BONSAI WORLD A series of articles by The Shikoku Shimbun focuses on the attractions of bonsai which encapsulate small universes in containers.

Bonsai producers enter new era of competition based on individuality

February 4, 2009

The Kokubunji township in the city of Takamatsu stands on a long and narrow strip of land running from north to south.

The area's bonsai farmers are concentrated in the northern part where the Kokubunji and Hokkeji temples are located.

Kokubunji temple is known as one of the holy Buddhist temples to people who go on the Shikoku Pilgrimage, a famous pilgrimage that covers 88 temples on the island.

Hokkeji temple is known for its botan (Japanese peony) garden, and a vast tract of land north of the Kokubunji-Hokubu Elementary School looks like a bonsai paradise.

A field of trees for bonsai in Takamatsu's Kokubunji township
A field of trees for bonsai in Takamatsu's Kokubunji township

Birthplace of Nishikimatsu (Japanese brocade pine)

The pioneer of nishikimatsu bonsai, Kiichi Suezawa (1864-1931), came from the Kokubunji township which is also the birthplace of nishikimatsu bonsai.

Not only Suezawa but several other men devoted themselves to cultivating nishikimatsu trees during the more than 120 years spanning three eras in Japan, known as Meiji (1868-1912), Taisho (1912-1926) and Showa (1926-1989).

All were great contributors to the Kokubunji township's bonsai industry. Among them is the late Senji Hashimoto, who successfully grafted nishikimatsu in the late Taisho era.

That nishikimatsu tree still exists at Senshoen bonsai garden that was named partly after him. His grandson Masahiro Hashimoto is one of only a few specialist nishikimatsu producers in Japan.

Growers in the Kokubunji area devoted themselves almost entirely to production of nishikimatsu trees from the late 1960s through early 1970s. But nishikimatsu prices plummeted due to various factors, notably excessive production.

Most of the producers then shifted to kuromatsu (Japanese black pine) and goyomatsu (Japanese white pine). Masahiro Hashimoto, who still produces nishikimatsu trees, says the prices of nishikimatsu trees, even aged ones, are relatively low compared with other products.

''But they are prone to worms and that led to a loss of popularity,'' Hashimoto said. ''I want to make every effort to defend the tradition (of nishikimatsu production) of the Kokubunji area. I have begun to produce a new type of nishikimatsu whose blades are thick but short in length. I believe nishikimatsu trees will again attract attention if I can produce them at a convenient size.''

A nishiki-matsu tree in a container that was grafted in the 1920s and is placed at Senshoen bonsai garden
A nishikimatsu tree in a container that was grafted in the 1920s and is placed at Senshoen bonsai garden

Bonsai center

Gate to the JA Kokubunji bonsai center
Gate to the JA Kokubunji bonsai center

Two agricultural cooperatives in the Kokubunji area merged April 1, 1966, to create the JA Kokubunji farm co-op. On May 30 that year, the co-op launched its bonsai department whose major mission was to open a JA Kokubunji bonsai center in 1968.

The bonsai center exhibits and sells some 8,000 matsu and zoki bonsai items in grounds with an area of about 3,300 square meters along the prefectural highway's Route 33. The center has gained support for its large range of items and reasonable prices, offering bonsai lovers something like a paradise.

The number of member growers of the co-op's bonsai department has declined from as many as 260 in 1974 to 80 at present, and the township's bonsai industry is facing some difficulties, such as how growers can find people to take over their work, as well as poor business conditions stemming from a price slump.

Bonsai department chief Kiyoshi Hiramatsu says, ''From now on, producers will be required to develop a new line of products that can satisfy the needs of bonsai experts, without simply relying on traditional products. Bonsai producers now face a new era and must demonstrate their own individuality by proposing new ways of presenting bonsai fashionable and of enjoying bonsai.''

(By Shigeo Hano)

translated by Kyodo News


nobilisDecember 24, 2015 1:48 PM

Dear sirs
I am looking for my compagny every year 100-till 150 outsite bonsai trees between 50 cm up till 250 cm
( full 40 ft container).
Must be winterproof trees like pinus ilex taxus azalia.
Can you send my your catologe with picture and prices for large quantity and can you arrange export to Holland .

regards Nobilis Holland

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