Posts tagged “Japan

Japanese Web Retailers

There are some retailers in Japan with an amazing selection of bonsai tools and accessories, and shipping is surprisingly affordable. In fact, I’ve found the shipping of these sites to be less expensive than what many American bonsai retailers can offer me. Two of these retailers I can recommend with confidence.

The first is Bonsai Network Japan.


They have a huge selection of Masakuni, Yoshi, and Nobuichi tools. Also available is a variety of display accessories, copper wire, and books including lots of Kokufu album back issues. To get a shipping price, you must assemble your order and submit it for a quote. To give you an idea, I ordered a large book, knob cutters, grafting tape, and wire cutters. The box was 30 x 20 x 15 cm and weighed over 1 kg. Air shipping from Japan Post was under $12! It arrived in exactly 13 days as promised, with no surprise custom fees. Maki from J-Bonsai is extremely helpful and is clearly experienced in shipping to other countries. I highly recommend this retailer.

Another great retailer is Kaneshin Bonsai Tools.

CaptureAs the name implies, Kaneshin only sells one brand of tools, but their selection is incredible and the tools have a great reputation. They sell just about everything you could want and more. A nice thing about this website is that you can calculate the shipping costs yourself based on the weight of the items ordered. Obviously things get expensive as the size of the order increases, but I would say the economy shipping prices are pretty fair, especially compared to what I’ve seen some vendors in the US quote me.


New Black Pine from Shikoku Bonsai

When I visited Aichi-en in Nagoya last winter I gained a new appreciation for the beauty and strength of Japanese Black Pines. I worked on a couple of them during my stay there and have been shopping around for one (or a few) every since I got back. However, good JBP are hard to come across around here. Bonsai nurseries don’t really exist in the Toronto area – the bonsai community is too small to support them so most of our good material comes from the Canadian Wilderness. If you can find a JBP worth buying in the USA, you have to deal with the hassle of importing it. Regardless, good ones are very rare and usually very expensive since they are usually Japanese imports. Field grown ones are often grown quickly and it shows in their bark characteristic, taper, and scars.

Probably one of the best sources for JBP in Canada (if not the best) is Shikoku Bonsai near Vancouver, BC on the beautiful Sunshine Coast. Gerald Rainville is the proprietor and had the foresight to begin growing a variety of species from seed something like thirty years ago. The tree I got from him is over 20 years from seed and shows the characteristics of a slow, container grown pine (no scars, nice fine bark, no monstrous roots).

Gerald was very helpful in providing information and extra pictures. His shipping methods are excellent and I feel that his prices are very reasonable considering the time that has already been invested in his plants. While this tree still has a long way to go in its bonsai-journey, I think that the development of the trunk thus far is excellent.

I really think we as Canadians are lucky to have someone who is patiently developing material like this. The best part is that the vast majority of his stock is not shown on his website. Gerald has told me that they are “not ready for sale” which really has me excited to see what else he has. A taste of it can be seen on his Facebook page. I definitely hope to visit his nursery one day.

Anyway, lets look at the tree I got.


Likely front.



Trunk detail. I want to make this tree a compact shohin that is about half the current height. This will require a new apex in the middle of the trunk which may have to be grafted.

Trunk detail. Good taper, movement, and placement of the primary branches. I want to make this tree a compact shohin that is about half the current height. This will require a new apex in the bare middle section of the trunk which may have to be grafted.

The focus of this growing season will be inspecting the roots, repotting if necessary, and encouraging backbudding on the branches which have gotten a bit lanky.

A Unique Composition

This is a very interesting trident maple that I did some winter cutting on at Aichi-en back in December. I think Mr. Tanaka’s father started this tree something like 30 years ago. The development of branching and ramification has begun relatively recently, but with the rate at which tridents grow in Nagoya and techniques of the Aichi-en crew, this tree should progress rapidly.

What makes it interesting is that it is planted on (not in) a natural crescent stone. I like this planting because it shows the variety of bonsai that you can find in Japan. I’ve heard the term cookie-cutter used to describe Japanese tree before, but I really don’t think it makes sense. Definitely not for this tree, and not even for the rows of black pines I saw in Japan and in Kokufu albums. Once trees develop age and bonsai maturity, they seem to develop their own character that could not be duplicated if you tried.

I like how the curve of the stone is continued in the curve of the trunk. The dropping branch is a recurring motif on tridents at Aichi-en.

The stone acts as a basin that fills with water. There are roots growing in there, and an entire ecosystem it seems.

An Incredible Grafted (Setsu-goyou) Miyajima White Pine in Japan

Grafted Miyajima White Pine (Pinus parviflora) have a bad reputation because it is difficult to find a specimen with a smooth graft between the black pine base and white pine top. This is probably because the black pine base grows faster and more strongly than the white pine top.

While visiting a private garden in Japan, I saw this masterpiece grafted miyajima white pine. The trunk line was practically flawless, with hardly any swelling or unsightly graft transition (unfortunately not visible in the picture). This is rare even in Japan, making this a very special tree.

To make things even more incredible, the owner told us that this tree had not been detail wired in nearly 30 years! I found that almost impossible to believe. That would be the ultimate display of bonsai maturity and maintenance techniques.

Masterpiece grafted (setsu-goyou) Miyajima White Pine

A Pricey Little Japanese Black Pine

One thing that I found very interesting on my trip to Japan was the prices of bonsai. Take this stunning little (about 20 cm) japanese black pine below for example: it set the owner back ¥1,000,000 (about $12,500).

A cool million yen in the palm of your hand.

Why is this tree so expensive? Probably a number of reasons… small trees seem to be desirable right now, the bark was very good, the nebari and taper were both almost “perfect”, and the branch placement and ramification were outstanding. It is small details like this that make the difference between a ¥10,000 tree and a ¥1,000,000 tree in Japan. Nevertheless, a ¥10,000 tree in Japan is still pretty damn nice 🙂

I wonder if this tree would sell for $12K in North America? Europe? Maybe that isn’t even a fair question to ask given the difference in the markets for bonsai.