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

Tree's Shape(3)Kengai and Takan: Balance is Key

October 9, 2012

 Kengai and Takan are the bonsai shapes which are more natural than others. Kengai expresses the hardness of nature and Takan expresses the grandness of it. The important point for both shapes is balance.

Old Tree on Cliff Edge

 Kengai is a bonsai shape whose trunk hangs down. The shape is associated with an old tree grown in deep mountains and cliff of seashore receiving strong wind and snow. The tree with its apex dangling down from the bottom of the pot is called "Kengai" while the tree with its apex hanging down to the rim of the pot or its midway point is called "Hankengai."

 Of course the roots need to spread deeply and strongly to other side. The balance between roots and pot is important. Sometimes bonsai artists use a deep pot for tree's security.

 Toshiyuki Okada, Haruchan bonsai in Takamatsu's Kokubunji town, grows a Kengai of Kuromatsu (Japanese black pine) of Yamadori (collected from mountains). Its branch hangs down about 70 centimeters.

Kengai grown in strong wind and snow for 100 years at Haruchan bonsai in Takamatsu's Kokubunji town
Kengai grown in strong wind and snow for 100 years at Haruchan bonsai in Takamatsu's Kokubunji town

 Okada says about his Kengai tree, "The tree is over 100 years old. It is longer than a human life. So the trunk has dynamism and unique taste. People say the tree is worthy of being exhibited in Kokufu-ten bonsai exhibition."

Whole Balance is Important

 A two-trunk tree from bottom or middle part is called "Sokan." If the trunk divided tree into three is called "Sankan", a trunk divided into five is called "Gokan." Including "Sokan", they are called "Takan (a tree having many trunks)."

 There is a main trunk and others are the attached trunks. The balance of these trunks is very important for its beauty. The more trunks a tree has, the more difficult to arrange the balance.

 Kunihiro Kandaka, Kandaka Fukushoen bonsai garden in Takamatsu's Kinashi town, grows Kokonoe of Goyomatsu (Japanese white pine) having a trunks divided into five.

Takan having warm atmosphere like family at Kandaka Fukushoen bonsai garden in Takamatsu's Kinashi town
Takan having warm atmosphere like family at Kandaka Fukushoen bonsai garden in Takamatsu's Kinashi town

 Kandaka says, "I found this tree at an auction three years ago. I liked the balanced shape of five trunks. It has a warm atmosphere like family. I guess from its trunk surface the tree is about 80 years old."
(By Shigeo Hano)
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