Bonsai Basics with Koji Matsusue

During the last week of October, Nick and I were fortunate to study bonsai through lectures, demonstrations, and workshops. Since neither of us are experts on bonsai, our studies began with the basics.

Our first lesson began with a short lecture on creating the small tree. Matsusue-sensei explained how the style of the bonsai is reflective of natural  forces and growing limitations on the trees growing in the natural environment.

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As you can see from the pictures, some bonsai are to represent the wind-swept pattern, or the straight forward nature of the forest, or the gnarly growth habits of growing on a cliff.

During the workshop, we had the opportunity to shape our own bonsai. Can you guess which one is Matsusue-sensei’s work and which one is the student’s?

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The following three days were dedicated to practicing what we had learned- careful shaping and pruning, wiring, preparing the bonsai for show, etc.

Before working on your bonsai, you must brush the needles to rid of any debris.

Before working on your bonsai, you must brush the needles to rid of any debris.

 

 

 

 

 

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Next, remove all dead branches.

Then, you begin to remove needles which are crowded or growing in an unfavorable fashion. After you have carefully removed these sections, you begin to prepare it for show. This is accomplished by adding sections of moss to the soil and polishing the clay pottery with baby oil.

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Sensei trusted us enough to work on some of his most beautiful specimens!

Here, we are working on the jin of bonsai. Jin refers to the whitened, dead parts of the bonsai. We used a mixture of amber and sulfur to enhance the white of the bark.

Here, we are working on the jin of bonsai. Jin refers to the whitened, dead parts of the bonsai. We used a mixture of amber and sulfur to enhance the white of the bark.

Nick and I not only learned about the fundamentals of bonsai, but we also witnessed the lifestyle of a Bosai Suishoen (Bonsai Master) firsthand. It’s a rather social way with customers and students stopping in for a visit during all times. Every person who stops by is welcomed with a hot drink and a sweet- a very hospitable custom which we enjoyed.

Bonsai Suishoen family and guests.

Bonsai Suishoen family and guests.

2 comments

  1. Sarah Malleson

    Hi Christina and Nick – it’s great to hear your news from the blog. I’m very jealous of the amazing things you’re experiencing in Japan. What a privilege to work on those beautiful trees. The time is flying by here at Hidcote, it won’t be long before Rhiannon and Phil follow in your footsteps.

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