Kito Memorial Bonsai Exhibit

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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.

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

 

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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.

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Japanese five-needle pine, Pinus parviflora.

 

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Japanese five-needle pine, Pinus parviflora.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Silverberry, Elaeagnus pungens.

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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.

 

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

 

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Japanese black pine, Pinus thunbergii.

 

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

 

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Japanese grey-bark elm, Zelkova serrata.

 

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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.

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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.

2020 90th Meifu Bonsai Exhibition

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The 90th Meifu Bonsai Exhibition was held on January 10-12, 2020 in the Fukiage Hall in Nagoya, Japan. It is sponsored by Chubu Bonsai Cooperative, which is a professional bonsai organization. The exhibition is held in a huge clear span building with excellent lighting and wide aisles. The Gafu Ten Shohin Exhibition, held in Kyoto, was held on the same dates so we were able to visit this exhibition as well.

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The Meifu Bonsai Exhibition is the second longest running show in Japan, just under the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition which will hold the 94th show on February 8-11 and 13-16, 2020. It is the third largest bonsai exhibition and Japan and an important venue to see and study fine-quality bonsai of a great number of species and styles. There was only one shohin bonsai composition displayed, but we had a couple of days at the Gafu Ten Shohin Bonsai Exhibition which displayed 535 small bonsai.

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There were over 130 masterpiece bonsai displayed with accessories and suiseki. Many of these bonsai are owned by hobbyists, but displayed by the professional bonsai artists. A large percentage of these displayed bonsai have or will be displayed in the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition. All very high-quality works of art.

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Taiwan boxwood featuring deeply fissured bark.

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A large full-color commemorative album is always published which is an excellent study guide for design as well as illustrating the current state of the Japanese bonsai community.

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There were several special displays this year. The top Tokoname bonsai ceramic artists were featured in an unusual table top display showing their bonsai containers being used to hold bonsai. We were fortunate to meet Kakuzan, one of the potters who made the large container for Japanese black pine from the collection of Yasuo Mitsuya. Mr. Mitsuya is well known in the United States for his demonstrations and instructions. He displayed his Japanese black pine which is approximately 130 years old and under his training for over 50 years.

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Mr.Kakuzan, left, next to the container he made for Mr. Mitsuya’s Japanese black pine he trained for over 50 years. Yasuo Mitsuya, right, with the first and only professional bonsai magazine published in the United States.

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Another display featured four large panels with paintings displayed with bonsai, something new in Japan. You could sit on the low red benches and absorb the beauty of this exhibition while enjoying a cup of traditional green tea used in the formal Japanese tea ceremony with a sweet snack.  I personally walked 5.8 miles today looking at bonsai, and needed to rest my booted foot. A sales area completed the exhibition which featured a good number of vendors selling tools, containers, art, scrolls, display tables, suiseki, wire and of course bonsai.

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Perhaps the most special display this year was a commemorative for Masaru Kito, who passed away three years ago. This significant display will be the introduced in tomorrow’s blog since I’m too tired to adjust the images now and do need some sleep. So, look for something special tomorrow.

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2020 45th Gafu Ten Shohin Bonsai Exhibition– Part 3

 

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Sales Area

Like most exhibitions, this is the most popular area of the event. Most foreigners go past the bonsai exhibition upon entry and head directly to the sales area. Nearly anything you need or want for bonsai creation, training or appreciation can be found here, except for collected trees. A few items are quite inexpensive, but most are on the higher end because many Japanese spend more than foreigners on their hobby. Inside the sales area you can find a good size quick eating corner where hot food, sandwiches and bento boxes can be inexpensively purchased and enjoyed there. Near the entrance to the sales area a TV was playing a great video on shohin bonsai. Once inside a layout sign with the names of the 50 plus vendors are listed so you can find what you are looking for.

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AWARDS

An area was set up for short demos and even workshops. Guided tours of the exhibition will be held on Sunday. The demo area was rearranged later on Saturday for the award ceremony.

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Winter Flowering Jasmine

 

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Dwarf Star Jasmine

 

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Rough Bark Privet

 

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Serissa!!

 

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White Spindle Tree

 

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Common Privet

 

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Crepe Myrtle

 

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During the set-up three photographers from Kinbon magazine were shooting all the bonsai for the commemorative photo album which will be published in spring. Each composition was carefully placed on the photo stage and checked with snapshots for exact placement. The commemorative album will be published in a few months.

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Even show chairman, Koji Hiramatsu, helped watering

Like all Japanese bonsai exhibitions, the Gafu Ten Shohin Bonsai Exhibition did not disappointed and I was very impressed with the organization, layout and how the professionals staffed the event. Plus, and more importantly, the small size jewels of this Japanese bonsai art were exquisite and beautifully displayed for visitors to appreciate and study. Tomorrow morning we will be rushing to Nagoya for another large bonsai exhibition.

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2020 45th Gafu Ten Shohin Bonsai Exhibition– Part 2

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Special Displays

There are several special display in this year’s Gafu Ten Shohin Bonsai Exhibition. It was interesting to view the special display of Registered Important Masterpiece containers, all in clear plexi glass boxes. Matt Ouwinga from Maryland had four of his rare and antique pots displayed.

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The 15th bonsai container completion was also held. The beautiful containers, most of these containers are too fancy to use in my opinion because they draw the viewer’s eye before the bonsai and are distracting. However, like most people who grow bonsai, I too, collect containers for their beauty and unique qualities. I even have a pink container with feet looking like a duck. Yes, it came from Tokoname. And today I even saw two shohin bonsai containers bright gold, looking like the precious metal. They were under two inches in size and over $300 each. By the way, $300 for a small shohin container is not unusual here. Three tall hand carved root stands were also displayed here too. But, like most of the containers, looked too ornate for displaying bonsai. Some even had monkeys carved into the “roots.”

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POTS

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The 6th World Shohin Bonsai Photo Award contest displayed 11 photos of bonsai submitted by foreigners.

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A developmental displayed featured ten small bonsai in training with multiple old photos showing how they were trained. It was quite interesting to see how the artists used their techniques to create great bonsai. Quite an educational display.

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Another special display featured a curated fine-quality small bonsai and containers for sale by the professional Shohin Bonsai Association. They were against a black background on black boxes quite dramatic.

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Sargent Juniper $12,000

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Chinese Quince $6,500

QUINCE

Chojubai Japanese Flowering Quince $3,500

 

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Shishigashira Japanese Maple $6,800

 

BLACK PINE

Japanese Black Pine $6,500

Each individual small bonsai was beautifully displayed and prepared for this, the highest level shohin bonsai exhibition.

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2020 45th Gafu Ten Shohin Bonsai Exhibition– Part 1

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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.

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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.)

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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!

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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.

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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

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

 

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

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Shunka-en Bonsai Museum & Taisho-en Bonsai Garden

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Shunka-en Bonsai Museum

The Shunka-en Bonsai Museum of Kunio Kobayashi is always a special treat for our bonsai tours. Located in central Tokyo it is easy to find and visit. Here you can see superb developed masterpiece bonsai as well as many still in training, some in wooden boxes. But, perhaps this is the pinnacle where you can see fine quality bonsai formally displayed. There are about 12 individual alcoves, in formal, semi-formal and informal styles to study as well as displays in corners and an authentic working tea house. Tea masters often teach here because of the quiet atmosphere, beauty and workmanship of the buildings.

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One of Mr. Kobayashi’s former apprentice, Osama Fukudate, who now works for him recently won an award for his Sargent juniper bonsai at the Sakufu Bonsai Exhibition, limited to professional bonsai artists.

 

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Kunio Kobayashi commonly travels the world sharing his techniques. In fact, he was teaching in China during our visit. His lovely wife and apprentices showed us around and welcomed us to their museum complex.

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Each of the three main alcoves were dramatically designed for our visit. A suiseki in the informal style, Japanese flowering apricot, ready to burst into bud in the semi-formal and a Japanese black pine in the formal alcove.

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Books, display tables, containers and suiseki were available for purchase, if you could afford them. As we strolled through the beautiful grounds it began to sprinkle, then developed into a steady rain, indicating it was time to head on to our next stop in Shizuoka.

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CHOJUBAI

 

 

 

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Taisho-en Bonsai Garden

The bullet train took our small group to Shizuoka to visit Taisho-en Bonsai Garden on our way to Kyoto. Nobuichi Urushibata, long time famous and award-winning bonsai artist and professional ballroom dancer (award winning here too- and has a room filled with trophies) is the proprietor of a well-known bonsai garden who opens his doors to foreigners who seriously want to live and study bonsai in Japan for months. He was quite prominent in the shohin bonsai community, but has cut back his activities for health reasons. He is one of the top Japanese bonsai artists. He also is producing mame bonsai in addition to shohin bonsai.

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A mame size Trident maple for sale for only $300. Size has nothing to do with the quality or pricing.

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His son Taiga Urushibata is a younger bonsai artist who speaks English and travels around the world teaching. He apprenticed with Masahiko Kimura in Omiya for many years. It is common in Japan for a bonsai artist to send his son (have not heard of any daughters) to another professional artist for training, bringing new techniques into the established bonsai garden. Nobuichi Urushibata specializes in mame, shohin and chuhin size bonsai; while his son Taiga prefers larger, more dynamic evergreen bonsai. Well, that’s what his teacher, Mr. Kimura specializes in. It is important to realize that although a bonsai artist might specialize in a specific species or style, they are well experienced, knowledgeable and skilled in all species and bonsai styles.

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This unbelievable Japanese red pine trained by Taiga Urushibata recently won the coveted Prime Minister’s Award at the Sakufu Bonsai Exhibition, the highest award for professional bonsai artists.

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PThere were a tremendous number of old collected juniper bonsai which were being grafted. Junipers with coarse foliage were being changed into cultivars with finer leaves. I found it surprising that even many Needle junipers were being grafted with Sargent juniper foliage. Every bonsai in this garden was beautiful and the love and nurturing of these two bonsai artists was shining in each specimen.

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A Visit To Saitama Prefecture

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Our first day of touring the Japanese bonsai world included Mr. Morimae, Mr. Kimura, Omiya Bonsai Art Museum and the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum.

Seiji Morimae’s S-Cube business and Uchiku-tei Garden

Located about an hour north of Tokyo in Hanyu, Mr. Morimae has the largest collection of bonsai, suiseki, art and bonsai accessories available. His family and staff are most hospitable and always welcome our group of any size, from this tour with 5 participants to our record number of 42 several years ago. We normally get the opportunity to introduce the Japanese bonsai world to about 10-12 people.

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As soon as we got off our private mini-van, Mr. Morimae ran up and said, come I want to show you how we pot large size bonsai. We immediately followed him to the back of the nursey where a new fork lift was holding a large 200 year old Miyajima Japanese five-needle pine in the air while two apprentices were working the roots. The garden tree was growing in a pot for over 20 years when he obtained the tree. Now the old field soil was being removed and they were looking for a pot. They had a deep pot, but it was too small, so they searched and found a larger Chinese pot and brought it over in the back of a small truck. That pot was too large, really. So out came the pruning shears and they made the smaller deeper pot work. Very interesting!

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Mr. Morimae proceeded to show us around and told us about a recent auction he had on January 4th where he sold over 300 bonsai. All the professional bonsai artists were there including Mr. Kimura who purchased several trees. A Tsuyama Hinoki forest on a piece of wood was the most interesting and I’m sure he will create a masterpiece with it in the future. He mentioned that he was going to deliver them to Mr. Kimura at 2pm. We were going directly to Mr. Kimura’s after this visit and offered to take the tree to him, but there were too many to fit into our private mini-van.

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A special display for the New Year season was designed by Mr. Morimae. Everyone seemed to buy suiseki, tables and containers because of their high quality and great pricing.

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Mr. Morimae then brought out the February issue of Bonsai Sekai magazine (Bonsai World) which included a two-page cartoon of my November lecture on Yuji Yoshimura at the museum. I can’t read any of it, but the drawings are cute, despite of the subject. Trying to get it translated.

CARTOON PAGE 1

CARTOON PAGE 2

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Masahiko Kimura

We then traveled to Mr. Kimura’s garden where we saw his masterpiece bonsai, all manicured.

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The February issue of Kinbon magazine featured Mr. Kimura working a Japanese yew bonsai from a two meter size tree he was training in the ground. He removed the bark and hollowed the wood so he could coil the six-foot long trunk and fit it into a small pot. End result was almost two feet tall with a huge piece of dead wood. I asked to see it and he said it’s out back where visitors are not allowed. Suddenly he said, come with me, and we walked back through a larger section of his nursery where trees in training are worked on, out of the public eye. He has a huge poly house filled with masterpiece evergreens being prepared for the upcoming Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition next month. He must have had nearly 80 trees, all large size. In the rear of his poly house he had another small poly tent set up with the new Japanese yew where it is misted several times daily for intensive care.

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Last year I saw a really large Japanese yew he was working on, and I think I showed a photo of it in my blog when it took up an entire skid. The trunk was at least 3 feet in diameter. Kinbon did an article on the tree and it was featured in his one-man show at the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum. Truly an impressive work of art. I asked to see it, but was too late, as it was already in China.

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Omiya Bonsai Art Museum

It is always a treat to see such fine quality bonsai formally displayed in special lighted boxes as well as in three different styles of alcove displays, plus in the stroll garden as well. Last November I had the honor to lecture here when the museum had a special exhibit featuring Yuji Yoshimura, who I studied with for 30 years. The exhibition album was just published a few weeks ago. The 40-page album is filled with historical photos of Mr. Yoshimura, some over 60 years old from my library. The English translation album will be published in March. It was wonderful to see the Japanese bonsai community finally realize the important life-long contribution Mr. Yoshimura made to expand bonsai around the world, now 60 years later.

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Omiya Bonsai Village

We next took a nice leisurely walk through the famous bonsai village stopping at Mansei-en, Seiko-en, Kyuka-en and finally at Fuyo-en where our private mini-van picked us up. During our stroll, it began to sprinkle and out driver found us and brought us each an umbrella, which I never opened, but used as a cane to avoid slipping on the wet rocks. My first of eight foot breaks was in Mansei-en over a decade ago.  All the trees were beautiful, especially the Japanese flowering apricot bonsai full of plump flower buds ready to burst, just in time for next month’s Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition. Our driver was especially friendly and even made an unexpected stop to buy some Beard Pappa cream puffs for the ride back to our hotel in Tokyo. I bought 15 cream puffs, but they did not all make it back to the hotel. I just finished the last three with my Japanese sweet ice tea writing and editing the photos for this blog at 1 am.

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We all had a wonderful day and look forward to another week of bonsai and garden visits plus two major exhibitions.

Kokko-En Bonsai Garden of Yasushi Yoshimura

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The 2019 7th Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expo, sponsored by Steve Zeisel, was a huge success. The bonsai, displays, demonstrations, critique and vendors were all wonderful and well attended. On Saturday afternoon a Benefit Auction was held to help pay for the event expenses. Vendors, exhibitors and friends donated bonsai related items for the Benefit Auction to support the event and in anticipation for the 8th Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expo in December 2020. One of the exhibitors, Mac McAtee donated a vintage 16-page booklet illustrated with 15 black & white photos he got from a friend. This English booklet was published and printed by Keibun Tanaka for Kokko-En Bonsai Garden. It must have been published in the late 1930-1940s.

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Keibun Tanaka had a large bonsai garden in Tokyo with 5,000 bonsai, many which are now masterpiece bonsai specimens. The Sargent juniper bonsai named “Fudo” and another unnamed bonsai illustrated here passed through his hands. He was featured in the October 7, 1946 issue of Life magazine.

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Yasushi Yoshimura (1897-1966) was a younger brother of Toshiji Yoshimura who established Kofu-En Bonsai Garden in 1924. Both Toshiji and Yasushi Yoshimura apprenticed at Taiko-en Bonsai Garden. Toshiji Yoshimura was the father of Yuji and Kanekazu Yoshimura. Yuji Yoshimura was actually born in the garden.

Yasushi Yoshimura became the last apprentice at the Taiko-En Bonsai Garden of Yonekichi Kibe (Beio), one of the most respected bonsai artists at that time. He studied with Magohachi Suzuki, first generation proprietor of Koju-En Bonsai Garden. Bonsai Magazine, published by Norio Kobayashi in 1934, stated that “without exaggeration, everyone agreed that Beio was second to none in the art of bonsai at that time.”

Yasushi Yoshiura became independent in 1921 and established Kokko-En Bonsai Garden near his brother’s garden in the Tamagawa area of Tokyo. He favored shohin bonsai and took care of the Matsudaira Shohin Bonsai Collection of Count Yorinaga and Akiko Matsudaira. He passed away in 1966 and Kokko-En Bonsai Garden was closed.

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Hideaki Hiraoka apprenticed with Toshiji Yoshimura for seven years from 1975-1982. Kanekazu Yoshimura, Toshiji Yoshimura’s son gave Mr. Hiraoka the name Kokko-En Bonsai Garden, with the approval of the Yasushi Yoshimura family. He then established his garden in Hyogo, Japan.

History lesson over.

Two of the bonsai illustrated in the Koko-en Bonsai Garden booklet looked familiar and I was able to quickly find some old photos, although not of the highest quality.

JUNIPER EARLY 1940s.JPGSargent juniper early 1940’s

 

JUNIPER  1940s.JPGSargent juniper mid 1940’s

 

JUNIPER 1970s.JPGSargent juniper 1970’s

 

 

PINE 1940s.JPGJapanese Five-needle pine early 1940’s

 

PINE 1970s.JPGJapanese Five-needle pine 1970’s

 

PINE 11-2019.JPGJapanese Five-needle pine November 2019. I’m familiar with this bonsai and have seen it for the past 40 years at Fuyo-En Bonsai Garden in Omiya Bonsai Village, Japan. Hiroshi Takeyama and his late father Fusazo have been training this beautiful bonsai for well over 50 years.

 

2019 7th Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expo

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The Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expo is being held in Kannapolis, North Carolina, near Charlotte, on Saturday and Sunday 7-8, 2109.

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This 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.

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This premier event featuring naked bonsai in all their glory is sponsored by Steve Zeisel only to promote bonsai. He is an advance hobbyist who truly wants to share the love he has for bonsai with others. The unique venue is the perfect location to showcase beautiful bonsai and to allow artists the freedom to express their bonsai and show creative bonsai displays.

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I’ve been fortunate to have been invited to participate and teach in all of these exhibitions and can state that this year each artist really came through with the finest bonsai in seven years and also showed some very creative thoughts for displaying their treasures.

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32.jpgSeveral demonstrations and a wide variety of vendors completed the exhibition as well as critique on Sunday morning for exhibitors. On Saturday afternoon, there was a benefit auction to help defray the costs to produce this fine exhibition. It’s one of my favorite shows of the year which I look forward to.

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Thanks to Steve for organizing this event featuring the winter silhouettes of bonsai!

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Using Accessory Plantings For Displaying Bonsai

 

COVER.JPGThis blog was written to answer a question for a member of the Bonsai Nut Forum who asked about my display comments. I wrote too much for the answer and thought others might find my personal thoughts interesting. Enjoy!

 

25.jpgAccessory plantings are commonly used to accompany bonsai on display for many reasons. They can complete the visual story the artist is trying to convey of displaying their bonsai, indicate the environment where the main bonsai is native to or to indicate seasonality or a celebration. Often in the west they are just put there to “look pretty” or take up space. Some do not use accessories allowing viewers to imagine a scene or season. Often art objects or suiseki are utilized.

 

6 copy.jpgTwo round glazed containers, but of different colors.

 

2.JPGUnglazed oval container displayed with a round glazed container.

 

Displaying bonsai is a personal statement of sharing the beauty of a bonsai. There are common customs used when displaying which have been established using basic design.

5.JPGOval container displayed with ?

 

But, there are no bonsai police. Although anything goes, usually exhibitors follow established traditions. There was an organized “school” of display in Japan the last few decades, but it not active since the original headmaster died in the 1980s and his successor is not active. The principles they established are still used, but there is no school of bonsai display currently in Japan that teaches.

15.jpgRectangular unglazed container displayed with a rock, irregular shaped unglazed.

My theory and design of bonsai display is based on my personal taste from intensely studying bonsai for nearly 60 years. It is highly influenced by the Japanese taste but based on design and my culture and background. I’m not Japanese, but rather a Greek-American. No, I don’t use feta cheese with olives and images of Uncle Sam in my displays. But have occasionally used Orthodox icons for special displays for religious holidays. Once I saw an Italian display using a sardine can for the companion planting. I thought it was cute and interesting, but not suitable for an important bonsai exhibition where it was displayed. Displaying a bonsai for personal enjoyment or local club show is different than showing your bonsai in a national or regional exhibition.

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Using accessory or companion plantings for bonsai is an interesting topic. And, unless one studies their use and sees many displays, difficult to understand. One thing that I have discovered is that most of the Japanese accessory plantings are full and bushy, often pot bound. I usually have mine sitting in shallow pans of water during the hot summer months. The image of a dense bushy companion is necessary to contrast with the main bonsai. When full and bushy, the containers are not usually visible as plants often hang over the container rim. I find it interesting that westerners pay big bucks for small pots for accessory plantings and they can’t even be seen when they are bushy. Perhaps that’s why western accessory plantings are usually sparse when compared to those seen in Japan.

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My personal taste for display which I try to follow is based on design, seasonality and purpose of showing a bonsai. This is a complex and the subject for my future next book on bonsai display, when I have time to complete the text.

1.JPGUnglazed rectangular container displayed with a round glazed container.

7.JPGRound glazed container displayed with an unglazed round container.

But, basically, if the main bonsai is in a symmetrical (round, hex or even sided) container the companion planting I try to select will be in an asymmetrical (rectangle or oval) pot. I try not to duplicate the container shapes, even though they are not often visible.

3.JPGRound glazed container displayed with a round glazed container.

Color and texture are also paramount and I try to avoid using two glazed containers or two unglazed containers, unless they are of a different color. I try to avoid duplication to create interest, contrast and sometimes harmony between the main bonsai and companion planting.

6.JPGSquare glazed container displayed with an unglazed rectangular container.

Most of the accompanying images were recently taken last week at the 39th Nippon Bonsai Taikan Exhibition in Kyoto, Japan. The other images were taken at the 93rd Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition taken in February 1999 in Ueno Park, Tokyo, Japan or older Nippon Bonsai Taikan Exhibitions. The comments are my personal thoughts and observations.

4.JPGUnglazed rectangular container displayed with a fern on an unglazed irregular rock.

As can be seen by the photos, there is no specific use of glazed/unglazed and symmetrical/asymmetrical containers. I suggest using your own taste and what is available. These comments on container use are my own taste to design an interesting and stimulating bonsai display.

9.JPGRound glazed container displayed with a round glazed container.

8.JPGUnglazed round container displayed with?

Like the entire art of bonsai, there is no right and wrong way to create and display bonsai and to appreciate the art. There is room for all views in the wonderful art of bonsai. However, some concepts are more accepted than others depending on culture and tradition.

10.JPGGlazed rectangular container displayed with round? container.

If you want to see high quality displays, visit the Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expo in Kannapolis this coming weekend or travel to the 2020 7th US National Bonsai Exhibition on September 12-13, 2020 in Rochester, New York.

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