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I finally have coaxed KJ into taking a trip to Japan to visit Kokufu and the Green Club.  It has taken eight years and a solemn promise not to spend 10 days doing nothing but bonsai and suiseki.  The capper was the promise to take her to Kyoto for our 12th wedding anniversary on 2/14.

I’m an avid fan of Lightroom to manage our photography collection and for light editing of images.  I’m a 17 year user of Photoshop and often use it for the heavy lifting when I want/need to take an object out of its shot background.  So today I opened Lightroom and came across photos from my 2008 trip to Kokufu and to various bonsai gardens throughout Japan.

The BIB (Bay Island Bonsai) show is this weekend in Pleasanton, CA and even though our club has fantastic trees, I thought you might want to see a few that we saw in Japan that year.


Every time I look at this tree my imagination kicks into high gear.  This juniper has incredible depth, movement, gracefulness, and style.  I have seen many fine trees but this is perhaps my absolute favorite and I never tire of gazing at it.  This is a powerful and compact tree not standing more than 32–inches tall, but I believe if I removed the background and pot it would be simply impossible to tell if this tree was 32–inches or 32–feet tall.  If you are interested in a larger version of this photo with the background removed click this link.

As can be seen in the photo, this tree is in a protected structure and therefore the foliage is a brighter green than the tree below.  Perhaps this was because the tree has been recently repotted or awaiting an upcoming show.


This is another incredible juniper.  A large tree with sweeping movements, a great lifeline and to die for deadwood.  This photo was shot in winter so the foliage is darker due to the cold weather.


This outside photograph of this Japanese Maple simply doesn’t do justice for the incredible beauty of this tree.  Some would want a heavier ramification of its branches but that being said this tree is simply elegant reminding me of princess awaiting Spring.


This tree’s trunk isn’t perfect as one can see several scars where branches have been removed but they are healing nicely and soon will be a distant memory.  There is very good movement in this maple.  How many of you like the small left-sided branch at the bottom of the tree.  For many this branch would seem unnecessary; however, I believe this branch adds greatly to this trees structure.  Thoughts?


When I first saw the nebari (surface roots) of this tree, I wondered how many hours were spent combing the roots during repotting.  The stability added to the tree by the nebari can not be under estimated.  To develop nebari like this takes tremendous skill and more patience than most of us possess.

Speaking of nebari – look at this next photo!


When we first saw this tree I simply couldn’t believe the nebari this tree possessed.  It is as if the trunk where a candle and the wax from the burning tip had simply evenly poured around its base.  How this was done appears to be a secret and only known by a few of the absolute craftsmen in Japan.


The full photo of this zelkova – yep a zelkova.  A large tree at that standing nearly four feet high.  This is the personal tree of a bonsai master and I don’t believe it has ever been shown in public before.  Truly outstanding.


This tree was located at located at the garden where his father developed the technique of growing very short candles on Japanese Black Pines.  There were so many beautiful black pines that it was almost too much to see at one time.  In 2008, the bonsai master of this garden had 26 trees in Kokufu.  That is a mind boggling number when you consider how much work must be done to prepare trees for this important bonsai show.


Lastly, this photo of the bark on a Japanese Black Pine reminds me that life continues and clearly is in many layers.  Some years good some years not so good yet looking at the texture and layers it lets us know that time continues on and that there is great beauty in the rough textured look of this tree.

Our visit this year to Japan will include a trip to Kokufu and several trips to the Green Club where we will see trees that we can only dream of but knowingly will never own.  And perhaps that is good, for the responsibility for trees like this is great and not for the faint-hearted.

Surely upon our return many more hours will be spent in Lightroom cataloging our favorite photos and I’m sure that will generate a post or two.  If you plan on being in Japan for the show, ping us and let us know and perhaps we will see you there oggling over trees, pots and stands and perhaps even a few classic suiseki.

Sam and KJ