About this time every year a judging takes place in Tokyo for the newest entries of bonsai into a select group know as Kichou Bonsai, or Important Bonsai Masterpiece. These bonsai are ones that are recognized as being some of the finest quality trees, ones that have been improved upon year after year to the point where they stand out above most other bonsai. I am told that this judging has taken place over the last 35 years or so and although some of these trees have died over the years for one reason or another, there have been about 750 trees awarded with this honor. A handful of professionals from around Japan make up the group of judges and are typically the same group that has just judged the past Kokufu trees. After a tree is designated Kichou Bonsai, it is given a handmade plaque that can be displayed with the tree and a metal tag which is hung from a branch.
Being that Bonsai is a living art, these trees change over time. Sometimes they get better, other times worse. Sometimes big changes are made to the design of a tree or a disease or insects attack a tree forcing a change upon the tree. So not all trees that have been designated Kichou Bonsai stay as magnificent as they once were. I have seen a few of these important trees that have fallen ill and have been let to grow freely for some time. But the important thing about these trees is that when in their prime and perfect state, they exemplify what a bonsai is more so than any other bonsai.
Here are a few trees from our nursery that we have challenged to undergo this years judging. We have matched each tree with a stand as to better display them for the judges. A funny thing about this is that we tend to select stands that elevate the trees slightly. By doing so, we help to save the backs of the judges who are looking at them from every angle. Many of the judges are elderly gentlemen and you wouldn’t want to give them any reason to knock points off your tree, such as having to bend over too much to see the trunk!
The juniper pictured above was worked on by my sempai Matt and just may be the subject of a post on his blog in the near future. You can visit his blog here, http://reelbonsai.wordpress.com/
The next tree is one that I was tasked with working on for the judging. Here it is before…
When telling me what I should do to this tree, Oyakata cut a large branch off the apex and told me to make it more compact.
In addition to the cut on the apex, I removed a large branch on the front about half way up. The branch was blocking the trunk and an interesting part of the whole composition. I feel that the tree becomes more refined after removing this branch and allows the viewer to move up and down the trunk of the tree more fluidly. There wasn’t much detailed wiring on the tree so I began placing some where it was needed. Obviously on the apex, most of the branches needed some wire in order to fill the new hole and to make the apex more compact overall. For the rest of the tree, some detailed wire was placed in order to pull branches back into line making the silhouette fluid. Also, the line of each pad was cleaned, pulling needles that were hanging down. Then the deadwood was scrubbed clean and lime sulfur was applied.
Here is the tree after my work…
Lastly, each tree was mossed and the pots were oiled. As an added bonus and a little fun, I have begun to make T’s with moss and hide them on the surface. So far, Oyakata hasn’t spotted one of my T’s, so i don’t know if I am that good at it or I just haven’t made it powerful enough! (Power T for all my Tennessee readers!) In one case I used lichen to make a T…can you spot it?
Lets hope that all of these trees receive this prestigious award of Kichou Bonsai. I will let you know as soon as we hear the results.
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