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Sometime in 2002 we became interested in bonsai and entered into a world that frankly isn’t known very well in the United States.  We took several classes and then joined Bay Island Bonsai created by Boon Manakitivipart.  In walking around Boon’s backyard, it became quite clear to us that the pots I saw in local nurseries were very poor imitations of the Japanese and Chinese pots that were holding Boon’s trees and lying underneath his benches.

Being pretty Internet-aware, I began a daily search for sites that could sell me anything related to bonsai.  In one of my searches, I literally stumbled across a site called Bonsai Network Japan.  This was a tipping point for us; if you have never read the book The Tipping Point How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference you should.

On Yoshihiro’s site (he calls himself Yoshi – so I will) he has tools, trees, pots, stands, books, seeds, etc.  Plus the site was in English.  There is a link on the English site to the Japanese site as well.  So we were really surprised to find a bonsai site in Japan that catered to Japanese and English speaking people.

At the time I was looking for Masakuni tools which frankly are very costly in the U.S.  Yoshi has them and at remarkably good prices.

Yoshi with Mr. Kawasumi the owner of the Masakuni tool factory.

Yoshi with Mr. Kawasumi the owner of the Masakuni tool factory.

Also in the photo are Mr. Pedro Morales and his wife who was the organizer for the 6th World Bonsai Convention in Puerto Rico.

What started as a simple tool order has developed into first and foremost a friendship with Yoshi and secondly a business relationship.  Over the next few years I would begin to order more tools from Yoshi, black pine seeds, pots, books and other items.

I, like you, have probably looked at Kinbon Bonsai to see many terrific pots and stands for sale and wondered what it would be like to be able to just pick up this magazine and order something from it.  Well I don’t know about you but I can’t read or speak Japanese so there wasn’t much hope in that.  Well one day I was reading through Kinbon to see a small stand for around 30,000 Yen.  To be frank I loved this beautifully crafted stand.  I thought of my friend Yoshi and wondered if he could acquire it for me.  He willingly said yes.  I suggested that he should be paid for his time and offered a 15% percent fee for acquiring the stand for me.  Within a week the stand in that issue of Kinbon was proudly sitting on my bookshelf at home.

Let me pause for a moment.  You might be asking – why would anyone do this?  This wasn’t a stand in Yoshi’s shop or on his web site so why would he take his time to respond to my email, reach out to the owner of the shop advertising in Kinbon, make the transaction with the owner, receive the stand, repackage it for shipment to the U.S. and then mail it to me.

Perhaps Yoshi’s own words will help focus on the why.

“I know that hundreds of thousands of foreign bonsai enthusiast try to come closer to the Japanese Bonsai World, but it is not very easy because of the language problem.  Also the Japanese bonsai world is a bit closed to other people and for foreign visitors it is almost impossible to come deep into this world.  Most of the top people in Japanese bonsai world are seniors and generally very few of them speak English, or operate a computer either.  This situation lead to my decision to work for those foreign bonsai enthusiasts by using English and the Internet.

For the past 10 years after I established the current business in 1999, I setup an international bonsai school and offered foreign nationals the opportunity to learn bonsai from Japanese bonsai masters in Japan.  I also organize bonsai tours for people who would like to see bonsai gardens in Japan and meet the bonsai masters who own them.  Through these activities I try to bridge people in other countries with the Japanese bonsai world.”

Yoshihiro Nakamizu

Mr. Yoshihiro Nakamizu

Let me tell you from personal experience that Yoshi has achieved his stated objective.  When I visited Japan in 2008, I arranged for our group of eight to be taken to Mr. Masahiko Kimura’s garden.  Even though this was all we had hired Yoshi to do for us he sensed that we would perhaps enjoy visiting other locations.  He immediately made arrangements for us to visit Mr. Kunio Kobayashi’s garden and arranged a lunch for all of us at a nearby restaurant; which by the way was the finest lunch I had during my eight day stay in Japan.

If you want a first class tour at a reasonable price to the very best bonsai gardens in Japan, please reach out to Yoshi and let him make those arrangements for you.  If you want to do this while visiting Kokufu then you better hurry because I will bet he is already booked for 2010.

As our taste for even better Japanese bonsai pots, stands, and suiseki have grown, as usual Yoshi helps us to acquire them.  In just the last month he has helped me acquire three very fine suiskei as well as obtaining the last 10 years exhibition catalogs from the Nippon Suiseki Association plus two of their hard bound books.

Over the years, Yoshi has helped me purchase dozens of pots, books, and other items.  I can say this with absolute assurance – without Yoshi’s desire to help people like KJ and myself there is simply no way we would have been able to enjoy and acquire so many high quality bonsai and suiseki items.  He has been instrumental in interfacing for me on many, many transactions including introducing me to the preeminent diaza maker in Japan Mr. Koji Suzuki.

Let me close in saying that it is extremely rare to find a business person who is so willing to help others, who always returns his emails, who always follows up to help on even mundane requests and who always does it with joy.  To find it is rare – to have found it thousands of miles away is just incredible.

For those of you that are interested, please visit Yoshi’s web site. You can reach him by e-mail at nakamizu@j-bonsai.com.  I have asked Yoshi in advance if he is willing to provide you with the same service that he provides us, that being if you find something on a Japanese web site or in Kinbon he will act as the intermediary for a fee, and he has readily agreed.  So happy hunting for that special tool, pot, or stone.

Lastly, I just want to say publicly what I have said to Yoshi privately so many times – Thanks Yoshi for without your friendship and business acumen our world of bonsai and suiseki would simply not be the same!