Refining A Japanese Maple Bonsai By Transplanting

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September 2018

Joe Noga has been growing and training his Shishigashira Japanese maple, Acer palmatum ‘Shishigashira,’ for over 35 years. This dwarf cultivar of Japanese maple has been selected and appreciated in Japan for over 300 years. It is commonly trained for bonsai in Japan and is generally easy to air layer to produce a bonsai. The lovely dark green leaves are interesting and curled, which is not a good characteristic for bonsai because when reduce in size they become deformed and do not look like maple leaves. They are however, slow and compact growing and quite popular for bonsai training.

Joe grew his Shishigashira Japanese maple bonsai in Rochester, New York for decades before moving his large and excellent bonsai collection to Winterville, of Carolina, nine years ago. In Rochester, his maple bonsai thrived in a full sun exposure all day long, while in North Carolina shade must be provided to avoid leaf burn by early summer.

He wanted to display his bonsai in the 2018 6thUS National Bonsai Exhibition which was held in September 2018. Usually by September most of the dark green lustrous foliage would be burned and unsuitable for display. I suggested Joe bring it to Rochester in May to display in the Upstate New York Bonsai Exhibition & Sale then leave it with me where I would care for it and keep it in the full sun for the summer and prepare it for the US National Bonsai Exhibition.


During the five months under my care I had the opportunity carefully study the design of the Shishigashira Japanese maple bonsai. Although the root display was impressive a slight rotation would improve the total aesthetic impact of the bonsai, showing a wider surface root display. Like many fine bonsai masterpieces this bonsai can be displayed from two sides. The surface roots, trunk design and branching can be appreciated from both the front and back views. This comes in handy for display, and a bonsai with left to right, or right to left eye movement is necessary for the designated show area.

Joe and I discussed rotating the front to refine the design and decided to transplant the bonsai the next time I visited to help him with his bonsai collection. Today, February 27, 2019 we had the opportunity and made time to transplant his Shishigashira Japanese maple.


After removing the bonsai from the container, the pot was cleaned, wired and prepared for receiving the tree after root pruning. A nifty inexpensive hose nozzle (under $5) from Lowes, which produces a powerful strong spray, was used to remove old soil after trimming back the long fibrous root system. Joe washed the roots, picked away soil, trimmed fine roots and repeated the process several times until the root mass was ready for potting.




Considerable time was taken to carefully reposition the bonsai in the container making certain that the trunk, branches and surface root display looked good from both sides. The two side views were important to provide an upward trunk with slight lean towards the front.


Two side views

Finally, the tree was set into the container and then bottom, main and top soil was added. The tree was securely tied into the container with sissy wire and the entire root mass was carefully firmed with bamboo chopsticks which are flexible and safe, unlike metal chopsticks.







IMG_2975.jpgFinally, small pieces of chopped long-fibered sphagnum moss was carefully applied to the entire soil surface. The moss should be fine and pressed flat on top of the soil surface. Often people use the long-fibered sphagnum moss like “mulch” and loosely apply it making it easy to be dislodged, quick to dry out and more importantly look messy. The compact moss layer helps to retain some moisture, avoid soil erosion and keeps soil from splashing on the trunk making it dirty. Like everything worthwhile, applying a compact and neat proper layer of long-fibered sphagnum moss takes time and practice.

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December 2015



February 27, 2019– one view



February 27, 2019– another view

The Shishigashira Japanese maple was then thoroughly watered, until clear water ran from the drainage holes and the bonsai was protected from wind and frost. The refinement change is quite subtle, unnoticeable by most people, but Joe and I can see the improvement. We celebrated with a sushi dinner.



2019 93rd Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition Part II– Part 2

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This is my last day at the exhibition and this will be last blog entry. Officials estimate that approximately 1,200 people have visited the exhibition daily. The crowds vary during the day, and sometimes its impossible to photograph, so repeat trips are necessary. I’ve walked over 24 miles looking at bonsai this week, just ask my sore feet. I have gone through the exhibitions five times, carefully studying the trees and how they created, refined, repaired and tried to cover things tried to trick the viewer’s eyes.


Dwarf Stewart


Chojubai Flowering Quince, largest I’ve seen, but certainly not the best.


Sargent Juniper, which way do I look?



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Japanese Five-needle Pine


Japanese Red Pine

I’ve been watching the large cascade dark purple Magnolia to see the progression of flowers. Now there are small leaves emerging which means that extra protection must be provided until the end of frost has finished. In Rochester, New York, that would be the END of May. I saw Mr.  Kimura and asked him how many bonsai has he worked on. In 2011 he was represented by 70 to 80 trees. This year he had 20 in Part I and 26 in Part 2.













I hope you all enjoyed my photos, comments and personal thoughts during my bonsai study this week. Remember, the most important aspect of bonsai is the beauty the tree presents to you and how you enjoy and appreciate the artIMG_2517.jpg



A Walk, & Stumble, Through Kunio Kobayashi’s Shunka-en Bonsai Museum


It’s always a treat to wander through the Shunka-en Bonsai Museum in Tokyo. There are more and more and larger and larger bonsai to appreciate and learn from. Today’s wander, and stumble down the stairs did not disappoint.






Clearly, Japanese black pines are the king in the museum. They are everywhere, mostly in large sizes, for the Chinese market. Mr. Kobayashi has one said that if you want to make money, grow Japanese black pine bonsai.







On display was his famous white Japanese flowering apricot bonsai which is a past Kokufu Award winner and was on the cover of a Chinese penjing magazine as well. It was truly stunning and is a superb example of what a bonsai is. Beauty, refinement, well trained and the evidence of loving care, which has aged in a container. You really cannot fake this appearance. Although many attempt to with evergreen bonsai.


In the reception room a Winter flowering cherry was beginning to open, just the way I like to see blossoms. In fact, there are two large old Japanese flowering apricot trained garden trees which were also beginning to flower. One is at the entrance to the garden and the other near a waiting area near the traditional tea house. At this stage of floral development, one can appreciate the fine branching as well as delicate blossoms. In a few days both garden trees will be in full flower, and although beautiful, and fragrant, all one can see is a mass of flowers. It might be longer than next week for the trees to peak flowering because it’s been cold here. In fact, it began snowing while I was strolling through the garden and falling down the stairway…. I WAS holding to the railing on the right side of the steps.







IMG_2667.jpgEnjoy the seasonal beauty of bonsai. It is always changing at Shunka-en Bonsai Museum.

2019 6th Japan Suiseki Exhibition


The 6thJapan Suiseki Exhibition is being held at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum in Ueno Park, Tokyo, on February 14-17, 2019. This is the same venue as the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition, but in a different gallery on the 2ndfloor. Seiji Morimae was able to get a five year contract to hold this prestigious exhibition of stones, and it looks like it will likely continue with his and Kunio Kobayashi’s leadership of the Nippon Suiseki Association.


It was Norio Kobayashi’s (no relation to Kunio Kobayashi,) dream to elevate the art of bonsai by having an exhibition in an art museum. He succeeded, and in 1934, with the assistance of Count Matsudaira, a now annual exhibition of miniature trees can be enjoyed. Norio Kobayashi was a pioneer in bonsai promotion and published the monthly Bonsai magazine for 518 issues. This year marks the 93rd edition of the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition. For a couple of decades, the exhibition was held twice a year, but changed to an annual event in 1960.


I found it interesting that in 1934 museum officials did not originally want to display bonsai because they were “dirty” with soil and “smelly” from organic fertilizers. That was the main reason soil needed to be 100% covered in green moss. The bonsai exhibition is now held on the bottom levels of the current art museum with ceramic floor tiles. The suiseki exhibition is held in a 2ndfloor gallery which is carpet covered. No water is allowed in this exhibition which is the reason why water is not included in the water basin displays of suiseki, the traditional and formal way of appreciating suiseki. Also, that’s why there are no accessory plantings displayed with the stones.



Eel River suiseki displayed by Larry & Nina Ragle






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Suiseki displayed by Ron Maggio


2019 6th Japan Suiseki Exhibition Statistics

7 Featured Entries

32 Alcove Displays

1 Guest Entries

82 General Exhibits

18 International General Exhibits

14 Suiseki Accessories


IMG_2743.jpgIMG_2490.jpgThe crown jewel of the exhibition was a rare appearance of the famous bonseki (original term for suiseki) “Sue no Matsuyama” a temple treasure of the Nishi Hoganji in Kyoto. The stone has an approximate 500 year history of being appreciated in China and Japan. The stone, of course is millions of years old, however age is determined in the suiseki world by the number of years the stone has been appreciated and valued as a suiseki. This stone has a long and most interesting history and is considered among the two most famous and valuable suiseki in Japan. It has not been often displayed and at one time visitor were waiting in line to see this national treasure.

Wil, an American working in a Tokyo art gallery, who is also the youngest and only foreign Director of the Nippon Suiseki Association was one of the translators for the exhibition album, in full color and English. Contact me as I have a few extra copies for sale. He told me that in order to display this treasured bonseki a museum curator needed to travel to pick up and travel with the stone to Tokyo. First the stone was photographed to show any damage before transporting. Then it was wrapped with a couple of layers of special paper before placing in its silk bag. The stone is kept in a lacquered storage box, also photographed to indicate any scratches or damage before moving. It was then double boxed and transported to Tokyo with a bonded carrier, accompanied with Wil. By the way, the same procedure was used for the round bronze plate the bonseki is displayed on. The same procedure will be necessary next week to return the national treasure to its temple home in Kyoto. That’s a huge amount of work to move a rock the size of a hot pocket which is displayed on a dinner size plate. But the art of suiseki, and bonsai are a treasured and valued art forms. Usually, visitors do not realize the work necessary to display special suiseki and bonsai in exhibition. A lot of work and negotiaions are behind the scene.




Special bonseki exhibit by the Hosokawa Bonseki School


IMG_2496.jpgThe Nippon Suiseki Association is fortunate to have both Kunio Kobayshi and Seiji Morimae who both have fine taste and the drive to promote and elevate both the arts of suiseki and bonsai. They have dedicated their lives to these arts and endlessly work year around and all day long for their passion.


2019 93rd Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition Part 2– Part 1


The second half of this year’s 93rdKokufu Bonsai Exhibition is being held on February 14-17, 2019. This half is quite beautiful, one of the best ever! Many people often mention that this year, or that year are the best editions. However, most have a limited exposure or visits to this exhibition. I’ve been attending for more than 45 years, and, in my personal opinion, this second half is one of the finest I’ve ever been fortunate to study.


This is a famous Japanese maple bonsai and I was surprised to see how small it was. Probably only about 20″ tall.



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Rhododendron species




Japanese Red Pine


2019 Part 2 Statistics

151 Individual Bonsai Displays

Over 225 Individual Bonsai Specimens

108 Large Bonsai

36 Medium Bonsai

7 Shohin Bonsai Compositions

5 Kokufu Bonsai Prizes

4 Bonsai Displayed with Suiseki

I found that fact that 4 bonsai were displayed with suiseki quite interesting. Three of the four displayed bonsai with stones were in the same location in the exhibition. Usually the professional bonsai artists which handle and display the trees for the owners have designated locations in the exhibition. So, probably, the same person who displayed the three displays in Part 1, also displayed the three bonsai in Part 2. This shows the taste of the exhibitor, not the owner.


Japanese beech, look at the size of the leaf buds. It must have tiny leaves. I asked, it it not a special variety, only the location were it was grown and training techniques developed the small foliage and buds.



Dwarf Japanese five-needle Pine. Looks like a spruce with the short needles.

It is important to recognize that an owner of a bonsai cannot handle the trees for exhibitions in Japan. A professional bonsai artist must be paid to enter the tree for the selection process. If accepted it is his responsibility to display the tree. That means a display table, accessory and table for that too, must be provided. Usually these are rented from the professional bonsai artist which can be expensive. One exhibitor this year spent over $3,000 just to display one bonsai, they had to rent the small Japanese five-needle pine accessory. Often collectors have several masterpiece bonsai individually costing tens of thousands of dollars. If they can afford the trees, they can easily afford the exhibition costs. Quite often small accessory bonsai are rented for display too. This is one way the professional bonsai artists in Japan make a living. So, this means that often the display aesthetics shown are of the professional bonsai artist, not the owner. Quite often, the owners “sometimes” see their own trees because they are cared for in the gardens of the professional bonsai artists, not the owner’s home. Or, they are maintained at the owner’s residence by the professional bonsai artists who periodically visit. They are rare even watered by the owners. Of course, there are exceptions where the owners truly love and enjoy their bonsai and keep them at their gardens, of course with the assistance of the professional bonsai artists. Then, there are collectors who visit their trees in the professional bonsai artists gardens traveling by a helicopter because his time is so valuable. So far, none of my clients travel to my garden by helicopter, but, you never know what the future may hold.


Dwarf Euonymus


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Trident Maple. Under the care of Shinji Suzuki. One of his client’s bonsai also won a Kokufu Award in Part 1. Congratulations to Shinji! Two out of two awards.


Magnolia liliflora ‘Nigra’

I’ll photographic this Magnolia tomorrow with open flowers, but, I personally prefer the tree in opening buds rather than full blown blossoms.


Japanese five-needle Pine



Shohin Bonsai Composition

I think this type of display is THE most difficult to arrange. Note every container is of a different color and shape. 2 suiting   There are 2 evergreens, 2 deciduous and 2 fruiting species. All the bonsai have the identical visual weight and their direction all point to the center of the display. Excellent display, and, of course, the shohin bonsai are masterpieces too.



Japanese five-needle Pine



There are usually two special exhibits in each Kokufu Bonsai Exhibitions. One of this years was very special. For about 50 years there has been tree from the Imperial Bonsai Collection, belonging to the Japanese Emperor, on display at the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibitions. These are old bonsai and the collection consists of famous and historical trees, not necessarily well formed beautiful bonsai. The Imperial Bonsai Collection is not open to the public, ever. It is indeed a privilege to see these trees and sometimes there may be one on display, often from a relative of the Emperor.


One of my teachers, Kyuzo Murata from Kyuka-en Bonsai Garden in Omiya Bonsai Village was charged to care for the Imperial Bonsai Collection for many decades. When I was studying with him he invited me to go see the trees in June 1970. I believe there was an international bonsai tour that also included a viewing of the Imperial Bonsai Collection a few decades later.

This year the Emperor also displayed one of his bonsai, but, this time an excellent and beautiful pine bonsai was selected because this year marks the last Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition for his Heisei Era (1989-2019.)  He will be stepping down in April and his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, will ascend to the Chrysanthemum Throne. This will begin a new, unannounced yet named era for the nation of Japan.


Note the small nail holes where the thin flakey bark is attached to the tree. I use superglue, and in fact I saw a Japanese flowering apricot bonsai in Part 1 with a piece of dead wood superglued on. It also had thin copper wire too. I look very closely…..

The displayed bonsai in this year’s Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition is a rough bark cultivar of Japanese black pine, Pinus thunbergii‘Ganseki Sho.’ The Ganseki Sho cultivar is distinctive because of the thick linear plated bark which means “irregular bark.” There are many, many individual layers of bark, each representing a year’s growth of the tree. This bonsai has a history of 180 years. Often there is a very thin piece of copper wire or fishing line thread wrapped around the bark to hold it in place. If the climate is dry the layers of bark tend to flake off. Often small nails are used to secure the fragile bark to the tree. This pine bonsai is not a cork bark or ‘Nishiki’ cultivar, but one of several different rough bark varieties. There are several different rough bark cultivars of Japanese black, red and five-needle pines such as ‘Bekko Sho’ (Turtle Back Bark), ‘Nishiki’ (Cork Bark), ‘Ibo Kan’ (Wart Bark) and ‘Arakawa’ (Rough Bark) among others.


This Ganseki Sho Japanese black pine is from the Iwasaki Bonsai Collection

Thus, it is indeed a rare viewing of a historical, unusual, beautiful and antique bonsai masterpiece selected for the last Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition for the Heisei Era.


Sargent Juniper


Japanese five-needle Pine


This is one of Mr. Takeyama’s signature bonsai, a Zelkova.


Maidenhair Tree


Please remember this exhibition has been set up to display the bonsai to the public, not for photographing. It is quite difficult to get good quality photos with the varied light sources, different backgrounds and a mass of visitors, but I try my best. And, with the instructions from Joe Noga, I try to adjust the images in Photoshop for your appreciation and study.


A Private Visit to Omiya Bonsai Village


Yesterday the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition was closed to switch out all the bonsai masterpiece. and replace them with a couple hundred new masterpieces. It will open in a few hours for Part 2. Also opening is the 6thJapan Suiseki Exhibition, where I’m an exhibitor and member too.


Fuyo-en Bonsai Garden

I met some long time friends, Boon, from California, John Kirby from Connecticut and Data K.H. Chua, President of the Malaysian Bonsai Society at the exhibition and invited them to join me for my private visit to Omiya Bonsai Village.


My traveling buddies

When I was living and studying in Omiya Bonsai Village and needed to go to Tokyo for saikei, ikebana and chrysanthemum bonsai lessons it took a one hour train ride from Ueno Station to Omiya. Well, things have changed during the past 45 years and I’m always learning and discovering new things. We took a rapid train which only took 26 minutes, not the bullet train.


Camellia species with small, white fragrant flowers. Mine are also blossoming at home too, in a cool greenhouse.

We visited all the bonsai gardens in Omiya Bonsai Village and began with Mr. Takeyama’s garden Fuyo-en Bonsai Garden. Always a favorite stop for me. Saw some interesting trees and new techniques. His large Zelkova bonsai, considered to be the best in Japan has been recently cut back to maintain and refine the shape. I look forward to seeing its completion, should I live that long.




Mr. Takeyama specializes in deciduous, unusual varieties and forest style bonsai. This second generation gifted bonsai artist has hundreds of refined deciduous bonsai. Their twigs are extremely fine and can be easily damaged by cold weather, so he, or rather his apprentices, erected a temporary poly house over two of his growing tables for winter protection.


He also frequently travels to tropical Okinawa, an island prefecture in Japan, to teach bonsai where they grow non-winter hardy bonsai. You can often find great Bougainvillea, Ficus and other species not commonly found on the mainland Japan in his garden. At this time of the year they need winter protection and can be found in wooden boxes covered with blue tarps.


Mr. Takeyama also simply protects the roots of Japanese flowering quince bonsai in shallow containers by wrapping the pots with blankets for insulation. Other gardens in Japan do not do this, but they do not have the quality of bonsai which is found in Fuyo-en Bonsai Garden. It is important to remember that horticultural research has shown that the roots of many species are not as winter hardy as the upper sections of the tree.



I also saw many beautiful “root-over-rock” style Trident maple bonsai. But, for the first time I discovered a “trunk-over-rock” style Korean hornbeam. I have visited this garden hundreds of times during the past 49 years, in fact I lived across the street from there when I was apprenticing at Shoto-en Bonsai Garden. Although I now normally visit Fuyo-en Bonsai garden at least twice year I’m leading tours and occupied answering questions for visitors. Today’s solo visit was a treat and great learning experience for me which I can share with others during my teaching.


Root-over-rock Trident maple



Trunk-over-rock Korean hornbeam

Next stop was Kyuka-en Bonsai Garden where I studied in 1970. Mr. Murata, second generation, likes to grow more naturalistic styed bonsai and has lots of unusual and rare species, including cactus bonsai. His son, Yukio, is quite fluent in English and was busy selling Masakuni tools at the Ueno Green Club which remained open during the closed day of the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition. He always answers my difficult questions, often with the help of his father Isamu Murata, who was an apprentice here when Lynn Perry Alstadt studied at Kyuka-en Bonsai Garden. I remember the day Yukio was born while I was studying at nearby Shoto-en Bonsai Garden.




Seiko-en Bonsai Garden owned by 4thgeneration Tomio Yamada always has refined masterpiece bonsai. Yesterday he was displaying a stunning and colorful cascade Winter flowering cherry bonsai in his unusual reception room. This was a real treat to appreciate a simple formal display indoors while hundreds of masterpiece bonsai were outside only a few away. Although one can see the trees outdoor in their necessary environment, true beauty is released and can be appreciated when displayed alone without distractions. That’s one reason I so enjoy visiting the Shunka-en Bonsai Garden of Kunio Kobayashi where he has designed and built a museum with over 12 display alcoves.


Sargent juniper


Pourthiaea villosa

Takahiro Kato’s Mansei-en Bonsai Garden was just around the corner at the end of the street. He is the 5thgeneration proprietor of the garden and his great grandfather was one of the founders of Omiya Bonsai Village in 1925. Adam Jones, from Pennsylvania, studied here for years and married his Japanese sweetheart. They now live about an hour from Omiya and purchased over 3 acres developing Tree House Bonsai. He still comes to help his teacher’s son, Takahiro during busy times. He told me they returned home on Tuesday evening at 10 pm bringing back bonsai from the Part 1 of the exhibition and promptly left at 6 am to deliver another load of bonsai for Part 2. In the small protected work room were three large bonsai from Part 1 of the exhibition. The Kokufu Award winning Japanese maple in a large shallow antique Chinese container, the Trident maple I featured in the last blog, which was also a past Kokufu Award winning bonsai (once a tree wins this coveted award, it can’t win again,) and a Trident maple in the blue container I also posted in the last blog.


Adam told me he was going to transplant this Japanese maple from the shallow container back into its growing pot, which is three times the size. He took the tree out of the large pot last week and potted it into the shallow show container for the week. Now back to the growing pot.

The Trident maple in the blue container interested me. I saw it in the exhibition and liked its design. Where it was positioned against a solid wall it was impossible to see the tree from the side. The side view, as well as the rear view are quite interesting and educational for me personally, because I can get a feeling of how the tree was created. At Mr. Kato’s work room it was on a shelf sideways and I was amazed at the trunk movement from this side, which was not apparent from the formal front side displayed in the exhibition.

We looked around for containers for three of my trees and found two. So, Adam used his phone, took photos and sent them to Mr. Kato setting up Part 2 of the Tokyo exhibition. A while later, during lunch Adam text messaged me the prices. Mr. Kato will take the container to his sales area at the Ueno Green Club where I can pick them up. Now all I have to do is figure out how to get them home, unbroken… and how to pay for them.


A truck load of Kimura bonsai masterpieces destined for the Tokyo Dome Exhibition. This is Japan’s largest orchid show with over 200,000 visitors. Note the display tables on the top tuck shelf.


Yoshi Nakamizu, proprietor of Japan Bonsai Network owns the Omiya Bonsai Restaurant across the street from the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum, our next stop. As we were dining at his restaurant he came in with a client he was going to take to visit Masahiko Kimura. He offered to take us with him for a visit. Quite an unexpected surprise because it’s a bit difficult to get there on your own.


Mr. Kimura was home and allowed us to visit his bonsai and take a few photos. It looks like he is mass producing his artificial stone plantings with Sargent junipers. They are destined for the Chinese market. I still need one container for my special twin trunk RAF Dwarf scots pine. Well, I thought I found the perfect pot in Mr. Kimura’s workroom. He gave me a very good price for this valuable container. But he took it out for measurement and it and it was about two inches too large. I should have purchased it, perhaps for another tree, but it would be difficult to get it home, in one piece. Besides I still must pay for the two containers from Mr. Kato and am still on the quest for the pine pot which I’m preparing for future displays. Mr. Nakamizu returned us to the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum for a visit where we met up with Bjorn’s bonsai tour of 30 people.




Boon with one of Mr. Kimura’s latest creations. Note the new container behind the Japanese yew.

On the way to the train station we briefly stopped at Toju-en Bonsai Garden of Mr. Hamano. That’ where Mr. Kimura, Mr. Suzuki and my teacher, Mr. Komuro studied.

By the way, the reason this blog is so long is because my friend, Alan Adair, curator of the living collection at my International Bonsai Arboretum phoned me at 1:30 am to ask me a question and I never went back to sleep. I can easily sleep on the plane home in a few days. The writing of this blog required 4 hours, not counting several hours of photo editing last evening. I enjoy sharing my discoveries with people so together we can improve and elevate the art of bonsai. Now, it almost time for another Beard Pappa cream puff, orange and a couple of bottles of ice tea for breakfast before returning to Part 2 of Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition and the 6thNippon Suiseki Exhibition openings.

By the way, I had to straighten the concave pruner in the first photo a little it was very crooked!

It never ceases to amaze me what I discover in Omiya Bonsai Village.


Xmas tree. And, I thought I was late taking our Xmas tree down on January 6th!


Mr. Takeyama selling packs of moss for $6.00


Not a typical home landscape in Omiya Bonsai Village


A traditional small corner in front of Seiko-en Bonsai Garden

2019 93rdKokufu Bonsai Exhibition Part 1– Part 2


All the bonsai were lovingly cared for all day long.


6P4A9523.jpgPart 1 of the 93rdKokufu Bonsai Exhibition ended yesterday. Today, Wednesday, all the bonsai will be replaced with new specimens for the public to enjoy and study. For me, personally, it’s kind of like a new semester in my intense bonsai study. So, that must mean that today is “winter break” between semesters. What am I going to do on my day off? Take a couple of trains to Omiya Bonsai Village where I was an apprentice over 45 years ago.


Mr. Saito displayed one of his many bonsai, a past Kokufu Prize Trident maple.




Chojubai Japanese Flowering Quince




Dwarf Kumquat



Japanese Black Pine


Sargent Juniper


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Japanese Red Pine





When the guides to the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition were handed out there was a slip of paper, or ballot for people to vote for their favorite two bonsai. This was only in the Japanese guide, not the English list of trees. We call that the People’s Choice, which I never liked or will do because I think it’s silly. People usually select a forest, or large bonsai or the tree with the most blossoms. The general public is not familiar with bonsai so their opinion is useless in the evaluation of bonsai. Yes, it shows what attracts them, however. For Part 1 of the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition the two bonsai the public selected was a Hinoki Cypress forest and a small mame bonsai composition. Mame bonsai are smaller than shohin bonsai and are slowly becoming popular in Japan. I was amazed they did not select one of the several beautiful fragrant Japanese flowering apricot bonsai. Perhaps, because they are common and now flowering in gardens.



Tsuyama Hinoki Forest people’s choice



Mame Bonsai Composition people’s choice



Trident Maple




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Japanese Black Pine




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Although Japan has had a very long history of displaying and appreciating bonsai, they just started a People’s Choice event. Many decades ago at a Washington, DC convention, before Japan hosted the first World Bonsai Convention, Mr. Takeyama came up to me and asked why people were buying small pieces of paper and tearing them in half. He had never seen raffle tickets. Yes, at the first World Bonsai Convention in Omiya they had raffle tickets!



There’s one in every exhibition, even in Japan….6P4A9618 copy.jpg

Trident Maple

I asked why there were ten fewer bonsai in the exhibition and was told they removed an entire row of trees and replaced it with a photo gallery AND the size of the display areas was increased 10 to 15cm each. That explains to me why there were not too many Satsuki azaleas displayed. They had the large poster images of the flowering Satsuki azalea bonsai on the posters displays thus adding color. I wonder if they will change the poster display for part 2? Oh, I did carefully count the number of bonsai displayed with suiseki. There were four and interestingly displayed near each other. Perhaps they were displayed by the same person, not the owner which are two different people.


Part 2 of the 93rdKokufu Bonsai Exhibition begins tomorrow. Also opening tomorrow morning will be the 6thNippon Suiseki Exhibition, also in the same building, but in the second floor Gallery.

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Japanese Five-needle Pine

I wonder what I can learn today for my trip “back to school” in Omiya Bonsai Village….