2022 42ND Nippon Bonsai Taikan Exhibition– Part 3

A few parting images from the exhibition. The attendance was not as previous years, but the bonsai were of a higher quality. This exhibition often includes hanging scrolls, suiseki and other art as accessories as well as grass plantings. The new black color background made the scrolls really stand out, perhaps a bit too much. Most of these professionally produced bonsai exhibitions often consider the owner’s taste. Remember most of these masterpiece bonsai are not cared for by their owners. Professional bonsai artists generally care for their trees, usually at their garden.

Generally, the common current trend of display often tells a story or reminds viewers of natural scenes. However, nearly all Japanese bonsai display indicates seasonality. This can be done in three ways, the condition of the tree, scroll theme or the accessory. This is important. What about evergreens? Although many species have a winter purplish color, most do not. In this case the scroll, accessory planting or figurine must indicate the season. The seasonality of evergreens, which are always “evergreen,” is suggested by a scroll, perhaps a mountain scene for winter or waterfall for summer. I really like the Nippon Taikan Bonsai Exhibitions because the entire composition can be expressed by the artists and visitors can easily study Japanese aesthetics.

Many of the displayed bonsai have been awarded the title of “important bonsai masterpiece” classification or “kicho bonsai”. They are carefully judged and require a judging fee of about $200. Then if the tree is considered worthy of the title the owner, not artist pay about $10,000. These trees are nearly always accepted when selecting bonsai for displays. Most often the trees are simply displayed and may include a small important masterpiece bonsai hanging on the tree, but not in front. Other times the owner really wants to show off his expensive masterpiece and will include the silver metal plaque in front of their bonsai. Most exhibitors, however, truly love the art and simply want to share their beauty with the public, and no indication is visible. Others want you to know they own such an important masterpiece and leave the identification tag on the tree, or sometimes display their plaque. The worldwide bonsai community is the same everywhere. Some display for the love of their art and others want praise and recognition. I’ve even seen bonsai displayed anonymously, with no owner’s name. But even these trees require hundreds of dollars (yen) entry fees, transporting charges and also must pay for the rental of display tables, scrolls, accessories and even containers. The professional bonsai artist generally offers these services. Way back in the 1990s I know of one professional artist who took 17 truckloads of his customer’s trees for exhibition.

Bonsai lovers and inhabitant’s Mark and Rita Cooper from England displayed one of their new Shishigashira Japanese maple bonsai. But without any indication of its important bonsai masterpiece status. They simply wanted to share their bonsai. It did win an award, I know, because I was one of the judges. They commented to me they now want to enter this bonsai in the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition in Ueno Park, Tokyo, in February. But they must first find or rent a suitable container, because the quality and size of the present container are not of the top level to be accepted in the exhibition. There is more to displaying a bonsai than to walk into your garden the night before a show, select a tree and clean the container, hopefully, add moss and take it to a show. Many of the bonsai in Japan, and now in the United States as well are taking years to prepare their trees for show.

On Sunday afternoon the bonsai community, organized by Seiji Morimae, sponsored a charity auction for the people of the Ukraine, which has a sister city relationship with the city of Kyoto. Even the Kyoto mayor attended the auction. He really likes bonsai and attends this exhibition yearly. It’s always good to have a high-level politician who likes bonsai on your side. 

Approximately 75 bonsai, important bonsai masterpieces, suiseki, containers and other art were donated. Mashiko Kimura donated four of his bonsai for the auction including a certificate of authentic. Perhaps the most valuable bonsai auctioned was a large prize winning multiple trunk Chinese quince which is well known and also an important bonsai masterpiece. Mr. Morimae is a master auctioneer and quickly sold all the items in just less than two hours to about 40 bidders. But, to be fair, he had a large army of apprentices moving the trees all the time. Many were four-man size. Oh, the beautiful Chinese quince sold for about $850,000, PLUS a 5% buyers fee of about $40,000. I’m certain the new owner will have someone to care for the tree, or perhaps a professional bonsai artist purchased it for resale.

Traveling half way around the world to spend a four-day weekend at the exhibition was a very rewarding tiring learning experience to personally because I have not been able to enter Japan for three years. Now I’m tired, remember the weekend before we drove 6,000 miles to participate in the Pacific Bonsai Expo in California. But I can sleep on the plane ride home, because we leave on Thursday for the Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expo in North Carolina. To be honest, I’m displaying the two maples from the Pacific Bonsai Expo in North Carolina as they are show ready. I did not even unwrap the display tables. All ready to roll! Oh, in the meantime I must help Diane with handling the fire damaged home. We now have a “tentative” move in date of March 10th. Of course, it will be snowy and the beginning of transplanting season. Good thing I’ve been blessed with a loving, hard working beautiful wife and dedicated crew to help with whatever is needed to keep me going to improve and spread bonsai. Good thing I’m bionic! I hope you have enjoyed my trip through this blog.

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