2019 39th Nippon Bonsai Taikan Exhibition – Part 1


VIEW 2.jpgThe 39thNippon Bonsai Taikan Exhibition is being held on November 22-25, 2019 at the Miyako Messe Exhibition Hall in Kyoto, Japan. Shinji Suzuki is chairman again this year. Quite a bit of advance promotion was published in both print and social media. Hitomi Kawasaki, a bonsai researcher wrote an excellent five page illustrated article, plus the cover, of Enjoy Kyoto, a bimonthly English language guide to Kyoto. This must have worked because I noticed that there were more foreigners than Japanese at the ribbon cutting ceremony opening the exhibition and also throughout the day. Additionally, extensive ads in local Kyoto newspapers helped to promote this important and largest bonsai event in western Japan. The word “Taikan” means grand view.

ENTRANCE.jpgLots to report, so I’m going to share comments and photos in sequence, because it makes sense, at least to me. There are five special displays as well as an extensive sales area.



EZO.jpgLarge sinuous style rock planting of Ezo spruce created by Shinji Suzuki two years ago.

EZO DISPLAY.jpgThe majority of the set up was on Thursday. It was a busy day with a hoard of vendors setting up, while bonsai were moved around for the judging a 1:30pm. Studio photos were also being taken at the same time. All was well organized as they have had four decades of experience running this exhibition.




I’ve had numerous questions on the judging process so I’d like to explain how this exhibition selects the prize-winning bonsai. Before the final selection, the best three bonsai of the following categories are selected and set on long tables, each labeled: large, medium and small size evergreens, deciduous, satsuki, shohin bonsai, literati, rock plantings, forest plantings (only two entries and they were actually clump styles) and suiseki (daiza, water basins, figure and chrysanthemum stones.)



There were 13 judges from the sponsoring organizations, press, art galleries and three international judges, Harald Lehner (Germany), Zhang Xiabao (China) and me from America. I was quite honored to be invited again this year to offer my opinions. All the bonsai were lined up and the judges were sitting in front in a long row. As each category was announced a small clipboard and ballot were handed out and then collected after each judge simply put the tree number on the smalliece of paper. There were NO points, just select the best bonsai. Many of the trees were fine wire, lot of guy wires. Remember, this is not a dog show, it’s an art show of the highest caliber. This is how the professional exhibitions are evaluated in Japan, and they invented the bonsai evaluation process. People judging bonsai outside Japan make it more difficult.



JUDGING 8.jpgI found it interesting that last year there was a tie between two trees. Instantly, the moderator took the two tree numbers and placed them behind his back and one judge selected a hand, which became the winner. The other tree also received a prize. This year there was only one entry in the chrysanthemum suiseki category. Rather than have all 13 judges get up and walk over to look at the one stone to vote, the moderator simply asked the judges to raise their hand to cast one vote. This saved lots of time and walking. Remember most of the judges are not too young, and one even had two broken feet in walking casts. I walked nearly four miles in the one room on Thursday alone.

AWARD.jpgThe top Prime Minister Award Sargent juniper bonsai displayed by Shinji Suzuki, belonging to a client. This bonsai has been worked on by Matt Reel in 2014 when Kinbon Bonsai magazine did a photo essay oh his work.


Afterwards the bonsai were put in place and properly displayed. On Friday morning, fifteen minutes before the official opening they conducted a ribbon cutting ceremony. Only one short speech by the Mayor of Kyoto welcoming visitors, then they did something different this year, which I liked. Usually, immediately after the ribbon cutting ceremony the people cutting the ribbon are escorted into the exhibition followed by the public. This time the people cutting the ribbon stood by the side, welcoming visitors before they entered. As mentioned there were more foreigners at the ceremony than Japanese.

Because increased number of foreigners this year, in addition to Japanese language walking tours, of the exhibition conducted by Hitomi Kawasaki, they will have a couple conducted in English by me.

KAWASAKI.jpg Miss Hitomi Kawasaki, wearing a blue kimono, conducting a w.alking tour in Japanese.

D 2.jpg My English language walking tour.



Here are a few images of trees and displays. I’ll share more later. Enjoy!



Autumn 2019 Japan International Bonsai Exploration


This year marks the 20th anniversary that Kora Dalager and I have been leading value priced bonsai tours to Japan and Asia. Kora is a seasoned travel agent who has traveled the world and that is also a skilled and knowledgeable bonsai artist and teacher. She is especially interested in bonsai display and presents programs and workshops on companion plantings. I hasten to point out that both Kora and have individually led many bonsai tours for years before combining our talents to offer more interesting and economical explorations of the Japanese bonsai world and Asia.



During our first day in Japan, our eleven tour participants from Australia, Switzerland and the United States first visited Seiji Morimae’s S-Cube Bonsai Garden in Hanyu, Japan. He offers the widest selection of bonsai, containers, suiseki and accessories for display in Japan. A busy schedule keeps him hopping, but he, his family and staff always make time to welcome our tours to their special bonsai world.






36.jpgThis Sargent juniper and the next one featured were both grafted by Seiji Morimae 18 years ago. This is the first time the public has seen these masterpieces. They will be on sale at the Nippon Bonsai Taikan Exhibition.


As we were enjoying his hospitality and bonsai his staff was busy loading three large trucks packed full of bonsai, suiseki and containers for display and sale at the 39th Nippon Bonsai Taikan Exhibition starting on Saturday in Kyoto. He will have the largest sales area/bonsai gallery in the exhibition as well as organizing several large private displays.




Masahiko Kimura Bonsai Garden

Our next stop was to meet Masahiko Kimura and visit his bonsai garden. Large, beautiful, heavy and powerful bonsai dominated his collection. However there were quite a number of newly made tall rock plantings created for Chinese and European exports.










Omiya Bonsai Art Museum

After a delicious lunch at the Bonsai Restaurant across the street from the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum we visited their collections as well as the special Autumn Exhibit featuring Yuji Yoshimura and his pioneering bonsai education outside Japan.












Omiya Bonsai Village

Our tour members were then guided through the world-famous Omiya Bonsai Village by Kora Dalager while I remained at the museum to present my program on Yuji Yoshimura.


Mansei-en Bonsai Garden

This is the oldest bonsai garden in the Omiya Bonsai Village which is managed by Takahiro Kato,grandson of bonsai master Saburo Kato.






Seiko-en Bonsai Garden

Also well established, this garden is presently run by the fourth and fifth generation bonsai artists Tomio Yamada and his daughter Kaori.








Kyuka-en Bonsai Garden

Established by Kyuzo Murata, this garden is now operated by his son Isamu Murata and his grandson Yukio, second and third generation bonsai artists. This garden was not visited because Yukio Murata was translating my program at the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum on Yuji Yoshimura.





Fuyo-en Bonsai Garden

The final stop for this busy day was at the garden of Hiroshi Takeyama, second generation bonsai artist. He specializes in deciduous, unusual and forest planting bonsai.









Bonsai Beyond The Border– Yuji Yoshimura, A Bonsai Artist Across the Ocean; New York, 1958


On October 12 – November 24, the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum in Japan presented an Autumn Special Exhibition to commemorate the 10th Anniversary and Sister Museum Partnership with the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum in Washington, DC. The Omiya Bonsai Art Museum featured bonsai Pioneer Yuji Yoshimura, second generation bonsai artist from Tokyo who, with the encouragement of his father, left Japan to teach Westerners classical Japanese bonsai. To date, the Japanese bonsai community has not recognized the unique and significant contribution Yuji Yoshimura made to expand the beauty and understanding of bonsai outside Japan.


The special exhibition room was the venue for this special exhibit to honor Yuji Yoshimura. Museum curator Dr. Fumiya Taguchi traveled to Rochester, New York in August to gather documents, photos and other historical artifacts for the exhibit from my bonsai reference library. He truly did an exceptional job in organizing and presenting the exhibit.



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VIDEO.jpgYuji Yoshimura’s youngest brother, Kazumasa, and daughter Yoko watching the video.

Included in the exhibit was a video of Yuji Yoshimura’s demonstration at a Florida bonsai convention. Yuji Yoshimura’s youngest brother Kazumasa sat and watched as his eldest brother worked his magic teaching and demonstrating bonsai. Probably the only time he saw him with bonsai. Yuji Yoshimura’s two daughters, Yoko from Boston traveled for the exhibit along with her daughter Sasha, and Emi from Tokyo attended the exhibition and my program. In total nine members of the Yoshimura family visited the exhibit and attended my program.

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My program on Tuesday, November 19, 2019 was limited to 40 people by reservation only. Over 50 people eventually filled the room with standing room only. Unfortunately, some individuals could not be accommodated. Dr. Thomas Elias, a past director of the US National Arboretum and his wife attended my program. A landscape architect from Osaka, Japan traveled to learn about Yuji Yoshimura along with the Saitima City press and representatives from two major bonsai publications.


Here is a synopsis of my program:

Memories of Japanese Father, “Mr Y.”

Yuji Yoshimura taught me for 30 years and opened my eyes and mind to the beautiful world of classical Japanese bonsai art which is now my passion and am sharing with people all over the world, like Mr Y instructed me to.

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The story begins with Yuji Yoshimura’s father Toshiji Yoshimura who was one of the pioneers of the modern Japanese bonsai world. He apprenticed with Yonikichi Kibe at the Taiko-en Bonsai Garden and established his Kofu-en Bonsai Garden in Tokyo at the end of his studies in 1924. He was quite active and played an important part of establishing the Nippon Bonsai Association and the Nippon Suiseki Association.

LECTUR 1.jpgMy translator, Yukio Murata, checking to see how low his grandfather, Kyuzo Murata was bowing to Toshiji Yoshimura.


LECTURE 3.jpg Mr & Mrs Toshiji Yoshimura with their 12 Children. Yuji Yoshimura is first on the left.


Yuji Yoshimura was born in 1921 at the Taiko-en Bonsai Garden while his father was still an apprentice. As the eldest son of 12 children his parents were very strict and made him weed the garden before going to school. This strict and rigid upbringing played an important part of his unique character and integrity. Mr Y was interested in drawing and later in life, music. Ikebana and tea ceremony were also studied. He worked and learned from his father and later graduated from the Tokyo Horticultural School in 1938. Later he would draw upon his solid background to establish his own concept of classical bonsai art.


When Yuji Yoshimura was 19 years old he rode his bicycle from Tokyo to Omiya Bonsai Village to visit Kyuzo Murata, Kyuka-en Bonsai Garden and purchase a special water pool suiseki. At that time, in the early 1940s the suiseki had been appreciated for over 150 years as an art object. Forty years later I was able to add this special suiseki to my collection. I returned it to Japan six years ago for the 1st Japan Suiseki Exhibition. Dr. Taguchi brought it back to Japan for this exhibit.

Mr Y was drafted into the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II, spending five years in the cavalry, teaching his troops horsemanship. Mr. Y had a clever red horse which he loved and in fact, the horse saved his life then died.

LECTURE 4.jpgYuji Yoshimura’s youngest brother, Kazumasa, is standing in the front row wearing a hat. He was in the front row during my program.


Upon returning from his Army experience in 1948, he established Naka Meguro Kofu-en, separate from his father’s garden. Mr Y met Alfred Koehn, a German Diplomat and author and in 1952 together they offered the first bonsai class for the public at his bonsai garden. The six-week course was a hit and within three years over 600 foreigners learned from Mr Y. The course was filled with diplomat’s wives who enjoyed the hobby. In decades to come, a few of these students returned to America and continued with bonsai.

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One of his students from England, Mrs. Halford, studied bonsai with him for two years and later assisted him with his book “The Japanese Art of Miniature Trees and Landscapes” in 1957. This was the first authoritative book on bonsai in English and is now in its 45th printing. This book was the first book to translate and classify bonsai styles which is still in use today around the world.

Mr Y, now 37 years old, arrived in America in December 1958 after a month’s ship ride. He remained in America for the next 39 years of his life and brought 22 cases of bonsai, seeds, tools and other items needed to teach bonsai. His first class in America was in January 1959 at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Later that year The Yoshimura Bonsai Company opened at one of his student’s home near New York City. Later he moved to the Detmer Nursery with more room to teach classes and grow bonsai where he created thousands of bonsai.

CAYuji Yoshimura teaching in California in the early 1960s.

He lived simply and had a busy teaching schedule at the New York Botanical Garden and at his nursery. Mr Y also made several teaching trips to Australia, India, Hong Kong, Hawaii and England. Few people know the tremendous amount of time he took to prepare for his classes and programs. In the early days, he made yearly visits by car to teach in California.

VIEW 4The bicentennial gift of 53 bonsai and 6 suiseki from Japan to the United States started the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum.


In 1973, he presented a demonstration at the US National Arboretum and spoke about his dream to have a bonsai museum in the nation’s capital. Well, the dream was realized and we now the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum. To honor his lifetime of contributions to bonsai art the Yoshimura Lecture/Demonstration Center was opened. Today demonstrations and the many bonsai in the collections are worked on in the center. When the North American Bonsai Pavilion opened Mr Y donated a Zelkova he trained and a Crape Myrtle which his father started many decades before.


The Omiya Bonsai Art Museum and National Bonsai & Penjing Museum  Sister Museum ceremony.

Mr Y inherited his love of suiseki from his father and now that bonsai was established in America decided to also promote stone appreciation. Together with a student they co-authored “The Japanese Art of Stone Appreciation.” He often used stones in rock planting bonsai and bonkei. Later on, he expanded his use of stones in garden landscapes. Together with him we sponsored the very first Stone Appreciation Seminar in Rochester, New York.

Mr Y passed away on Christmas eve 1997. The National Bonsai Foundation established the Yuji Yoshimura Fund to honor his contributions for educational purposes. To date that fund has raised over $375,000 for the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum. Additionally, the National Bonsai Foundation has raised and donated over $6,000,000 to the museum. In 2005 the Yuji Yoshimura Fund sponsored Arishige Matsurua, Director of the Nippon Suiseki Association to travel to America to teach suiseki.


In June 2015, the US National Arboretum honored Mr Y by inducting him into the National Bonsai Hall of Fame honoring him and recognizing people who made valuable contributions to bonsai in the United States. They have dedicated their lives to bonsai who achieve national excellence and contributed to the advancement of bonsai in America. He was the second person in the National Bonsai Hall of Fame. The first was John Naka a famous and beloved bonsai artist from California.

So, we have come to the end of honoring Yuji Yoshimura. He was the direct link between Japanese classical bonsai and the progressive Western approach. He spent his entire life promoting classical bonsai sacrificing a great deal for bonsai; his family, health, comfort and personal relationships. His success cannot be judged by standards. He reached the top of his field, something few achieve.

Yuji Yoshimura took his knowledge, skill, education and strength of his artistic genius to forge ahead classical Japanese bonsai art. I feel honored and blessed to have learned from him and specially to talk about him today.

FAMILYThe Yoshimura family and one Greek at the program.

I’d like to thank Dr. Taguchi and the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum for hosting this special exhibition and for asking me to present these thoughts. Kyuzo Murata’s grandson, Yukio, third generation proprietor of Kyuka-en Bonsai Garden in Omiya Bonsai Village did the excellent task of translating my program. I began my program in my poor Japanese, which could not be understood and Yukio completed the lecture in proper Japanese. I was greatly honored for this opportunity and appreciate the significant statement that after 60 years the Japanese bonsai community has finally recognized Yuji Yoshimura’s pioneering bonsai education and great contributions to the world of bonsai art.




EXPO.jpgThere is less than a month away from one of the finest bonsai exhibitions in the country. Now is the time to make plans to visit the Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expo in Kannapolis, North Carolina, near Charlotte, on Saturday and Sunday 7-8, 2109.



5.jpgThis special exhibition is held in an elegant venue covered with marble walls and floors at the North Carolina Research Lab. The four story building is a unique venue to display bonsai. Consider attending this superb FREE exhibition featuring naked bonsai. Most of the bonsai are deciduous species without foliage so the branch structure and buds can be appreciated. The bonsai come from a wide range and there are often species not commonly seen. Like Larch which are difficult to grow in southern areas. Although the bonsai are beautiful, this exhibition offers the opportunity for artists to present their bonsai displays creatively. All bonsai and displays do not need to be in the classic Japanese style, only with good design and taste. I look forward to what unusual and creative displays the bonsai artists will show soon.28.jpg


Along with other professional bonsai artists, Rodney Clemons, Tyler Sherrod and Owen Reich, we will be presenting individual lecture demonstrations during the two day event. My Saturday program will cover Classical Upright Bonsai Design and I’ll be working on a Scots Pine for the demonstration.


On Sunday morning I’ll be again leading a FREE critique of the entire exhibition. Topics to be discussed are the displays, bonsai refinement and techniques for growing and training the bonsai. Of course, this will be an interactive educational program and all comments are welcome for discussion. It’s really a great activity and people seem to like and learn from it.


Like most bonsai exhibitions, one of the most important and popular areas are the vendors. There are the three rooms filled with vendors offering their finest plants, containers and more. This is just in time for Xmas shopping. Yes, you can buy yourself an early Xmas gift.

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This FREE event is sponsored and organized by bonsai hobbyist Steve Zeisel because he wants to promote bonsai in the region and display the beauty of deciduous bonsai. There is no admission fee and the proceeds from the auction on Saturday afternoon, at the conclusion of the demonstration, hopefully, pays for this popular event.


Join us for the 7th Winter Bonsai Silhouette Expo on December 7-8, 2019, now a recognized national show. Photos here are from past exhibitions. Although these photos feature deciduous bonsai, there are some evergreens as well. It would be too boring to have only naked trees, variety is needed for a well designed show.

For additional information:



2019 Autumn Beauty At The International Bonsai Arboretum





The “official” 2019 growing season has now ended, despite the lack of a killing frost, yet. We do expect some cold days later this week in the mid-20F range, and perhaps two inches of snow. That’s actually what I’m waiting for, so the bonsai in the main display area can be protected for the winter. All the bonsai in training, sales bonsai and nursery stock was put away yesterday by my Monday Senior Crew. They are a great group of hard working friends who help me with the bonsai and my bonsai activities to promote, expand and improve the bonsai community.



However, I try NOT to protect my better bonsai until a hard frost and preferably after a light snowfall. As the gritty snow melts it tends to clean the bark and foliage. Hopefully, this weekend or early next week we can move the bonsai before I head off to Japan for our autumn annual bonsai tour where I’m presenting a lecture on my teacher Yuji Yoshimura at the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum on November 19th. Then, two days later I’ve been invited, again, to be a judge for the 39thTaikan Bonsai Exhibition in Kyoto.

JAPANESE MAPLE.JPG Japanese Maple, Acer palmatum

This autumn has brought some magnificent colors to my garden and I’d like to share some photos with you. A few of the trees have older developmental photos too.


SHISHIGASHIRA FOREST.JPG Shishigashira Japanese Maple, Acer palmatum ‘Shishigashira’


GINKGO.JPGChichi Ginko Maiden Hair Tree, Ginkgo biloba ‘Chichi’


ZELKOVA.JPGJapanese Zelkova,Zelkova serrata


SHISHIGASHIRA SHOHIN..JPGShishigashira Japanese Maple,Acer palmatum ‘Shisshigashira’    Shohin bonsai


DWARF MAPLE BONSAI FRONT.jpgMikawa Yastsubusa Japanese maple, Acer palmatum ‘Mikawa Yatsubusa’


HORNBEAM FRONT.jpegAmerican Hornbeam, Carpinus caroliniana



EUONYMUS.JPGSpindle Tree Euonymus, Euonymus sieboldiana  (Euonymus hamiltonianus sub. Sieboldianus)



TRIDENT LEAVES.JPGTrident Maple, Acer buergerianum

Root-over-rock style, yes, there is rock in there….


BURNING BUSH.JPG Burning Bush Euonymus, Euonymus alatus


GOLDEN FULL MOON AUTUMN.jpgGolden Full Moon Maple, Acer japonicum ‘Aurea’


BEFORE.JPGBefore shaping– April 2018


AFTER.JPGAfter shaping– April 2018



Washington Hawthorn, Crataegus phaenopyrum

October 2019

HAWTHORN 2012.JPGApril 2012 Before shaping


HAWTHORN 2012.jpegApril 2012 After shaping


HAWTHORN 2014.JPGOctober 2012



BUTTERFLY.JPGButterfly Japanese Maple, Acer palmatum ‘Butterfly’

October 2019


BUTTERFLY 2013 .jpgApril 2013


BUTTERFLY 2015.jpegMay 2015

BUTTERFLY 2016.jpegWinter 2016


BUTTERFLY 2018.jpgSummer 2018


BUTTERFLY DISPLAY.JPGDisplay September 2018








TRIDENT 1.JPGTrident Maple, Acer buergerianum

Interesting story. Yuji Yoshimura originally created this clinging-to-a-rock style bonsai several decades ago on a piece of granite. It came to my garden over 25 years ago and just sat in a large tray with pebbles. And when I say, sat, it really remained there without much attention. The roots became one solid mass and pushed away from the rock. It was just sitting on the stone. We lifted it to water and occasionally dunked it in a pail of water. All the trees died but four. In June, over ten years ago I decided to do something with the rock planting. Remember, this is June and the tree is in full leaf. My friends Doug McDade and Doug Taylor helped me to cut the root ball flat using a Sawzall. We actually peeled the roots apart. Then I teased the edge of the root ball and planted it as a group planting bonsai. Yes, with only four trees! The bonsai police were not there so I did it. Tree survived and actually looks good from both sides. Looks good in winter as well as autumn. Usually it turns orange or red, but this year it became yellow.








Oh, by the way, there are still about a half dozen of my better Japanese maple bonsai which show promise of good autumn color. It’s amazing what color differences can make with only a few hours from morning to late afternoon. I’ve even enjoyed seeing bonsai completely change color overnight! I remember Suthin bringing a large multiple trunk Japanese maple to our 2008 1st US National Bonsai Exhibition from the Boston, MA area. He loaded it in his van in the morning when it was still green and changing color. When he unloaded it in Rochester, NY in the late afternoon it was unbelievably red, orange and yellow and became one of the focal points to the exhibition.




KASHIMA.JPG Should they change color, I’ll share the photos with you, either in full autumn glory…. or covered with snow.


Although magnificent, truth be told, last season produced brighter colors. Check out the same view from last year and last week. Quite a difference the weather plays in the autumn coloring.



ENTRANCE 2.JPGOctober 2018




The 5th Zhongguo Fen Penjing Exhibition – Part 3



E.jpgThere were many larger bonsai on display outdoors in the entrance way greeting the visitors to the 5th Zhongguo Fen Penjing Exhibition in Nanging, China. A few smaller, but still large size specimens were displayed indoors in the demo room. All of these were very large and impressive.




















EE.jpgThe entire exhibition was held at a working private nursery and greenhouse. Everything had to be moved and cleaned. Floors were covered in red felt and large walls were constructed as backgrounds in the entrance way. Approximately US$150,000 was spent on the exhibition. And, unlike other Chinese exhibitions this was NOT paid for by the government. The generous nursery owner along with a couple bonsai organizations funded the entire excellent event. I felt so honored to be invited to demonstrate and attend this special exhibition.