Kito Memorial Bonsai Exhibit


When our tour visited Seiji Morimae last week in his garden, he took me aside and told me of an important bonsai exhibit we should visit. I asked the name of the exhibit and the location in case we were in the area or for directions of how to get there. Out came his iPhone and he made a phone call to get me the exact venue. I was prepared to get a difficult address, in Japanese only, only to find the taxi driver could not find the location. He quickly said OK, the exhibit is at the Meifu Bonsai Exhibition which was on our itinerary. Sometimes one gets lucky, fate was in our favor. The exhibit was so significant that Mr. Morimae made the trip from his garden in Hanyu, Saitama Prefecture to Nagoya in Aichi Prefecture. He even wrote about the memorial exhibit in his Japanese S-Cube blog. His photograph appears in his blog during his visit.


Sargent juniper, Juniperus chinensis var. Sargentii ‘Shimpaku.’



Japanese five-needle pine, Pinus parviflora.


Masao Kito was a director of the Nippon Bonsai Association and an important bonsai collector who passed away last year. He assembled a remarkable bonsai collection featuring evergreen bonsai, as can be seen in his memorial exhibit. Curator of his collection is Akio Kondo who is standing on the left of the exhibit entrance in the first photo. He is an award-winning professional bonsai artist who has won numerous top awards in Japan and spends considerable time in the United States teaching with Boon in California. His work is impeccable as can be seen throughout this exhibit.


Japanese five-needle pine, Pinus parviflora.



Japanese five-needle pine, Pinus parviflora.



Japanese five-needle pine, Pinus parviflora.

Each one of 12 grand bonsai were designated Important Bonsai Masterpieces (Kicho Bonsai) by the Nippon Bonsai Association. They are identified by a silver colored metal plaque and also a more familiar hanging silver tag from a branch. One often sees one or two of these treasurers in a single exhibition, but it was a real treat, at least for me, to see one dozen in one exhibit at one time. Although I’ve seen each of these bonsai before in exhibitions, books and magazines, it was a real treat to see them all displayed together. Each one of the bonsai in this memorial exhibit was an Important Bonsai Masterpiece and had both the metal tag and the metal plaque displayed with the tree.



The designation of an Important Bonsai Masterpiece is determined by a panel of experts considering the tree to be outstanding because of artistic value, historical significant, rarity of species and other unusual aspects of the tree. Such designation is intended to give the bonsai protection similar to other works of fine art making it possible to keep track of changes of ownership and prevent sales to collectors abroad without the association’s permission.


Well-spaced throughout the exhibit were old photographs of Mr. Kito rand his family. It was great that they did not obstruct the visual beauty of each bonsai which allowed them to be easily photographed with a plain background. Flanking the photograph of Mr. Kito are awards and a metal presented to him by the Emperor of Japan.


Sargent juniper, Juniperus chinensis var. Sargentii ‘Shimpaku.’

Each bonsai was beautifully displayed on a well-balanced and designed display table which were carefully selected by the curator Akio Kondo. The mossing was exceptionally well done with different species, colors and textures. This is often overlooked when presenting a formal display, even in Japan. Look carefully at the moss in these photos.


Silverberry, Elaeagnus pungens.


Hinoki cypress, Chamaecyparis obtusa. This bonsai is NOT the common Dwarf hinoki cypress used for bonsai in the United States, it is the common Hinoki cypress used as a large timber tree in Japan.



Sargent juniper, Juniperus chinensis var. Sargentii ‘Shimpaku.’



Japanese black pine, Pinus thunbergii.



Toyo Nishiki Japanese flowering quince, Chaenomeles speciosa ‘Toyo Nishiki,’ featuring red, pink and white flowers in spring.



Japanese grey-bark elm, Zelkova serrata.



Chojubai Dwarf Japanese flowering quince, Chaenomeles japonica ‘Chojubai.’


Appropriately sized accessory plantings were well spaced between the bonsai which added seasonal interest and a slight visual rest between each of the bonsai.






Colts foot, Tussilago farara, an invasive perennial with Dandelion-like yellow flowers. The golden yellow flowers die before the foliage appears in spring. It is often used as a bonsai accessory during winter displays.