suiseki world by the number of years the stone has been appreciated and valued as a suiseki. This stone has a long and most interesting history and is considered among the two most famous and valuable suiseki in Japan. It has not been often displayed and at one time visitor were waiting in line to see this national treasure.
Wil, an American working in a Tokyo art gallery, who is also the youngest and only foreign Director of the Nippon Suiseki Association was one of the translators for the exhibition album, in full color and English. Contact me as I have a few extra copies for sale. He told me that in order to display this treasured bonseki a museum curator needed to travel to pick up and travel with the stone to Tokyo. First the stone was photographed to show any damage before transporting. Then it was wrapped with a couple of layers of special paper before placing in its silk bag. The stone is kept in a lacquered storage box, also photographed to indicate any scratches or damage before moving. It was then double boxed and transported to Tokyo with a bonded carrier, accompanied with Wil. By the way, the same procedure was used for the round bronze plate the bonseki is displayed on. The same procedure will be necessary next week to return the national treasure to its temple home in Kyoto. That’s a huge amount of work to move a rock the size of a hot pocket which is displayed on a dinner size plate. But the art of suiseki, and bonsai are a treasured and valued art forms. Usually, visitors do not realize the work necessary to display special suiseki and bonsai in exhibition. A lot of work and negotiaions are behind the scene.
Special bonseki exhibit by the Hosokawa Bonseki School
The Nippon Suiseki Association is fortunate to have both Kunio Kobayshi and Seiji Morimae who both have fine taste and the drive to promote and elevate both the arts of suiseki and bonsai. They have dedicated their lives to these arts and endlessly work year around and all day long for their passion.