Monday, January 14, 2008

Bonsai..Where Size Aint Everything.

Last weekend saw the 78th Annual Bonsai Exhibition hit town at Fukiage Hall in Chikusa.Inside a chilly,crowded aircraft hangar like structure,row upon row of immaculately manicured bonsai specimens sat.Ready and poised for their yearly audience before their admiring masses.
The word 'bonsai' is a combination of the Japanese word 'bon' meaning a shallow container and 'sai' meaning plants.
You could roughly divide the exhibits into three classes.The smallest group were those you could carry with one hand.The middle group being those plants growing in a container that requires a person to use both hands to carry it while those in the largest category are grown in a container that need two people to carry them safely.
Many of the specimens appeared to be either goyo matsu (Japanese White Pine),hinoki (cypress),maples or junipers.There were also a number of flowering cherry and dwarf apple and kaki(persimmon) trees making up the numbers.

As well as the variation in size it was obvious even to my uneducated eyes that there are a number of ways to train and grow bonsai plants.
Some of the pines were trimmed and pruned to give them a symmetrical,layered look with not a needle out of place.Others had their branches and trunks gnarled and knotted through the judicious use of copper wire and weights.In fact some of them looked almost as hunched and doubled up as the majority of the people viewing them.
Bonsai doesnt seem to appeal to anyone under the age of 60 if my cursory glances around the hall were any indication.Which is a shame but perhaps understandable given the amount of time,care,patience and attention such a hobby requires.There are no instant results,no quick adrenalin rushes,no bonsai groupies.

It was unfortunate that photos were forbidden in the hall because some displays were spectacular.In particular a small grove of maples in a bed of mint green moss. Fragile roots exposed.Branches bereft of buds.Skeletal trunks.
Or the flowering cherry with its roots encompassing a small volcanic rock which appeared to be in danger of exploding under the pressure.
The photo above shows a cheap pine I bought at one of the trade tables at the show.One could purchase a seedling like this for a modest 800 yen or really lash out and purchase a more developed specimen and spend in the order of 40,000yen or more.

In these days when my email is full of spam promoting products to increase the size of various parts of my anatomy and where obesity is becoming a lifestyle choice,it is reassuring to know that at least as far as bonsai is concerned small is still beautiful.

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