What Happened On This Date in "Recent" Bonsai History?
1919 -- Josephine Finneyfrock was born. [She would graduate
from the University of Maryland School of Nursing, receive her
certification as a Medical Assistant and work for 37 years for a doctor
in the Washington, D.C. area. When the physician died, she
would continue working for his doctor-son. In 1970, she,
Molly Hersh and Jim Newton would found the Potomac Bonsai
Association. She would serve the P.B.A. over the years in almost
every office, and with Molly she would be the behind-the-scenes "glue"
for both Washington BCI conventions, 1976 and 1986. Jo would
serve as Corresponding Secretary on the BCI Board from 1978 to
1981. She would die in 1989.]
("Bonsai World Suffers a Great Loss" by Jean C. Smith,
Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. XXVIII, No. 3, May/June 1989, pg.33)
1923 -- Two minutes before noon, as all of the lunchtime cooking fires were going, the Great Kanto Earthquake (8.3 magnitude) struck the 2.5 million person capital city of Japan. Officially, 142,807 people died or were missing in the five-minute long quake, subsequent fire storm, and thirty-six foot high tidal wave in the main city and suburbs. Over 250 bridges were ignited by falling cinders. Three-quarters of Tokyo was destroyed; neighboring Yokohama was practically wiped out of existence. Ninety of the 237 total aftershocks occurred within the first twenty-four hours. In the two cities combined, nearly six hundred thousand dwellings were destroyed for an estimated loss of $2.8 billion dollars. Many landscape gardens were also damaged or destroyed, and at least two temples in the old capital of Kamakura (only a dozen miles away from Yokohama) were collapsed by the quake.
Why this is important to us: [Near downtown Tokyo was the Kanda area, where bonsai were grown in the backyards. It was one of the areas gutted by the earthquake's firestorm. Following the disaster, the two-year-old Bonsai Promotion Group would be disbanded (but its magazine, Bonsai, would continue). In April 1925, a group of thirty families of professional growers from downtown Tokyo and now under the leadership of Ritaro Shimizu would go looking for a location with cleaner air and water. Having made a contract with Zensaku Kojima (a landlord and a member of the Diet) to borrow a lot, the group would purchase some land in a forest of stately Japanese red pines, cryptomeria, and cherry-trees which was overrun with grass. This was near Hikawa Shrine on the way to Nikko. There, about twenty miles (32 km) north-northwest of Tokyo and at an elevation of about 60' above sea level, they would clear an area of approximately thirty-one hectares (about 76 acres) in the northern part of Omiya Park, settle, and form a Bonsai Mura or Dwarf Tree Village. A carpenter, Kin-ichiro Kusakabe, would settle in and begin building houses. Shimizu, a bonsai master who had had a nursery in Tokyo, would establish the Village's first bonsai nursery in 1925. A monument to him would be raised in the town. Tomekichi Katō would be another of the founders there, as would be Atsuo Kuraishi. These three artists would form the Bonsai Village Cooperative in 1928 with about 20 members. Residency requirements would also be established at that time:
2. Agreeing to open their gardens to the public.
3. No two-story houses.
4. The use of hedge as living fence.
The Bonsai Village would subsequently see the arrival and development of many enthusiasts who would go on to become experts of this art. One of the enthusiasts would be Bimei Chubachi, vice-mayor of Tokyo and a lawyer by profession, who would become a commercial dealer in bonsai at Omiya and help to further popularize the art. Kyuzo Murata would arguably become the most prominent figure from Omiya. At one time on the city's outskirts, the Village would soon became part of Omiya due to rapid urbanization. And the town would be hailed as "the center of the bonsai universe" in Japan. The first two minutes of this video includes several photographs from the early years.]
(The Story of "Bonsai", The Omiya Bonsai Art Museum, Saitama, March 21, 2014, pg. 20)
1938 -- Dan Barton was born in Hong Kong, the last of thirteen children. [He would first acquire an interest in bonsai in 1969, but would never have any formal training and would be essentially self-taught. He would be fortunate in having been trained and qualified in the first instance, as an art teacher, and, later in graphic design with Applied Photography being his main subject. He would be a Senior Lecturer at the Bristol Polytechnic (now the University of the West of England) and finally would be graduated to Head of the Photographic Department. Dan would, for over 25 years, serve as a judge for Bonsai at the Chelsea Flower Show and numerous other Royal Horticultural Society shows. He would receive three Awards for photographs of bonsai trees exhibited at the International Bonsai and Suiseki Exhibition, Osaka, Japan, including the major Award for 1989. His first work on bonsai, The Bonsai Book: The Definitive Illustrated Guide, would be published in 1989 by Ebury Press and would be re-printed several times (with a Spanish translation by 2006). Dan would be a Founder of the Association of British Bonsai Artists (2000), The Bristol Bonsai Society, and The Classical Bonsai Circle. He would create several national Bonsai events such as "The Joy of Bonsai" and "Bonsai UK Exhibition" (BUKEX). He would also receive many other International awards for bonsai. Dan would be made a Member of the British Bonsai Roll of Honour (by FoBBS) for contributions to the furtherance of Bonsai within Britain and he would be honoured in 2006 by the Association of British Bonsai Artists (ABBA) with their "Most Prestigious Award." He would be a guest bonsai demonstrator at numerous Bonsai Conventions in the U.K., most of the European countries, and in America on numerous occasions. In the twenty-first century, he would extend his interests to making individually handcrafted stoneware pots for bonsai with his wife, Cecilia, and they would market these pots under the business name of "Esoteric Pots." The couple would have four children (one deceased) and five grandchildren by 2008.]
"Dan Barton"("Background," http://danbartonbonsaipots.wordpress.com/dan/) SEE ALSO: Jul 25, Sep 26
(Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. XXVI, No. 6, November/December 1987, pg. 9)
1964 -- The Nippon Bonsai Association (Japan Bonsai Society) was founded for the purpose of expanding, advancing and sharing the bonsai art, to enhance the national sentiment on behalf of this art form, as well as to make a contribution to culture in general. The original Society was a private group. [Its purpose was so widely applauded that its growth would be steady and by only Feb. 11, 1965 it would be registered as a public corporation under the auspices of the Japanese Minister of Education. Following the WW II-loss of much traditional bonsai material in Japan, this Association was formed partially to assure bonsai in its mature artistic form would not lose ground to immature tree or kusa planting as popular introductions into the art. The Society would assume the important responsibility of establishing policies, promoting understandings and, to a certain extent, enforcing standards of bonsai culture. An important contribution would be made by the Society in establishing the true bonsai art which had been traditionally cultivated in Japan and it would also serve the advancement of bonsai art throughout the world by raising the level of effort and popularizing this special art form. The Society would cooperate in displays which would bring much praise during the Olympics in Tokyo and it has supervised bonsai exhibitions on a regular basis at Hibiya park in that city.] ("On Behalf of the Japan Bonsai Society, Inc.," pg. III , English edition of Bonsai Masterpieces ( Nippon Bonsai Taikan, "Grand View of Japanese Bonsai and Nature in Four Seasons" ), 1972, translated by Yuji Yoshimura and Samuel H. Beach; Internet Bonsai Club Forum posting by Chris Cochrane, 30 June 2010, http://ibonsaiclub.forumotion.com/kusamono-accent-plantings-f10/i-got-the-idea-from-dan-barton-25-years-ago-t3184.htm#34245) SEE ALSO: Oct 10
1937 -- Jim Lewis was born. [He would live in 37 towns in 8 countries, going to 14 schools before graduating from
high school in Tokyo. He would graduate from San Jose State College (now University) in 1960, and shortly thereafter marry
his wife, Jackie, and spend their honeymoon in La Jolla, CA. Jim would be growing and designing tiny trees since the
mid-1970s. He would become a Master Gardener volunteer with the University of Florida IFAS
Extension in Leon County while living in Tallahassee, FL. One of the earliest and most frequent
contributors to posts of what became known as the Internet Bonsai Club, his comments would date back to May 1994. He also
then would become the rec.arts.bonsai Bonsai List manager some time in 1997 (after Hud Nordin in that position) and later
Internet Bonsai Club administrator. Thanks to Jim's dogged determination the IBC would survive to become what exists today,
a growing contributor to the world bonsai community. During this time he would share his intimate familiarity with
native Southern species for use as bonsai, particularly Red Maple and Bald Cypress. His personal collection would number
as high as 200 specimens. (And dogs kept would number in the scores.) Jim and Jackie's married son and married daughter
would produce their own families, but always stay close. In 2006 the couple would move to Columbus, NC, a small town (c.1000 people)
in the southwestern part of the state, just a few miles north of the border with South Carolina and 78 miles west of Charlotte,
NC. Jim's involvement with the IBC would continue uninterrupted. A collector of Japanese, and to a limited extent
Chinese, art, Jim would also have a small (8 acre) horsefarm to maintain in NC. This would be after having travelled to Hong
Kong, Japan, the Philippines, and other places with Jackie where he'd also "spent so many years of my misspent youth."
(Jim would also be influential since the earliest days of this historical archive, phoenixbonsai.com.)]
Jim Lewis, 04/13/01.(Lewis, Jim "Bonsai -- For Christmas?" Dec. 8, 2002, http://leon.ifas.ufl.edu/News_Columns/2002/120802.pdf; http://www.bonsaitreeforums.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-5592.html; http://www.garden-groups.com/goto/7616/%5BIBC%5D_California_Bound.html; http://www.gardenbanter.co.uk/bonsai/46361-ibc-admin-future-list-very-important-long.html; Post by Chris Cochrane on "Bonsai on the Internet history," 3 Feb 2006, to BONSAI@HOME.EASE.LSOFT.COM; http://www.huff-n-puff.net/newforum/viewtopic.php?p=30944&sid=7e2e5ca7f20ae0e568fde6c32cc72e44 ; http://ibonsaiclub.forumotion.com/t7304-valavanis-open-house-free-demos#75502; http://www.usenetmessages.com/view.php?c=recreational&g=1354&id=27199&p=0; http://www.gardenbanter.co.uk/bonsai/48711-ibc-holiday-travel-nawthward-ho.html; http://www.evergreengardenworks.com/redmaple.htm; http://www.gardenerscorner.org/subject012112.htm; http://www.bonsaitreeforums.com/forums/showthread.php?5229-JIM-Lewis-and-IBC-Virus) SEE ALSO: Apr 9, Sep 28
(Photo courtesy of Alan Walker, 05/11/07)
1951 -- William N. Valavanis was born in Waukegan, Illinois. [At age 11 he would begin to pot seedlings and bend them into bonsai shapes. At age 15, in Charleston, West Virginia, he would begin to exhibit and lecture on bonsai at local garden clubs, and the following year would start the "House of Bonsai" business. The summer of 1970 would be spent studying in the garden of Kyuzo Murata in Omiya, Japan, and the following year Bill would graduate from The State University of New York Agricultural and Technical College at Farmingdale, Long Island, NY with a degree in Ornamental Horticulture. The next year would be back to Japan to study bonsai with Kakutaro Komuro and Toshio Kawamoto, bonsai chrysanthemums with Tameji Nakajima, and earn a master's teaching certificate in ikebana from the Shofu School. Returning to his home in Rochester, NY, Bill would have to redevelop the bonsai collection which he mostly sold to finance his study in Japan. A degree in Floriculture and Ornamental Horticulture from Cornell University would follow in 1976 on the heels of several months study at Yuji Yoshimura's School of Bonsai in Briarcliff Manor, NY. During his school days Bill would continue to teach, train and sell bonsai; at Briarcliff he'd conduct introductory and intermediate level bonsai courses. Returning from another trip to Japan in 1978, the business' name would be changed to "The International Bonsai Arboretum" and Bill would begin publishing the quarterly International Bonsai magazine in the spring of 1979. A number of the articles in it would be translated from the best Japanese bonsai magazines. Beginning in 1981 and running through 2011 he would host a two to four-day long annual seminar/workshop in September on a given type or style of tree. One hundred and fifty to two hundred participants each year would attend and be taught by a local, national and international faculty. Bill would continue to teach classical bonsai art. He would author many articles which would be printed in English, Japanese, and European publications. He would make made TV appearances in North America, Japan, Korea, Italy, and Australia. He would be a frequent contributor to the Internet Bonsai Club forum. In June 2008 he would hold the first biennial U.S. National Bonsai Exhbition, with its companion commemorative album coming out soon after. On late January, 2009 fire would destroy much of Bill's house and office. A few fund-raisers by the bonsai community would help a little in the long rebuilding process, but the world's longest-running independent English-language periodical would not skip a single issue. Bill would go on to do increasing numbers of demonstrations nationally and internationally. Except for 2009 and 2010 (for health reasons), Bill would lead an annual group tour to Japanese bonsai sites and the Kokufu Bonsai Ten -- which pages on this web site he would generously assist in building, as well as the Teacher Lineage page. He would hold the 2nd and 3rd U.S. National Bonsai Exhibitions in June of 2010 and 2012 respectively, again, with commemorative albums afterwards. The Wikipedia article about him would be set up in mid-October 2011. And he would author the large format Fine Bonsai: Art & Nature (Abbeville Press Publishers) in 2012 with 596 digital color photos (including 4 gate folds) by Jonathan M. Singer, followed the next year by Classical Bonsai Art, A Half Century of Bonsai Study (International Bonsai). This latter gorgeous work would highlight the development over the years of 100 trees in his personal collection and also act as a detailed presentation of the principles of the art, including the shohin compositions.]
Bill Valavanis and Yuji Yoshimura, 1969.
(Photo courtesy of Alan Walker, 05/11/07)
(Bonsai, BCI, November 1971, pg. 10)
Bill Valavanis, 04/11/2003(bio, International Bonsai, 1986/No. 2, pg. 13; some of the trees of WNV, http://www.artofbonsai.org/galleries/valavanis.php) SEE ALSO: Oct 11
(Photo courtesy of Alan Walker, 05/11/07)
1979 -- Susumu Sudo opened his "Masterpiece Bonsai Garden" on the rooftop
of the Ginza branch Mitsukoshi department store
in Tokyo, Japan.
Susumo is a young master of the contemporary bonsai world and is proprietor
of the famous Chikufu-en Bonsai Garden located in Tochigi Prefecture, about
an hour and a half from the capital. At Mitsukoshi, approximately
fifty bonsai are always on display against a bamboo fence or in a large
water basin. Commercial quality, contemporary styled bonsai of various
species are offered for sale. Additionally, a small indoor showroom
is used for antique and new Chinese containers, books, and Masakuni bonsai tools.
"Masterpiece bonsai garden, operated by Susumu Sudo, on the rooftop of the
Mitsukoshi department store in Tokyo, Japan."
(International Bonsai, Spring 1980, pg. 30)
"Susumu Sudo in front of a tokonoma display("Masterpiece Bonsai Garden Opens" in International Bonsai, IBA, Spring 80, pg. 30)
featuring a newly acquired five-needle pine."
(ABS Bonsai Journal, Spring 1992, pg. 18)
|6||1991 -- Grandmaster Kyuzo Murata, proprietor of the Kyuka-en Bonsai Garden in Omiya, Japan and caretaker of the Imperial Bonsai Collection in Toyko, died at the age of 89. ("Editor's Note," Bonsai Journal, ABS, Spring 1992, pg. 28) SEE ALSO: Sep Also, Nov 24|
1913 -- Kahn Komai was born in Los Angeles, the second son of the founding publisher Henry Toyosaku ("H.T.") Komai of the
Rafu Shimpo, the premier bilingual Japanese-American newspaper of the L.A. community. [Kahn would visit Japan
for two years with his older brother, Akira. The younger would audit some courses at the Nippon University in Tokyo
and be tutored in Japanese history, ethics, and grammar. Mostly, though, he would spend time wandering around the
countryside, accumulating things Japanese. Back in the U.S., he would finish his education at the University of
California at Los Angeles with a degree in political science, work as a city clerk for Los Angeles, and as a newspaperman
for Rafu Shimpo. Khan would meet Kay Nagata, adopted daughter of teacher and nurseryman Fusaji "Frank" B. Nagata,
the Dean of Southern California bonsai nurserymen. Khan and Kay would marry on Dec. 8, 1940, but their first anniversary
celebration would be cut a day short due to the attack by Imperial Japanese forces on the naval base at Pearl Harbor.
Beginning the next April, the Nagatas and Komais would join many of their fellow Japanese-Americans at the Santa Anita Race
Track in preparation for placement at a Relocation Camp. That September they would go to a Colorado camp. After a
year Khan would manage to get out of camp with a job with the Cincinnati Chemical Company, making the insecticide DDT.
[At the end of the war, he would return to the West Coast, get a job at a nursery in 1946, and send for Frank Nagata, who had spent the war in Colorado. Together, they would build up a gardening route. "Dad started a new bonsai collection. On Sunday we would pack the car and do all of the nurseries. In those days, in the back of the nurseries there was plenty of bonsai material. It was fun, but I still thought of it as an old man's hobby." Frank would open a nursery in 1950, eventually bringing in material from Japan. Khan would assist, sometimes translating for non-Japanese customers, but would never design a tree of his own. A Father's Day gift in 1955 of a one-gallon-size Japanese black pine and Atlantic cedar would change his attitude. The cedar would be dead in six months, but Khan would soon have a benchful of bonsai. "For a long time I wanted someone to tell me what was right and what was wrong. Dad does not teach by rules, and I am glad. It took longer but it was better." (Frank would teach in a manner which in the western tradition resembled the Socratic dialogue. Instead of giving a direct answer which would make an interesting tree but a rigid student, he would open up alternative options which would make it easier for the student to decide what he wanted the tree to be.) Kahn would open his own nursery in Temple City in 1958, and would himself become an influential figure in that state's bonsai. Khan and wife Kay would be among the founders of the Santa Anita Bonsai Society in 1965 and the Golden State Bonsai Federation in 1978.]
"Well-known Bonsai Artist Khan Komai leaning in front of the classroom in the("In Memory" by Marybel Balendonck, Bonsai Magazine, BCI, September/October 1996, pg. 28; Place, Dorothy M. "Winter Silhouettes Bonsai Exhibition," Golden Statements, GSBF, Vol. XXXII, No. 2, March/April 2009, pp. 15-16; Donovan, Earl H. "The Komai Window," Bonsai Journal, ABS, Vol. 8, No. 2, Summer 1974, pp. 38-39, which includes the two quotes) SEE ALSO: Apr Also, Jun 19
Komai Bonsai Nursery, Temple City, California. Photo courtesy of Dr. Juyne Tayson."
(Bonsai Magazine, BCI, June 1978, pg. 151)
1925 -- James J. Smith was born in Evansville, Indiana. [In 1950 after reading about bonsai in garden magazines he would order the year-old book entitled How to Grow Living Miniature Ming Trees at home by John Kiktavi and four packets of seeds form National Nursery Supply in Inglewood, California. The seeds would germinate but none of them ever became a bonsai. It would, however, start a "love affair" with bonsai. At this time the only book that would be available to Jim was a book by Norio Kobayshi published in 1951 by the Japan Travel Bureau and later the 1957 book by Yuji Yoshimura. These would be his teachers. Since then he would become an accomplished bonsai artist recognized around the world. In 1956 he and his wife Billie would move their family of four boys to Vero Beach, FL, where he would discover tropical bonsai. Jim would study under some of the most accomplished bonsai teachers in America, such as Yoshimura, John Naka, and Tosh Saburomaru, to name a few. Jim would found the Treasure Coast Bonsai Society in 1975. He would exhibit his trees at the Miami Bonsai Clubs International Convention (BCI) in 1975, at all the Bonsai Societies of Florida (BSF) conventions since 1976, at all the BCI Conventions in Florida, at all the Epcot Flower shows, and at the 1993 World Bonsai Friendship Federation (WBFF) in Orlando. Jim would write many articles for bonsai publications and pictures of his bonsai would be seen in books published around the world. He would conduct workshops and demonstrations in many major venues.
[In 1979, he and his son Doug would start the Dura-Stone Nursery and would provide quality bonsai and pre-bonsai to his wholesale customers. The Nursery would be open to the public from 8-5 on weekdays or by appointment. Jim would patiently and freely give advice derived from his years of experience in bonsai to all enthusiasts.
[On Nov. 15, 2009, Doug would pass away while in hospice for cancer.]
"Jim Smith conducting innovative workshop for 16 children at WBFF '93 using
Ficus Neriifolia (also known as Salicifolia) to inspire these upcoming bonsaiists."
(He also gave a demonstration using the same species by creating a 21-tree
Literati style forest, tightly gathered into a 22-inch oval tray.)
(Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. XXXII, No. 5, September/October 1993, pg. 29)
Jim Smith, by Walter Pall, 03/03/2003("A living tribute to the bonsai styling of James J. Smith," http://www.jimsmithbonsai.com/; "The Bonsai of Jim Smith," http://www.artofbonsai.org/galleries/jsmith.php) SEE ALSO: Apr 1, Apr 16, Apr 29, Jul Also, Sep 15
(Photo courtesy of Alan Walker, 05/11/07)