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5 min read


Well the day finally arrived for Japan to show why they truly are the masters of our beloved art. From the opening ceremony where we were honored by the presence of the Prince and Princess of Japan to Prime Minister Abe's recorded address, we were awed by the massive task which the organizers undertook and more than delivered on.

An absolute highlight for me was the 70 odd children from various elementary schools from Saitama Prefecture who paraded on stage, hoisting posters of why they love bonsai, what inspires them about it and what they would like us as foreigners to experience when appreciating bonsai.

childrens bonsai

Image caption. A small part of the bonsai created by elementary school children.

I apologize for the lack of photos of this part of the event, but we were not permitted to take any photo's and I respected that.

However hopefully what you are about to see, the special exhibition arranged as part of the convention, will more than make up for it.

I am still travelling of course and so I am processing pictures as I get an opportunity although I will need to retouch them again at a later stage as the lighting may not be the best so apologies for that. 

The Exhibition

Hiryu shinpaku juniper bonsai tree

Image caption. This is 'Hiryu.' I unfortunately am not certain of the history of this tree at this time but it is a special exhibit for the convention. It is of course a Shimpaku Juniper.

shishigashira japanese maple bonsai tree

Image caption. This is a Shishigashira Japanese Maple part of a private collection of trees maintained by the staff of Mansei-en, which were Kokufu prize winners and have not been seen on exhibition for many years.

bonsai wisteria in flower

Image caption. You smell this Wisteria vine before you see it, which is saying a lot as you can see! In the peak of blooming, this vine was/is a showstopper.

Japanese white pine bonsai tree

Image caption. No word other than amazing describes this Goyomatsu or Japanese White pine, another tree in this private collection of Masterpieces.

japanese black pine bonsai tree

Image caption. The impression of this undeniably massive trunk on this Kuromatsu or Japanese black pine certainly stops one in their tracks! Phenomenal movement and very careful arrangement of the branches. Amazing!

Spruce bonsai tree

Image caption. A spruce with fantastic movement, amazing refinement in the canopy and deadwood which appears entirely natural.

trident maple bonsai tree

Image caption. Here's a species which you all know, the Trident or Chinese maple. Such attractive nebari, look at the feeling of maturity it provides through the way they firmly clasp and are now moulded to the rock. The foliage is in pristine condition, I assume still the spring flush of leaves.

amazing bonsai trees of japan

Image caption. This is yet another one of the wonderful trees on display. Notice the antique Cantonese pot with decorative floral motif which has been perfectly combined with the flowers this tree is bearing. The textured bark exudes a wonderful sense of maturity. The lighting positioned on this tree does a great job of emphasizing the freshness of spring. Apologies but I need to make certain of the species, will check and include the name here.

white pine japanese bonsai trees

Image caption. Such dedication is required to produce a masterpiece Goyomatsu such as this. Many years of constant maintenance, commitment and mastery of technique possessed by possibly generations of bonsai professionals who have painstakingly seen to it's every need for us to enjoy today.

shimpaku bonsai tree japan

Image caption. Wonderful movement in this Shimpaku juniper bonsai, with the live vein and deadwood dancing, coiling around each other like the necks of cranes in a dance. As one would expect of trees at this level of exhibition the foliage is incredibly healthy with no juvenile foliage in sight.

japanese maple bonsai tree

Image caption. For me this tree, a Japanese maple, absolutely captures that light and airy feel one gets when you walk in the maple forests of Japan. Such fresh, vibrant leaves with saturated colours.

Chinese flowering quince

Image caption. I cannot recall when I have seen a Chinese quince on display with leaves. I've just probably not been in Japan at the right time but it was great to see what this attractive species looks like in its spring foliage.

chinese quince bonsai flowers

Image caption. Wondering what the preceding tree's flowers look like? Here is one. Enjoy.

Image caption. The Yezo Spruce or Ezo-Matsu has much pride of place in Japanese bonsai. They have a long history of being collected with many masterpiece trees passing from one generation to the next.

Image caption. Japanese white pine or Goyomatsu are prized all over the world for their soft needles which create density unequalled in other pines. They are considered a more feminine pine.

Image caption. The Chinese or Trident maple is world reknown as a highly suitable bonsai subject. This specimen is an exquisite upright example with incredible nebari.

Image caption. Japanese white pines can be found in a number of foliage types, each with their own characteristics. The age of this tree is just mind blowing, and having seen it in person no photo can really do its presence justice.

Image caption. Japanese white pine can be grown in all the classic Japanese bonsai styles which were originally based on the pine to begin with.

Image caption. This is a very famous Korean Hornbean and its a lot bigger than what it looks in the picture. It takes up the entire loading area of a typical Japanese panel van. I am fairly sure it has won a Kokufu prize also. However most of the trees which were on display at the exhibition are winners and many are also Important Masterpieces.

Image caption. This has got to be one of the most incredible Japanese red pine or Akamatsu. The trunk is just amazing, the way in which it coils; makes me think of a lot of pent up energy - like a dragon about to pounce.

Image caption. This dense forest of Trident maple is an amazing feat of commitment and mastery of technique. Notice how all the leaves are of the same shape and size, all the trees appear to be of the same health. Wow!

Image caption. This is a rather dramatic looking Japanese red pine again, in a style which was very popular {and natural I might add} which has now becoming popular again. Very often these trees are collected from the mountains and this is the way that nature has crafted them.

Image caption. Japanese beech trees are very popular bonsai subjects. They have a very smooth, silvery white trunk which contrasts beautifully against the copper brown colour of the autumn leaves.

Image caption. Shinpaku juniper of this age, with such developed live veins and deadwood always attract plenty of attention and contemplation.

Image caption. This Yezo-spruce makes me think of a tree which is growing from the side of a mountain with the drooping branches suggesting the movement of the cliff face.

Image caption. Bougainvillea are an uncommon sight in Japan. The owner of this one timed the flowering just right for the exhibition. Such an interesting trunk line and overall design of the tree, it makes me think a little of a windswept.

Image caption. There is no green like the green of new leaves on the Yew. Very slow growing trees which extremely hard wood, this particular tree must be extremely old.

Image caption. No species of pine displays such bark plates like the Japanese black pine or Kuromatsu. The way the shari disappears for a moment and then reappears is very exciting.

Image caption. Close up of the twirling live veins of a very old Pomegranate or Zakuro.

Image caption. This Japanese beech was apparently started as a small air layer with trunks and roots grafted to it over time. It only took 20 years for the owner to develop it from nothing to a Kokufu prize winning tree.

Image caption. The Japanese silverberry or Gumi has a very antique like charm about it. It has very small flowers which develop into equally small hanging fruit.

Image caption. Yet another stunning Japanese beech. The tree has such an amazing silhouette and with the leaves all removed you can really appreciate the network of fine branching.

4 Responses

Johan Howard
Johan Howard

August 22, 2017

Hi Terry, baie dankie vir mooi foto’s van wonderlike bome, wat ons almal inspireer. Wat ’n voorreg om dáár te kon wees. Dankie dat jy dit met ons deel.

carl de Beer
carl de Beer

August 17, 2017

Thanks Terry. Amazing trees and I agree this motivates and aspire me in my hobby


August 12, 2017

You have certainly chosen the most awesome trees for this presentation. Gives me something to aspire to. An absolute example of Oriental patience and perfection.

May 27, 2017

Some amazing trees that were on show, would have loved to be there. Pretty sure South African bonsai will one day produce trees of similar quality, bonsai is growing at an alarming rate here in SA!

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