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Author Topic: Kokufu bonsai ten  (Read 1088 times)
JRob
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« on: March 29, 2013, 08:10 AM »

Morning All,

Just finished placing my trees on their benches for Easter weekend. Highs should be in the mid 60's and lows in the upper 30's low 40's at night. I'll put them back in the pool cabana sunday evening because we are forecasted for nighttime temperatures to be below freezing early next week again. Took the opportunity to give them an application of fish emulsion and seaweed extract. Hope they enjoy the basking in the spring sun. Beats the 13 inches of snow that fell last Sunday. Surprised though how fast it melted. Saw the lawn by tuesday evening when I go home from work. Now its all gone except where plows piled it into high mounds.

One of the things my son and I have done since we bought our first tree in September of 2008 is buy the Kokufu bonsai ten exhibit catalogue every year. So we have 82, 83, 84, 85 & 86. I also purchased several older catalogues from the shows in the late 70's and early 80's. I know some of you have attended the show in person and I am sure Mr. Valavanis has attended many. I'd be interested in hearing your perspective on the differences you've noted over time of the trees admitted into the show and how it has changed as the art form of bonsai has continued to evolve. I am also interest in any comments that can be made about the pots that are selected for the trees that are exhibited.

Happy Easter Everyone, Thanks & Regards,   JRob
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Owen Reich
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« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2013, 12:32 PM »

That sounds like a book worth of answers.  I'd look at Peter Warren's blog (Saruyama Bonsai) as he has attended the show.  My teacher and I had a number of conversations about the Kokofu-ten and how things have changed over the years.  Quality levels on trees have gone down in some respects but it's not like the show is by any means non-impressive. 

One thing that has changed for sure is stand and kusamono selection.  Stand sizes have decreased for some styles of bonsai as have kusamono.  While we think of bonsai on display nowadays as "Traditional", it is fact Contemporary overall.  Take a gander at Kokofu 50 or so and see how things have changed.  I personally like to follow what kusamono (shitakusa) are used at exhibitions as these display elements don't often make it into the photos of major exhibitions.  Many of the old Japanese magazines do track them from year to year though.  I've seen more Chojubai, willow, and cotoneaster used in concert with perennials and moss lately (last 3 years). 

Again, look at what Peter Warren has to say about the containers used.  From my perspective, trees exhibited at the National Exhibition in Ueno are put into high quality containers as a matter of fact.  Some of the choices don't really work for me.  Kichou (Precious Bonsai) are pretty much automatically accepted into the Kokofu-ten unless they are just horrible looking and sometimes their containers are not as spectacular; this can be for health reasons. 

It's blatantly obvious that attention to detail for styling of branches has increased (from say the early 80's to now) and some may argue past the point of natural into something more synthetic (and I use those sweeping terms very loosely).  No hate mail please  Grin

Selective pressure for only the highest quality bonsai has given way to filling up the show from what I hear; an issue present in American shows and elsewhere.

I have one beef with the National show and that is the restrictive nature of what sizes and species of plants are allowed into the show.  An 8" maple may get in but a 9" one of the same quality in every way won't as it will throw of the vibe of the overall show.  These measures were put in place to make the show "flow" better, but I feel it limits what can be seen there.  It's a difficult issue to overcome though with so much bureaucracy.  My beef lies with the effect this has on what bonsai are created or more so refined to match the guidelines for the big shows as these trees have greater monetary value.  Saying "this tree is the right size / style for the Kokofu" is a common sales point....
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Owen Reich
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« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2013, 09:47 PM »

The show is however, worth flying to Japan for and it's not only amazing for the exhibition but also the sales area at the Ueno Green Club.  It's overwhelming to see so many nice bonsai under one roof.
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bwaynef
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« Reply #3 on: November 18, 2013, 03:31 PM »

If it was one's goal to study bonsai at the highest level (from the comfort of my living room, at least), how far back into the archives of Kokufu-Ten books is it safe to go?  Were the trees of the 80s and 90s of lesser quality than what is presented now?
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John Kirby
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« Reply #4 on: November 18, 2013, 05:55 PM »

I like looking at some of the older show books, hint the 40, 50, 60,70,80 books are all double shows gives you more to look at. Also gives you inspiration to see how fast the techniques and horticultural practice improved.
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William N. Valavanis
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« Reply #5 on: November 19, 2013, 07:33 AM »

John, I don' think that NO. 40 is a double album. The Japanese started having a "double" albums every ten years beginning with NO. 50. Next year, even  though it is not a special year the Nippon Bonsai Association will be having another double show.

By the way, in February they also have a double show because the newly renovated museum is a bit smaller and they want to show more bonsai. There will be a four day show with about 250 bonsai, exchange all the trees during the fifth day and reopen with another 250 trees.

Also, by the way there will be huge susiseki exhibit during the second half of the Kokufu bonsai exhibit. Many of the world's most famous suiseki will be displayed in the same museum building, but on a different floor

Bill
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bwaynef
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« Reply #6 on: January 24, 2014, 02:55 PM »

Kokufu 85 album:

I see that Kokufu prize winners and Important Bonsai Masterpieces are noted as such.  I understand the prize winners are exemplary for their species/size.  I also understand the IBMs are noteworthy in a legacy sense. 

What I don't get are trees that aren't denoted as such but seem to be of noticeably inferior quality.  I counted 13 Picea glenhii, and yet the one on page 10 seems to be lacking the quality and polish of the AVERAGE of the rest of the show.  As I don't read Japanese, I wonder if it is significant that it's set apart (with a few others, but of much higher quality) in the group preceding the Japanese characters on page 13.

As this was my first Kokufu album, I'm blown away by the flowering trees.  The US shows have many conifers that are being refined towards what we see of the Japanese shows, and to a lesser extent our deciduous as well.  Is it due to the timing of our shows that our Flowering trees seem to lack representation, or is there some other reason?

I'm unable to choose a favorite (right now), but every time I pass the bunjin P. parviflora on p.114 it catches me. 
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William N. Valavanis
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« Reply #7 on: January 24, 2014, 09:50 PM »

The Ezo spruce on page 10 in the 85th Kokufu Bonsai Ten album is not actually part of the exhibition. It is a "special display" of bonsai belonging to important people like a mayor, Imperial Collection or other politicians. I believe the actual judged and accepted entries begin on page 14.

If you want to see fine quality deciduous bonsai, visit the 4th US National Bonsai Exhibition on September 13-14, 2014 in Rochester, New York. There will be plenty there.

Bill
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