The 2019 7th Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expo, sponsored by Steve Zeisel, was a huge success. The bonsai, displays, demonstrations, critique and vendors were all wonderful and well attended. On Saturday afternoon a Benefit Auction was held to help pay for the event expenses. Vendors, exhibitors and friends donated bonsai related items for the Benefit Auction to support the event and in anticipation for the 8th Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expo in December 2020. One of the exhibitors, Mac McAtee donated a vintage 16-page booklet illustrated with 15 black & white photos he got from a friend. This English booklet was published and printed by Keibun Tanaka for Kokko-En Bonsai Garden. It must have been published in the late 1930-1940s.
Keibun Tanaka had a large bonsai garden in Tokyo with 5,000 bonsai, many which are now masterpiece bonsai specimens. The Sargent juniper bonsai named “Fudo” and another unnamed bonsai illustrated here passed through his hands. He was featured in the October 7, 1946 issue of Life magazine.
Yasushi Yoshimura (1897-1966) was a younger brother of Toshiji Yoshimura who established Kofu-En Bonsai Garden in 1924. Both Toshiji and Yasushi Yoshimura apprenticed at Taiko-en Bonsai Garden. Toshiji Yoshimura was the father of Yuji and Kanekazu Yoshimura. Yuji Yoshimura was actually born in the garden.
Yasushi Yoshimura became the last apprentice at the Taiko-En Bonsai Garden of Yonekichi Kibe (Beio), one of the most respected bonsai artists at that time. He studied with Magohachi Suzuki, first generation proprietor of Koju-En Bonsai Garden. Bonsai Magazine, published by Norio Kobayashi in 1934, stated that “without exaggeration, everyone agreed that Beio was second to none in the art of bonsai at that time.”
Yasushi Yoshiura became independent in 1921 and established Kokko-En Bonsai Garden near his brother’s garden in the Tamagawa area of Tokyo. He favored shohin bonsai and took care of the Matsudaira Shohin Bonsai Collection of Count Yorinaga and Akiko Matsudaira. He passed away in 1966 and Kokko-En Bonsai Garden was closed.
Hideaki Hiraoka apprenticed with Toshiji Yoshimura for seven years from 1975-1982. Kanekazu Yoshimura, Toshiji Yoshimura’s son gave Mr. Hiraoka the name Kokko-En Bonsai Garden, with the approval of the Yasushi Yoshimura family. He then established his garden in Hyogo, Japan.
History lesson over.
Two of the bonsai illustrated in the Koko-en Bonsai Garden booklet looked familiar and I was able to quickly find some old photos, although not of the highest quality.
Sargent juniper early 1940’s
Sargent juniper mid 1940’s
Sargent juniper 1970’s
Japanese Five-needle pine early 1940’s
Japanese Five-needle pine 1970’s
Japanese Five-needle pine November 2019. I’m familiar with this bonsai and have seen it for the past 40 years at Fuyo-En Bonsai Garden in Omiya Bonsai Village, Japan. Hiroshi Takeyama and his late father Fusazo have been training this beautiful bonsai for well over 50 years.