Meifu-ten, one of Japan’s largest and oldest bonsai exhibits, was held January 14-16 in Nagoya. The 82 annual event contained scores of trees from all over Central Japan. Although I wasn’t able to attend, I had the opportunity to carry most of the exhibited bonsai during my visit to Japan last fall. The photographs for exhibited trees were taken in Inazawa on November 10-11, 2011. The trees’ owners – or designated professionals – showed up with trucks and vans, and a handful of us loaded and unloaded the trees for a day and a half.
An impressive load of trees
Kinbon managed the photo shoot, hiring two local contract photographers, each set up in adjacent warehouses. Peter Tea and I provided the labor for one of these.
Peter spots the trees for the next shot
The photographers indicated the order in which the trees were shot. Each owner was given a time slot ahead of time which helped us manage the workflow. After setting up a display, we stood back and watched the photographer work. He began by making an index shot with a DSLR to check the lighting. These shots included a numbered card to help them track information about each tree. He then took 3-5 shots with a medium camera shooting film! A Kinbon staffer recorded the tree variety, height, pot maker and owner for each shot.
Number 115 – needle juniper
The work proved surprisingly fun. We got to see an exhibit up close, and we had time to consider each tree. Some were outstanding – others made it clear that this was an exhibit for hobbyists. All told, it was a good mix of trees.
Apart from the few trees that arrived in trucks chock-full of bonsai, every other tree I carried arrived in a van. Japanese bonsai professionals seem to drive vans exclusively, and of these, the Toyota Hiace was one the more popular models. Following the general automotive fashion I witnessed in Japan, most were black, white or grey. The shot below captures atypical variety in van color and style.
Occasionally, Peter Tea and I learned a bit about the trees we handled. The red maple below, Acer palmatum ‘Seigen,’ was developed at Aichi-en. It’s an extraordinary example of the variety.
Japanese maple – ‘Seigen’
Great trunk and roots
We also had a chance to think about how the trees were displayed. Medium displays typically featured a larger tree and a smaller, a conifer and a deciduous or broadleaf evergreen tree. Some made great pairings.
Japanese maple and Japanese white pine
Close-up of the maple
Needle juniper on root stand
Japanese black pine and trident maple
Pine and broadleaf evergreen with fruit
The remaining trees were pleasant on their own.
Chinese quince – great ramification
Kinzu – wild kumquat
Peter Tea provided a nice write-up of the event – see his post, “82nd Meifu-ten Bonsai Show.”
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