A Visit To Saitama Prefecture

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Our first day of touring the Japanese bonsai world included Mr. Morimae, Mr. Kimura, Omiya Bonsai Art Museum and the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum.

Seiji Morimae’s S-Cube business and Uchiku-tei Garden

Located about an hour north of Tokyo in Hanyu, Mr. Morimae has the largest collection of bonsai, suiseki, art and bonsai accessories available. His family and staff are most hospitable and always welcome our group of any size, from this tour with 5 participants to our record number of 42 several years ago. We normally get the opportunity to introduce the Japanese bonsai world to about 10-12 people.

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As soon as we got off our private mini-van, Mr. Morimae ran up and said, come I want to show you how we pot large size bonsai. We immediately followed him to the back of the nursey where a new fork lift was holding a large 200 year old Miyajima Japanese five-needle pine in the air while two apprentices were working the roots. The garden tree was growing in a pot for over 20 years when he obtained the tree. Now the old field soil was being removed and they were looking for a pot. They had a deep pot, but it was too small, so they searched and found a larger Chinese pot and brought it over in the back of a small truck. That pot was too large, really. So out came the pruning shears and they made the smaller deeper pot work. Very interesting!

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Mr. Morimae proceeded to show us around and told us about a recent auction he had on January 4th where he sold over 300 bonsai. All the professional bonsai artists were there including Mr. Kimura who purchased several trees. A Tsuyama Hinoki forest on a piece of wood was the most interesting and I’m sure he will create a masterpiece with it in the future. He mentioned that he was going to deliver them to Mr. Kimura at 2pm. We were going directly to Mr. Kimura’s after this visit and offered to take the tree to him, but there were too many to fit into our private mini-van.

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A special display for the New Year season was designed by Mr. Morimae. Everyone seemed to buy suiseki, tables and containers because of their high quality and great pricing.

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Mr. Morimae then brought out the February issue of Bonsai Sekai magazine (Bonsai World) which included a two-page cartoon of my November lecture on Yuji Yoshimura at the museum. I can’t read any of it, but the drawings are cute, despite of the subject. Trying to get it translated.

CARTOON PAGE 1

CARTOON PAGE 2

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Masahiko Kimura

We then traveled to Mr. Kimura’s garden where we saw his masterpiece bonsai, all manicured.

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The February issue of Kinbon magazine featured Mr. Kimura working a Japanese yew bonsai from a two meter size tree he was training in the ground. He removed the bark and hollowed the wood so he could coil the six-foot long trunk and fit it into a small pot. End result was almost two feet tall with a huge piece of dead wood. I asked to see it and he said it’s out back where visitors are not allowed. Suddenly he said, come with me, and we walked back through a larger section of his nursery where trees in training are worked on, out of the public eye. He has a huge poly house filled with masterpiece evergreens being prepared for the upcoming Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition next month. He must have had nearly 80 trees, all large size. In the rear of his poly house he had another small poly tent set up with the new Japanese yew where it is misted several times daily for intensive care.

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Last year I saw a really large Japanese yew he was working on, and I think I showed a photo of it in my blog when it took up an entire skid. The trunk was at least 3 feet in diameter. Kinbon did an article on the tree and it was featured in his one-man show at the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum. Truly an impressive work of art. I asked to see it, but was too late, as it was already in China.

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Omiya Bonsai Art Museum

It is always a treat to see such fine quality bonsai formally displayed in special lighted boxes as well as in three different styles of alcove displays, plus in the stroll garden as well. Last November I had the honor to lecture here when the museum had a special exhibit featuring Yuji Yoshimura, who I studied with for 30 years. The exhibition album was just published a few weeks ago. The 40-page album is filled with historical photos of Mr. Yoshimura, some over 60 years old from my library. The English translation album will be published in March. It was wonderful to see the Japanese bonsai community finally realize the important life-long contribution Mr. Yoshimura made to expand bonsai around the world, now 60 years later.

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Omiya Bonsai Village

We next took a nice leisurely walk through the famous bonsai village stopping at Mansei-en, Seiko-en, Kyuka-en and finally at Fuyo-en where our private mini-van picked us up. During our stroll, it began to sprinkle and out driver found us and brought us each an umbrella, which I never opened, but used as a cane to avoid slipping on the wet rocks. My first of eight foot breaks was in Mansei-en over a decade ago.  All the trees were beautiful, especially the Japanese flowering apricot bonsai full of plump flower buds ready to burst, just in time for next month’s Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition. Our driver was especially friendly and even made an unexpected stop to buy some Beard Pappa cream puffs for the ride back to our hotel in Tokyo. I bought 15 cream puffs, but they did not all make it back to the hotel. I just finished the last three with my Japanese sweet ice tea writing and editing the photos for this blog at 1 am.

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We all had a wonderful day and look forward to another week of bonsai and garden visits plus two major exhibitions.

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