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LEROY FUJII, Longtime Teacher
JOHN Y. NAKA, Honorary Teacher

This Page Last Updated: March 1, 2006


LEROY FUJII  (June 11, 1925 - November 1, 1998)

RJB, Leroy Fujii and Elsie Andrade
RJB, Leroy and Elsie Andrade at Matsuri (February 1996 or 1997)

Things We Learned From Leroy
(an ongoing compilation of various members' memories of our sensei.)

"Begin where you're at...not where you want to be."

"Learn from your trees: they are a reflection of you."

"First you must know the rules -- the underlying principles of your art --
and then you can break the rules."

"When you go to a show or demonstration, don't try to learn a lot of new things.
Just learn one new thing each time.  Then come back and apply that until you know it well."

"If you're trying to make a cascade with a branch that has been growing more upright,
you can help it by tipping the container on its side for a while
so that nutrients flow easier to the tip of the cascade-branch-to-be."

"If you have several cascades in your collection,
consciously try to redesign one or more so that they curve in a different direction:
we inadvertently tend to develop trees in a particular individual pattern
which can be related to which type of handedness we have."

"Slant style - Trunk line should form an angle of about 45 degrees with the vertical.
The first branch should be located at about half the height of the tree.
For a tree slanting to the right, the first three branches go left, back, and right."

"When you plant a forest, you should stand the trees in their relative positions
and pick the branches and their positions before planting.
The branches should progress in level from one tree to the next."
[The lowest branch is on the shortest tree and the highest branch is on the tallest tree.]

"Natural taper is obtained faster by lifting up a long limb [to be the new apex]
rather than by lifting up a short limb."

"To encourage back budding on a pine branch, prune back almost all of the foliage on the end.
Then put the branch down horizontal or even sloping slightly downward.
Then it will bud back toward the trunk.  Do this in the spring."

"The three most important things are: material, material, material.
It's a lot easier if you start with something of interest that draws your eye in,
a tree with good rootage, thick trunk, quality, rather that spending a lot of time
trying to develop poor material, leggy, spindly, with weak or clumped roots."

"Develop the existing material rather than attempt to bend branches to get movement."

"When you see a bonsai, you should always look closely at how it was developed,
how it was created.  Try to figure out what the artist was trying to convey."

"First, keep the tree alive.  Second, cut it back often."

"Keep your tools in good repair.  Clean them and respect them."

"A good master is not doing his job if he's not learning from his students."

"The greatest compliment a master can receive
is when his trees cannot be told apart from those of some of his students."

Leroy Fujii, 1975
Leroy Fujii at a workshop, Spring 1975.   (B&w version in Designing Dwarfs, pg. 51)


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Paul Matsusaki and Japanese Black Pine     PAUL MATSUSAKI  (May 10, 1906 - April 4, 1970)

       To Paul Matsusaki's many students he was affectionately known as the "professor."  But he insisted that "there isn't a man living that is himself more than a student of the Bonsai."  Paul believed that these dwarf trees can be and do different things to many people.  "To architects the Bonsai provides a study in unpredictable nature; to the interior decorator it provides natural simplicity in contemporary design; and to others it is either an expression of beauty like a classical painting or a means by which ‘today's busy men' can relax."
       "But to me," Paul once explained, "the Bonsai tells something of human life.  Growing as it does in a limited state, the Bonsai retains a powerful will to exist.  No man's life runs smoothly; we are all faced with hardships, yet, unlike most men, the Bonsai, without ‘cussing' or giving up, continues to endure.  They always seem to be so patient with us."
       The first rule of success, according to Paul was, "to study the nature of the tree's natural environment," thus to understand the plant's particular requirements of soil, climate, humidity, water, and food.  "Trimming and shaping a dwarf tree requires skill and understanding but results will always prove rewarding."  He also recommended that unless a person was willing to devote daily care to his Bonsai, he should find another hobby.
(from Designing Dwarfs in the Desert, pp. 26-27)
[The above photo was originally published in The Phoenix Gazette on Saturday, April 27, 1968, pg. 17.]

Paul Matsusaki

These four b&w pictures of Paul at his workbench c.1963 are scans of photos which Michael Wm. Longstreth loaned to RJB along with Mike's unpublished college paper, "The Professor's Bonsai."  ( Designing Dwarfs, pg. 36)
Paul Matsusaki
Paul Matsusaki Paul Matsusaki

Edna Matsusaki
(b. April 22, 1915)

( Designing Dwarfs, pg. 47)

“She has been responsible for hundreds and hundreds of cups of coffee, many mouth watering desserts, bushels of sifted Bonsai soil and gravel, a place to pot trees, plants she has sought in the nursery to become future Bonsai -- and much, much more...”

Edna Matsusaki

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JOHN Y. NAKA   (Aug. 16, 1914 - May 19, 2004)

John Naka and PBS Club Members, 1990

John Naka, Doug Acker, unidentified member, Penny Schneck, Leroy Fujii, and Chuck Wiegand
 at John's house, April 1990.  Photo by Max Miller.

"Bonsai is not the result: that comes after.  Your enjoyment is what is important."

"It must have philosophy, botany, artistry, human quality behind it to be a bonsai."

"The bonsai is not you working on the tree; you have to have the tree work on you."

"You must have spaces between the branches for the birds to be able to fly through."

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