2020 45th Gafu Ten Shohin Bonsai Exhibition– Part 1


This morning the 45th Gafu Ten Shohin Bonsai Exhibition opened in Kyoto, Japan. This is the highest-level exhibition to show small size bonsai. Although a shohin bonsai exhibition, there were quite a few mame bonsai compositions as well as chuhin (medium) size bonsai. I have been fortunate to have visited and study this exhibition 40 years ago! At that time it was in a large two-story brick building with poor lighting. The current building, Miyako Messe is a modern building with superb lighting, which, unfortunately is a major cost for the organization.








There are 118 exhibit areas full of mame, shohin and chuhin size bonsai compositions. There are 535 individual bonsai in this show. I actually counted each tree, not counting accessory plantings. Most were three-point displays, however there were a great number of box stand display tables exhibited. A couple only featured one small bonsai. There were six special display areas, some with larger bonsai and a long wall had eleven photo entries from foreign countries. Six displays only featured fine-quality containers by the ceramic artists, including Gyozan (Yukizyou Nakano.)




The 15th bonsai container competition included entries from France, Germany, Australia as well as the United States by Stacy Allen Muse and Roy Minarai. All the containers were beautiful and some were quite unique in shape as well as glazes. One of my favorite containers in the competition was a red container featuring a floral applique by Roy Minarai from South Carolina. I was at the set-up and judging and carefully looked at all the containers. Roy’s beautiful container had the top left of one flower petal broken off! I immediately phoned and facetimed Roy to show him the flaw. He was quite disappointed and I offered to darken the light-colored area with a black magic marker to disguise the break. Roy watched me from South Carolina as I painted the broken area. A couple of hours later as I was leaving the exhibition for the day I stopped to see his container. Someone found the broken flower petal and glued it back onto the container!



I have learned that each individual bonsai exhibition in Japan has their own size categories. So sizes vary from show to show. Shohin bonsai are pretty standard at 20cm (8”.) I was surprised to learn the terms “Mame” and “Shito” are NOT used in this exhibition. Remember, the Gafu Ten Shohin Bonsai Exhibition is the largest and most prestigious small size exhibition in Japan. The term “Mini Bonsai” is used here, in two size categories. The display registration fee is $400 per composition.








Koji Hiramatsu, chairman of this exhibition, provided the data below.

There are 15 different categories in the exhibition:

1 Box stand display table size over 71cm (28”)

2 Box stand display table size up to 70cm (27”)

3 Box stand display table up to 60cm (24”)

4 Box stand display table under 50cm (20”)

The above four categories include 6 or 7 trees

5 Display compositions with hanging scrolls

6 Mini size bonsai below 10cm (4”)

7 Mini size bonsai below 7cm (3”)

8 Club displays

9 Satsuki azaleas

10 Suiseki

11 Container displays

12 Kifu size bonsai 21- 35cm (8 – 14”)

13 Chuhin size bonsai 35-45cm (14 – 18”)

14 Original display concepts

15 Literati style bonsai





There were 35 different awards, with the Prime Minister’s Award being the top prize.







More information will be provided in a future blog. There is quite a bit of material to digest above.








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