2017 5th Winter Silhouette Bonsai Bonsai Expo



This year’s edition of the Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expo at the David H. Murdock North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis, North Carolina, was the best edition of this exhibition. Held on December 2-3, 2017 in an elegant marble enclosed four story atrium, the event drew many more visitors from across the east coast. Although the venue was the same as in the past, with careful planning and layout there were more vendors, demonstrations and exhibitors than in past years. More importantly, the quality of each bonsai improved. This event is sponsored by Steve Zeisel, a bonsai hobbyist from Raleigh, North Carolina, who is also the current president of the Triangle Bonsai Society. The North Carolina Research Campus supports the event to help Steve achieve his goal.









Sponsor Steve Zeisel hosts the expo, to improve the quality of bonsai in the region and attract the public to enjoy the art. He does not do this to make money, as he usually loses funds and time from his busy nutritional research position and travels. He simply does this for his love of bonsai. There is no entrance fee for the public, nor for the vendors as well. Each year the expo grows in size which is a good indication of the interest in bonsai and that Steve is doing something right.






There are no restrictions or entrance fees for exhibitors. They simply sign up for an eight or six foot display table and are responsible to present an interesting exhibit. Although this is officially a winter silhouette bonsai exhibition several evergreens and tropical bonsai are displayed, but most are deciduous specieds where the true beauty of naked bonsai can be appreciated. Creativity is always encouraged and this year many more “creative” exhibits were shown. Some actually looked like dioramas rather than proper bonsai displays, but each featured bonsai. The public seemed to enjoy all the displays which were usually crowded with visitors and shoppers. A few bonsai with colorful fruit were very popular as were a couple of bonsai still in full autumn coloring.







The Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expo lecture/demonstrations were presented by Rodney Clemons (Georgia), Sean Smith (Pennsylvania), Tyler Sherrod (North Carolina), Owen Reich (Tennessee) and William N. Valavanis (New York) who also judged the show and presented an educational constructive critique of the bonsai and displays.







Two and a half rooms were filled with vendors from across the east coast offering bonsai, pre-bonsai, containers, supplies, suiseki, display tables, hanging scrolls and more. There was something for everyone from basic pre-bonsai for beginners vend to masterpieces and antique Chinese containers for advanced hobbyists and collectors. There is no vendor fee, however each vendor donates something for the Saturday auction, which is a fun event and to help raise funds to assist with the exhibition expenses.








I’ve attended and participated in numerous bonsai events around the world, this year alone over twelve, and the North Carolina Research Campus is the most elegant beautiful venue I’ve seen, truly. I always enjoy displaying and supporting this worthwhile and important event for bonsai in the United States and look forward to next year’s Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expo during the first weakened in December in 2018. Enjoy my bonsai display photos of the event and look for the high quality professional photos by Joe Noga bin a future issue of International BONSAI magazine.



Genkokai Bonsai & Suiseki Exhibition




On November 18-19, 2017, S-Cube sponsored and produced a special exhibition for the Genkokai, a small group of bonsai collectors with high quality refined bonsai and suiseki. Held in the Hoshun-In Buddhist temple, established 401 years ago, the complex is normally not open to visitors and entrance to this exhibition was by invitation only. This temple is in the Daitoku-Ji complex of numerous smaller temples of the Rinzai School of Japanese Zen including the popular Daisen-In which is on many garden tours.



The Genkokai is headed by Seiji Morimae comprised of his clients who want to share beautiful bonsai and suiseki from their collections. He has superb taste in bonsai, suiseki and display.


Seiji Morimae designed the displays in the individual 11 rooms of the temple, each holding one to several bonsai or suiseki. Walking quietly through the temple complex small views of gardens presented a peaceful atmosphere for bonsai appreciation. Along with the help of his S-Cube staff Mr. Morimae presented an interesting selection of bonsai and suseki. They all suggest seasonality in quiet surroundings the way bonsai were originally displayed and appreciated.



Even though the lighting was dim, each tree and stone could be clearly seen, studied and appreciated. The low light, was not conducive for photographing, especially since it was necessary to sit on the floor for each display, not good for one of my knees. A single 100 watt light bulb was the only source of light for each room. But, it is important to realize the purpose of this exhibition was not to take good photos in sufficient light, but rather to move your soul while appreciating bonsai and suiseki from private collections which are never or rarely displayed.


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As his lovely daughter and wife served green tea in a small tea ceremony room, Mr. Morimae explained a particular display of a Sargent juniper with a viewing stone and long slender scroll with elegant calligraphy, which had a juniper theme. He answered numerous questions as well on duplicating the main subject on display with the scroll. This private mini-lesson was quite educational, visual and gave the opportunity to simply sit back and enjoy the quiet seasonal display Mr. Morimae created for his visitors to this private exhibition.  He spoke on the method of displaying bonsai for public exposure and appreciation, such as in the Nippon Bonsai Taikan Ten Exhibition held concurrently across town in Kyoto, and this elegant exhibition with a limited audience held in the same city presenting the opportunity to enjoy the feeling of what the tree and stones were quietly presenting.


I was truly touched with this entire exhibition and the atmosphere of the presentation. Not too many exhibitions do that for me.



In an adjoining building there were two rooms filled with bonsai, suiseki and display tables for sale by S-Cube.



The Genkokai Exhibition was a moving and learning experience personally for me which featured stellar masterpiece bonsai and suiseki. I appreciate Mr. Morimae’s hard work, taste and desire to share the beauty of his client’s trees and stones. It’s important to realize ALL these items must be packed up and trucked back to Hanyu by his friendly and hard working staff. This year only three trucks were necessary to move all the items. Even his wife and daughter were there to help and host visitors.


In one of the small tea ceremony rooms I noticed an unusual tokobashira (alcove post) and asked Mr. Morimae what kind of tree it was. It was an ancient Heavenly bamboo, Nandina domestica….. It’s hard to believe the trunk became so thick. But thinking back, I also now remember seeing a similar size Heavenly bamboo in a small tea house at the Golden Pavilion.

37th Nippon Bonsai Taikan Ten Exhibition– Part 2



There were nine special displays at the 2017 37th Nippon Bonsai Taikan Exhibition.









6P4A6268.jpgShinji Suzuki with his two sons

Bonsai Keiunan

Several of Mr. Tanaka’s bonsai are displayed this year. Seiji Morimae designed this display along with the next display featuring famous bonsai, also from Mr. Tanaka. The trees are maintained by Shinji Suzuki. This exhibit features a famous actor and calligrapher along with bonsai artist Shinji Suzuki. Mr. Mormae designed this display to feature two dynamic Sargent juniper bonsai along with an antique suiskei. The natural shape of collected Sargent juniper bonsai are influenced by wind, thunder and lightning. The calligraphy translates as the God of Wind and the God of Thunder. This contemporary style display was quite popular with the public. I’m certain if it was created in the west there would be sound effects…














6P4A6235.jpgHistoric Bonsai From The Tokugawa Era

The adjoining display on the other side of the entrance to the sales area also belongs to Mr. Tanaka and was designed by Seiji Morimae. The display features four historic pine bonsai which were originally owned by the last Shogun Yoshinabu Tokugawa. It is amazing that these four pines have been cultivated in a container for 200 to 300 years.







Baba Suiseki Collection

Mr. Baba from Kyoto has one of the largest suiseki collections in Japan. He annually displays a few of his favorite stones along with a couple of bonsai.









Daiju-en Bonsai Garden Client Bonsai

Toru Suzuki, one of the organizers of the Nippon Bonsai Taikan Exhibition, and the third generation proprietor of the Daiju-en Bonsai Garden displayed some of his client’s trees with a few contemporary paintings.



Chrysanthemum Suiseki

A lady collector of suiseki displayed a selection of her chrysanthemum stones. Some were polished, while most of the chrysanthemums were left rough and natural.








Koizumi Bonsai Collection

Mr. Kaoru Koizumi has an impressive collection of famous bonsai masterpieces. His company produces Green King bonsai fertilizer. He annually displays one or two of his bonsai, but this year displayed three of his best specimens in a special display.


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Professional Suiseki Vendors

For the first time the professional suiseki Association presented a special display of high quality stones. Each was for sale, but the prices were not listed.




Twisted Trunk Pomegranate Bonsai From The Saito Collection

For the past several years Mr. & Mrs. Saito display several bonsai from their collection featuring a single species. This year they displayed seven of the best Twisted trunk pomegranate bonsai in Japan.



Past Award Winning Bonsai

Award winning bonsai from recent bonsai exhibitions are displayed in this area. Included are some of the Kokufu Award winners along with top winners from the Sakufu Bonsai Exhibition as well as from other important exhibitions.

37th Nippon Bonsai Taikan Ten Exhibition– Part 1







_P4A6054.jpg_P4A6199.jpgThe 37th Nippon Bonsai Taikan Exhibition is on November 18-21, 2017,at the Kyoto Messe in Kyoto, Japan. The building is just down the street from the famous Heian Shrine, well known for a large vermillion tori gate. This exhibition is perhaps the second largest and most prestigious bonsai exhibition in Japan. I particularly like this show because it features displays. Both bonsai, suiseki and art objects are formally displayed, many with scrolls. This is not the common traditional bonsai exhibition. There were a few contemporary displays as well in good taste too.














Although all the bonsai are beautiful, not all are of the high Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition quality. Professional bonsai artists nominate the bonsai for entry. There are two general sizes of display and I believe the entry fee is US $500 and $1,000 per display areas.








On Friday, the day before the opening, 13 judges gathered to select the top award winning bonsai. The trees are classified by size, large, medium and small, and by type, evergreen, deciduous, satsuki, shohin bonsai, literati, forest and rock plantings. The suiseki are classified as those in water basins, daiza bases and figure stones.




















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Mr. Funayama’s display at the 2017 8th World Bonsai Convention




The top Prime Minister Award for “best of show” was presented to a large Japanese five-needle pine. This impressive pine is well known because it was “for sale” at the ASPAC Convention in Takamatsu a few years ago for US$1,000,000. It was also displayed at this spring’s 8th World Bonsai Convention. I was fortunate to see the tree in the owner’s private collection several years ago. Mr. Morimae took me to see his superb bonsai collection and this pine was featured in his garden. He had a special hand made container made for the tree in China. During lunch Mr. Funayama took out an old scrapbook with an old black and white poor quality photo of his tree, taken around 1940. It’s changed quite a bit, but the basic trunk design was established many decades ago.








On the first day there were a large number of foreigners. It is interesting to me, but not surprising, that most turned right upon entry and went directly to the large sales area, rather than going left into the exhibition.












_P4A6360.jpgThere are several large special displays as well as past award winning bonsai exhibited, and these will be featured in my next blog entry. Jet lag is over for me and it’s time to return to the exhibition for more photos and study. OK, buying too…_P4A6351.jpg

It’s Party Time, Dance Of The Feather Mantle


Akihisa Saito, a new director of the Nippon Bonsai Association and his wife Harue have one of the finest and largest private bonsai collections in Japan. They have between 300 to 400 bonsai at their home in Okayama. Award winning bonsai artist Kenji Oshima, son of Mikio Oshima, from Okayama, is the curator of their collection.



Mr. Akihisa & Mrs. Harue Saito at their special display of Twisted trunk pomegranate bonsai at the 2017 Taikan Bonsai Exhibition. This bonsai received a Kokufu Bonsai Award in 2010.



Part of the Saito Bonsai Collection at their home. Gerald Rainville photo.

Each year they have a special large special display at the Taikan Bonsai Exhibition. The theme changes yearly and features masterpiece bonsai from their collection. It also has beautiful and colorful framed contemporary Japanese paper cuts figures between the bonsai. In the past their special display featured several masterpiece Hinoki cypress, Korean hornbeam, Japanese maple and Trident maples.





2012 display featuring Chinese quince bonsai




2013 display featuring Trident maple bonsai


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Kenji Oshima with the 2013 display of Trident maple bonsai




2014 display featuring Hinoki cypress bonsai



Korean hornbeam from the 2015 display




2016 display featuring Japanese maple bonsai




2017 display featuring Twisted trunk pomegranate bonsai

During my trip to Takamatsu on Shikoku Island in September I had the opportunity to visit and demonstrate at the Kokubunji Bonsai Festival where I saw the Saito’s display of seven masterpiece bonsai. There I had the opportunity to meet Mr. & Mrs. Saito and asked what they were going to display at this year’s Taikan Bonsai Exhibition in Kyoto. He said Twisted trunk pomegranates and came through displaying seven large size bonsai.



September 2017 Saito Bonsai Collection display at Kokubunji Bonsai Festival


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2010 Kokufu Bonsai Award Twisted pomegranate



September 2017 Twisted Pomegranate




November 2017 Twisted pomegranate

This year Mr. & Mrs. Saito won two Kokufu Bonsai Awards in the 2017 91st Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition in the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum in Ueno Park, Tokyo. In total, they have seven Kokufu Bonsai Awards. In order to celebrate their two highest bonsai awards in Japan, Mr. & Mrs. Saito hosted a private party on Friday, after the judging of the Taikan Bonsai Exhibition in Kyoto. There were 36 invited guests to the party held in a beautiful large party house. A private car came to pick us up at the Taikan Ten Bonsai Exhibition and also returned us to our hotel after the event later in the evening.



2017 Kokufu Bosnai Award Japanese black pine

Their first Kokufu Bonsai Award this year was presented for a beautiful Japanese old and massive Japanese black pine. Kenji Oshima won the coveted Prime Minister Award for this bonsai in last year’s Sakufu Bonsai Exhibition which is limited to professional bonsai artists. Traditionally the top award winning bonsai from the Kokufu and Sakufu Bonsai Exhibitions are displayed in the Taikan Bonsai Exhibition as special display.


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2010 Chinese quince bonsai



2017 Kokufu Bosnai Award Chinese quince, February




September 2017 Chinese quince bonsai



November 2017 Chinese quince bonsai


The award winning Chinese quince bonsai originally came from Korea many decades ago and ended up in Kyushu. He saw a photo of it in Kinbon magazine and wanted to add it to his bonsai collection. Unfortunately, the dealer who handled this bonsai did not want to work with him and the price was too high. Mr. Saito kept trying to buy the bonsai and finally was able to purchase the superb bonsai. The container is also quite special and rare. It’s an antique Chinese container approximately 200 years old. I have seen and enjoyed this container for years as it often appears in exhibitions. I thought the owner simply repotted the bonsai into the same container, but was incorrect. Mr. & Mrs. Saito own four identical containers and there are only six in the entire country of Japan. They have excellent taste in containers as well as bonsai.

I have never had the opportunity to attend such a party and felt honored to having been invited. A huge alcove displayed Mrs. Saito’s favorite Chinese quince bonsai along with a suiseki in the side alcove. After Mr. Saito welcomed his guests he made comments and spoke about the famous Chinese quince.

This year the Saitos displayed their Chinese quince in the special display of award winning bonsai.  It was taken to the party house for display and returned in time for the exhibition opening. They also displayed their Kokufu Bonsai Award winning Twisted trunk bonsai in their special display. The Japanese black pine was not displayed this year because it was displayed last year in the Taikan Bonsai Exhibition of recent award winning bonsai.





In Mr. Saito’s opening and welcoming remarks, he introduced us to the Chinese quince’s poetic name “Hagoromo No Mai,” which means “Dance Of The Feather Mantle.” The celestial dance is one of the most famous Noh Plays about the legend of an angel who came to earth.





After Mr. Saito’s remarks a floor to ceiling curtain suddenly rose revealing three maiko and one geko entertainers and two musicians. I thought these four lovely ladies were geisha. We spoke with them and learned that the term geisha is used in the Tokyo area, while in Kyoto they are referred to as geiko. Maiko are young apprentices training to be geiko. They must be under 20 years old and use their own hair, use while geikos wear wigs. They performed twice and the geko had her beautiful robes changed on stage twice, from purple to white and finally orange. It was quite a sight to behold. Each time the robes had to be torn apart and are later resewn. It was quite a beautiful and rare experience for me.



Geiko with the Royal Family, Glenis Bebb (BCI President) and Lindsay Bebb (Chairman World Bonsai Friendship Federation)





Turnip with shell ladel

The multiple courses of beautiful began and as we enjoyed the delicious delicacies there were a few more short speeches. The three maiko and geiko circulated around the room chatting with all the guests serving liquid refreshments, anything one could wish for, except for McDonalds sweet tea. I had a beer, yes, me, then switched to orange juice.

Towards the end of the three hour meal and entertainment came a huge turnip for each guest, which was split and the center was consumed. Finally, a delicious ripe melon was served.

Mr. & Mrs. Saito love and enjoy Japanese culture and like to share and introduce it to others. Their celebration party was a wonderful evening which I will never forget and appreciate the generous hospitality of the Saitos who share their love and passion of bonsai.


My Surprise Visit To Omiya Bonsai Village!


On my way home on Tuesday from Taiwan to Rochester, a connection was scheduled in Tokyo. I always try to make a connection in Tokyo when traveling in Asia. Upon arrival in Tokyo I was surprised to learn my connection flight to Chicago was cancelled. This also happened last week on my way home from Shanghai, but there was sufficient time to reroute me on the same day. On Tuesday United Airlines rescheduled my flight from Chicago to Newark. Of course, that flight was “full” because of the cancellation so I asked to take the flight the next day because I know it was not full and there was an excellent chance to get three seats, an entire row, so I could stretch out and sleep and also work on my blogs. United put me up in a nearby hotel for the evening, with meal coupons of course, and no luggage. I did end up getting an entire row to myself and slept for five hours and worked on my last blog for five hours during the flight.

Now, what was I going to do with an entire free day in Tokyo since my flight did not depart until 6:45 pm? I had two options, visit Kunio Kobayashi’s Shunka-en Bonsai Museum or go to the Omiya Bonsai Village. Since I was with Mr. Kobayashi for three out of the last four weekends (China, California and Taiwan) I decided to visit Omiya Bonsai Village. I’ll see Mr. Kobayashi next weekend at the Taikan Ten Bonsai Exhibition in Kyoto.

Although I was tired from the successful Taiwan BCI Bonsai Convention, I found enough energy to take a “day trip.” I left my hotel at 7:45am and took two buses, five trains and two taxis and returned back to the airport in time to have “a bit” of sushi before boarding my plane home,

While in Omiya Bonsai Village I remembered that there is a bonsai auction at the Ueno Green Club for professional bonsai artists on Wednesdays, so I quicken my pace to stop by at the auction. By the time I got to the Ueno Green Club the auction was ending and people were loading up their newly purchased trees, or those which did not get their desired prices and were purchased back.

I only took a few photos which interested me and which will be used for future magazine articles and my PowerPoint educational programs. Oh, and please remember all of these photos were taken with my iPhone 6S Plus, since my proper camera was still at the airport in my suitcase. I think the images came out great and can’t wait to see the quality of the photos from my new iPhone X, with two cameras, when it arrives next week, while I’m in Japan again for the fifth time this year. Please enjoy the photos of my surprise Omiya Bonsai Village visit which I’d like to share with you.


Fuyo-en Bonsai Garden

Hiroshi Takeyama




Kyuka-en Bonsai Garden

Isamu & Yukio Murata




Seiko-en Bonsai Garden

Tomio & Kaori Yamada




Mansei-en Bonsai Garden

Hatsuji & Takahiro Kato


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Omiya Bonsai Art Museum



Ueno Green Club

Headquarters for the Japan Bonsai Growers Cooperative

Wednesday Bonsai Auction



Taiwan 2017 BCI Convention & 14th Asia-Pacific Bonsai & Viewing Stone Convention & Exhibition– Part 5





22ND Hwa-Fong National Bonsai Exhibition

The 22nd Hwa-Fong National Bonsai Exhibition was held on November 4-26, 2017 in Xizhou Park, in Changhua County, Taiwan. This is a huge agricultural expo park featuring five exhibition halls, parks and rural handicraft displays along with food courts. Trees, plants and flowers from around the world are planted around a large pond in European style landscapes. The exhibition is held in a large hall with excellent natural lighting and air conditioning which was needed with the high outdoor temperatures and humidity. It was quite pleasant in the exhibition and a three piece band played tunes as thousands of visitors came to see the finest bonsai for 2017.

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The Hwa-Fong National Bonsai Exhibition took place during a large fair which I was told attracted 140,000 people on the opening day alone. It displays the highest level bonsai from throughout Taiwan and is identical to the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition in Japan and the US National Bonsai Exhibition in America. It is sponsored by the National Bonsai Association of Taiwan which is composed of 26 branches in the country. Each branch selects their ten best bonsai which are brought to the exhibition. There the judges select only the finest to display. Over 135 bonsai were displayed, but it looked like more. There is only one winning bonsai and eleven bonsai which received gold awards.





Top award winning Fig bonsai

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Like many bonsai common to Taiwan and China most were quite large in size, although there were a few shohin bonsai compositions and some smaller trees as well. Special exhibits featured scenic painting backgrounds which added interest and impact to the displays, especially for the public.


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The opening day was quite crowded and it was difficult to photograph the bonsai. The crowds thinned out during the next few days. People were polite and friendly during the exhibition and in fact, all through Taiwan. Enjoy my photos and please check out my upcoming article in International BONSAI, www.internationalbonsai.com, which will feature better quality photos.

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