Japan is a beautiful place with a culture very different to our own. There are many reasons why I love visiting Japan, other than bonsai. Since a young age I have also been interested in Japanese garden design and quite honestly no better examples can be found in such close proximity than in Kyoto.
To add to the allure, if one visits Kyoto around November you will find the many maple trees at the peak of their autumn foliage. One cannot describe the beauty which is so fleeting but yet so incredibly intense. Most people won't believe your photos have not been altered in some way, the colours are that intense.
The Taiken-ten is also hosted at the same time in Kyoto and is supported by enthusiast and professional bonsai growers from all over Japan. It is a rather unique exhibition in that sense, as you may have a display of Master Kimura's right next to an enthusiast with only a couple years experience. Although not just anyone can enter a tree, there is a vetting process but it is nothing like the Kokufu entry process.
Enjoy the following photos of a visit Christelle, my wife, and I did a couple years back. What a wonderful opportunity it was to travel to Japan and share it with my wife, not by myself as is usually the case.
Image caption. Believe it or not, one's eyes actually do tire eventually from all the intense colours and the fact that everywhere you go or look is just an explosion of autumn colours.
Image caption. I think my camera struggles to capture the intense colours. This image was not altered in any way.
Image caption. There is a lot of natural granite in the area so the material is relatively accessible for use in gardens especially the dry gravel gardens, however it is also used in bonsai growing mediums.
Image caption. A simple stone marker with jute rope marks a path which is closed and may not be taken. No distracting signs are used in these gardens of tranquility.
Image caption. Many of the temples are illuminated at night and look completely different to what they do in the daytime. Here a carpet of Gingko leaves lays thick on the ground.
Image caption. Japanese people are encouraged to wear traditional clothing which of course adds much to the local character and charm, especially for us foreigners. In return people wearing kimono are allowed free travel on any of the many choices of public transport.
Image caption. There has always been this perhaps historical idea that Japanese people are short. Here I am standing next to a senior citizen and suddenly I do feel very tall! However the younger generation are just as tall as us in the West in my opinion.
Image caption. As you are not allowed to wear shoes in the temples you must remove yours at the door. However many of the temples allow you to wear shoes in the gardens. So you are provide with some fashionable numbers!
Image caption. A small section of my favourite garden in Kyoto. Shisendo is a place where you can spend many hours meditating over life....and all the pines at home which need needle plucking! :)
Image caption. In true Japanese style even the cycads are clothed in beautiful temporary clothing to protect them during the coming winter.
Image caption. You will have many amazing meals in Japan. Each one is not only a culinary experience but each one deserves to be photographed it's so beautifully presented.
Image caption. Even the fake food looks delicious in Japan. These are plastic replicas of what this store sells, and it would be a mistake to pick one and bite into it!
Image caption. You will never have enough money if you visit Japan's amazing bonsai exhibitions, or more specifically the sales areas adjacent to them. Here an amazing little juniper awaits a new owner, with deep pockets.
Image caption. The Japanese black pine remains an incredibly popular species in Japan and is an important tree for what it stands for in Japanese culture.
Image caption. An exquisite Chinese or Trident maple shohin sized tree.
Image caption. Here a Japanese maple at the peak of its autumn foliage leaves the viewer speechless.
Image caption. A wonderful Chinese maple root over rock. Quite a well known tree in Japan in fact, with a lot of history.
Image caption. Although Azalea are primarily grown for their flowers when they have incredible trunks and ramification such as this, then they will also be displayed at other times of the year.
Image caption. This creative planting must require tremendous care from its owner. One has to appreciate not only the beauty of the planting itself but also the dedication.
Image caption. Anyone for some fruit? These bright orange persimmons contrast beautifully against the stark remainder of the tree.
Image caption. Amazing ramification on this little Chinese maple. The result of good technique and commitment.
Image caption. Just to prove I was there, the obligatory photo of myself. Some trees such as the one in the background receives pride of place due to some historical value. Perhaps it was/is one of the Imperial trees or something, not sure.
Well that's all for this post. Nothing to learn perhaps but sometimes we should take time to appreciate the beauty which God has created and also in the bonsai achievements of others.