31 Oct 2018 in So Design
Get the lowdown on Japan’s tiny trees, including where to see some unusual specimens.
Man’s relationship with nature is a common fascination in Japan. So it’s little wonder that the art of bonsai (meaning “planted in a pot”) dates back hundreds of years.
Through techniques such as pruning roots, repotting and tying branches, bonsai artists create miniature versions of much larger trees.
Pines, ficus and maples are among the favourite tree types. The smallest bonsai, known as shohin, can be as little as 2 inches tall. The biggest may measure over 50 inches.
When a bonsai artist gets creative, the results can be striking. Watch out for the “windswept” bonsai with the bough and branches all leaning to one side, the “cascade” bonsai that bends over and grows downwards, or the fruit-bearing bonsai that produces full-sized fruit hanging from its tiny branches.
Some bonsai have even earned star status, including a 400-year-old specimen that survived Hiroshima. Another celebrity is a 1,000-year-old Juniper at the famed Mansei-en gardens outside Tokyo.
Several top-quality bonsai nurseries can be visited, including Mansei-en. Best of all, the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum offers English-language insights into the art of bonsai. It also has its own excellent collection of bonsai trees, pots and woodblock prints.