After spending two days in the Tokyo area to see the Kokufu exhibit, I took a day trip to Shizuoka to visit Kazuo Onuma.
Onuma is a grower who specializes in mini-sized bonsai. He’s been working with trees for twenty-five years and has been serious about it for the last fifteen. The effort has paid off.
Onuma with a cutting-grown chojubai
Trees like the chojubai above aren’t anomalies in Onuma’s garden. A few steps away, several flats were filled with chojubai experiencing erosion that helps the trees produce shoots that can be trained as branches.
Japanese flowering quince ‘Chojubai’
Onuma is a charismatic man who has attracted friends and students who help in his garden. Together they form a bonsai family that work on the small trees together.
A member of Onuma’s circle with a young pine
Many of the more-developed pines in the garden followed a familiar pattern: dense branching below with a single sacrifice branch above.
Pines in colanders
What’s less conventional is how many pines in the garden get their start: from air layers.
Air-layering a sacrifice branch to create a new pine
Layering sacrifice branches is a common theme in the garden. Onuma considers it wasteful to discard branches when they can jump start the creation of new trees.
Japanese maple with sacrifice branch
Rows and rows of tables in the garden were filled with small trees that are just a few years away from looking like bonsai. Here, for example, is a table of tiny trident maples waiting to be thinned.
In just a few years they could like the more refined maple below.
Mini-sized trident maple
Beyond the quince, pines, and maples in the garden, I found a broad variety of species, some of which I still don’t know the names. Here are some of the more familiar species: juniper and gardenia.
As the sun dropped below the horizon, Onuma extended an invitation to stay for dinner: wild boar nabe cooked over an open fire. How could I refuse?
Preparing the wild boar nabe
By the time the nabe (“nah-beh”) was ready, the sun had fallen. As there was no light in the workshop, we ate our soup by the light of the fading embers. It was delicious!
Launch Event at Book’s Inc in Alameda next week!
Stop by Books Inc. in Alameda on Wednesday, March 4, at 7pm for a brief demo, interview, and Q&A relating to bonsai and my new book, The Little Book of Bonsai. Drop by and say hello if you’re in the neighborhood – It’ll be great to see you!
Learn more about the event at the Books Inc. events page.
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