An Unexpected Surprise Visit To Omiya!

Many years ago, Megumi Kadokura posted several old photos of bonsai on Facebook. I recognized many of the bonsai and people. We began corresponding and I learned that her grandfather was a well-known bonsai artist who had his garden near the Omiya Koen train stop. He was a prominent leader in the bonsai world when the organization changed from the Tokyo Bonsai Club to the Nippon Bonsai Society in the early 1960s. He often displayed in the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition in the 1950s. In the early 1970s I remember seeing the garden while on the train and one day while I was an Omiya Bonsai Village apprentice with another artist, I was allowed to visit this hidden gem of the Omiya Bonsai Village, once. At that time, it was not proper for an apprentice to visit other bonsai gardens. However, since I was a foreigner and my teacher spoke English I was able to do many things other apprentices could not.

Unfortunately, the garden is now gone, and Megumi donated many of her grandfather’s artifacts and display tables to the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum. We finally met several years ago and now visit with her during my many visits to the Omiya Bonsai Village, since she lives nearby.

Dave Steele and Carlos Morales were with me at the California Shohin Bonsai Meeting. Since my tour begins tomorrow, Thursday, we traveled to Japan a day early to “look around.” Megumi came to our hotel on Tuesday evening upon our arrival in Tokyo and offered to drive us to the Omiya Bonsai Village. Although a train ride is quicker, we jumped at the opportunity to get a sneak preview of what my tour will visit next week.

Of course, our first visit was to see Hiroshi Takeyama’s Fuyo-en Bonsai Garden. I apprenticed at Shoto-en Bonsai which was across the street and have known Mr. Takeyama for over 50 years. Several decades ago I brought him to teach at one of my 30 successful bonsai symposia in Rochester.

Mr. Takeyama, the second-generation proprietor of the garden specializes in deciduous, unusual species and forest plantings, which I admire. His garden had a wonderful spicy fragrance of the many Japanese flowering apricots which were in full blossom. Most of his Trident maple forests with beautiful fine twigs were protected in a poly house during the winter which is temporarily constructed covering two of his bonsai tables. Also in the poly house were his small deciduous bonsai and a few other tender species. The poly house is not heated and both ends are open revealing a private display of some of his best small and a bit tender species. Developing the fine twigs on deciduous species requires several decades and can easily wither during cold winters.

I noticed that all of the Rough bark Japanese maples were outside because they do not develop fine twigs, while other maples were protected. In autumn Mr. Takeyama prepares his deciduous species for spring repotting by removing a small circle of roots growing around the edge of the container and filling in with fresh soil. Sometimes, the roots produce a lot of pressure and will expand during the cold temperatures breaking valuable containers, especially when pot bound. Since deciduous species tend to be more vigorous than evergreens they require repotting more often.

A wood planting, I wonder how long it will last.

Mr. Takeyama now accepts PayPal!

We then paid our respects to Mr. Murata’s family since he passed away recently. I spent my first summer in 1970 studying with Kyuzo Murata at Kyuka-en Bonsai Garden, who passed about 20 years ago. His son Isamu took over his father’s garden. After he recently passed his son, Yukio the the third-generation, took over the family business. He speaks English well and is quite knowledgable. Down the road, two blocks away, we visited Seiko-en Bonsai Garden of Tomio Yamada and is daughter Kaori who developed “saika bonsai.” Mr. Yamada daughter is the fifth- generation artist of Seiko-en Bonsai Garden.

Finally, we stopped at the oldest garden in Omiya, of the Kato family, Mansei-en Bonsai Garden now run by the fifth-generation Haruhiko Kato. We ran into Bjorn Bjorhlom, who was leading a bonsai tour. I’m thinking that this year’s Kokufu Bonsai Exhibit will be full of foreigners because they have not been allowed to enter Japan for three years!

Notice the Japanese maple bonsai with fine twigs are placed under the roof eaves.

A rough bark old Japanese black pine, NOT nishiki or cork bark.

Enjoy the photos, next week when I bring my tour here I’ll all the things I missed today…

Interesting outdoor small sink on the balcony of the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum.