At Gafu-ten, Japan’s premier shohin exhibit, there are a number of different judging categories. This allows the judges to recognize the best contributions for a particular type of tree or display. Some of the key categories include:
- Over 70 cm (the box stand for the display is 80 cm wide)
- 70 cm (the box stand is 70 cm wide)
- 60 cm (the box stand is 60 cm wide)
- Mini (the box stand is 45 cm wide)
- Medium-sized bonsai (bonsai up to 45 cm tall)
- Toko kazari (bonsai displays typically featuring kifu-sized trees over 20 cm tall with scrolls)
- Bunjin bonsai (displays featuring literati-style bonsai)
- Suiseki (displays featuring viewing stones)
- Pot display (displays featuring pots without trees)
This list is not exhaustive, but it offers a glimpse of how we might group small trees on display.
In some cases the differences are subtle. Below, for example, are displays featuring box stands that are 60 cm and 70 cm wide.
60 cm and 70 cm displays
The largest category is for trees up to 20 cm tall measured from the top of the pot to the top of the foliage. Here is the prize winning display from this category.
Over 70 cm display
The next largest category featured a display by Italian bonsai enthusiast Giuseppe Cristallino.
70 cm display by Giuseppe Cristallino
The smallest categories feature bonsai grown on a very small scale.
At the other end of the spectrum are the medium-sized bonsai – trees up to 45 cm tall. These trees are sometimes, but not always, displayed with scrolls.
The toko kazari category features a tree or trees and scroll as they would appear if they were they displayed in a home’s alcove or tokonoma. These trees are typically kifu-size, roughly 20 cm to 30 cm tall.
Toko Kazari category
Bunjin bonsai displayed at Gafu-ten can be much larger than 20 cm but they typically take delicate forms.
Gafu-ten also features displays without trees. Suiseki displays include scrolls and accents. Pot displays include stands but don’t always feature plants.
Next up, a look at displays featuring different numbers of trees.
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