What is Bonsai? Bonsai is the art of growing miniature trees. They differ from pot plants because it needs a variety and especial skills that allow the artist to capture the reality of nature in a smaller version.
More than this, bonsai is complex to describe and most of the masters prefer to point out what a bonsai is not, to try and clarify the misunderstanding for most of us. So, bonsai is not a dwarf plant, it is not a genetically modified tree, it is not its own species of tree, but rather, any variety of tree can be grown as a bonsai.
The art of growing trees into a small version dates back to the 7th century. Imported from China, the bonsai only popularized in Japan about 500 years ago. As an artistic expression of the human condition, bonsai got its base in Buddhism, symbolizing the dualism of life. First introduced to the elite, samurais and later to common people. Bonsai gained popularity and was incorporated as one of the most beautiful Japanese traditions. As many other traditional arts, bonsai also requires a lot of dedication and exceptional patience. To grow a bonsai, it can take at least three years.
The black pine bonsai from Kyoto Garden grows at Ryokan Yachiyo and the branch took 30 years to grow. Bonsai requires significant knowledge about the botanic species, ability to shape the truck, clean the roots, and prune the leaves, as well constant care to maintain and keep it alive. The maintenance is critical. Correct watering, replanting and reshaping are what make bonsai very special, such as the one found in Saitama Bonsai Art Museum, which is 550 years old, named as “the third shogun”.
Although, with all its greatness, bonsai had decreased in the past year for several reasons. Time, effort and money are essential to produce it, making bonsai art not very popular among the young Japanese people. Stereotyped as the leisure activity of old men, the Japanese community wants to change this picture.
The current swing of Japanese society has a strong impact on bonsai`s art. The number of enthusiasts has decreased and people are getting busier and busier. In order to fulfill the great demand of production, Japanese spend more and more hours at work. Time is an important factor, and there should be a balance between personal and other social interactions. So, the majority of Japanese people do not dedicate time to growing a bonsai, although they still really appreciate them.
Tourist agencies and cultural groups are taking action to make bonsai more accessible and enjoyable for everyone. The Cultural center and companies in the Saitama prefecture, north of Tokyo, have organized a bonsai themed tour and bonsai classes. Both activities strive to attract foreigners and young Japanese. They offer visits to museums, gardens, shopping and lectures.
The latest report confirmed that they had over a 5000 visitors, including foreigners who had signed up to the tour who were happy to see the amazing collection of bonsai and had the opportunity to learn from the youngest and most rewarded bonsai master, Minoru Akiyama. According to him, bonsai is art that brings nature closer to humans, in the holistic sense. We see trees in nature, but we don’t really look at them in their totality. So, this is the essence of bonsai art to captivate our attention to life.
Considering this, I don’t think I will look at trees the same way. How about you?
Check out this website for more information on how to book your tour!