Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

Part II of our trip to Japan earlier this month…


Tyler Sherrod, in one of those lucky shots of light and opportunity that make it one of my favorite photos of the trip. This was a spectacularly odd red pine he was working on, reminding me of the odd bends and flattened reaction wood that some of our native lodgepole can get involved in. In any event, Tyler did well with it.


Looking a lot like a post from two years ago, here’s the weird side-opening truck that Suzuki uses to transport the Kokufu trees, which thankfully arrived on one of the non-snowy days.


Matt Reel, in one of his famous ‘make a face’ photos. I’ve rarely got a shot of him not hamming it up. Here he is with one of the platforms used to transport the Kokufu trees back to Nagano, in the greenhouse that is protected from freezing by heaters. The trees are in the show for too long to be trusted with just a windbreak in arctic Nagano.


Bobby Curttright with one of the trees from the show, on a cart, somehow navigating the narrow corridors of the big greenhouses. He likes striped shirts. Ripped fabric on the ground, with near-perfect tripping placement…


Pine being settled into the protected no-freeze greenhouse by Tyler and Bobby. I’m being incredibly helpful in this photo, lifting most vigorously with my mind.


After working on my four trees I was tasked with displaying some of them in the tea house where Suzuki welcomes clients. I suspected he wouldn’t like the two stands under the wooden figure, and I wasn’t wrong. Rule of thumb is one stand per element. Well, some of the elements I used did not go over well, but then if I had gotten all of them wrong I would have learned even more. Rats. Wasted chance.


At least he seemed happy with the tree. The before shot is in the last post.


Suzuki will usually throw a design challenge at me on these trips. Some times it’s really tricky. This one, which he had bought at an auction a year or so before, was worth puzzling over. It was obvious that this tree was grown for many years with this as the front, with the evidence in how the branches were shaped, and the way the apex was grown. Something was not too exciting about it, though.


When I looked closer, I found that the key branch was very weak, and part of it, the larger part, had died off. Rarely do we want to chose a front with a weak key branch.


After poking around, and tipping it up in the front, the back of the tree seemed a very likely new front. There was a very strong and interesting key branch to the left, a powerful twisting base, and something that Suzuki is not afraid of presenting—a pigeon breast. A more aggressive feeling than the last front, but better for several reasons. I chose this one, and thankfully I had chosen the right one or the trip would have ended up with a mediocre overall success score… More photos in another post, with the styling of this tree, and a cascade juniper. And Bobby’s juniper too!

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Japanese Shows

Here are photos of bonsai I worked on that were accepted into the bonsai shows in Japan during my apprenticeship: the Kokufu-ten, the Sakufu-ten, and the Taikan-ten. 

Kokufu show #80 – 2006

spruceChochubai flowering quince (left), Ezo spruce (right)

redpinekokufuRed pine. You may notice several different stylistic approaches in the bonsai on this page. Only about 20% of the branches on this tree were wired.


White pine—One of those stepping-stone trees for me. Mr. Suzuki wanted to be sure I could wire trees out cleanly—to this level of organization and absurdity—before letting me work with less artificiality. I detail the work on this tree in my book, Post-Dated: The Schooling of an Irreverent Bonsai Monk.

kokufucascadejuniperGrafted Itoigawa juniper

white pineWhite pine 

Kokufu show #79 – 2005

shimpaku‘Shimpaku’ juniper

black pineBlack pine – Kokufu prize winner

juniper‘Shimpaku’ juniper

Taikan Ten 2004

bunjin white pineWhite pine

Sakufu Ten 2005

white pineWhite pine—Prime Minister Award winner

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