What Happened On This Day in "Recent" Bonsai History?


Days 11 - 20
Days 21 - 31 +

 2 1945 -- Otto Lee Holdakowski died in California and was buried in Los Angeles National Cemetery.  [The whereabouts of his collection of several hundred bonsai -- estimated a few years earlier to be worth about $100,000 -- is unknown to us at this time.]   (   SEE ALSO: Mar 22
 4 1942 -- Felix Benjamin Laughlin was born.  [He would be educated at the University of Tennessee College of Law.  In 1967 he would achieve the J.D. degree and membership in the Order of the Coif honor society.  Over the next few years he would serve in several senior positions in the chief counsel's office in the National Office of the Internal Revenue Service where he would have policy and technical responsibility for corporate transactions and tax accounting issues.  In 1971 Laughlin would achieve the LL.M. degree from the University of Georgetown College of Law.  The following year, he would be living in a claustrophobic apartment next to the garbage chute on New York's Upper East Side.  Felix would now be working seven days a week as a corporate tax attorney at a large law firm in New York.  Sensing that he would need an activity outside of the daily grind of corporate tax -- perhaps one that would alleviate his increasing stress -- his wife would come home one day with a bonsai.  At the time he would know nothing of the miniature trees but would be hooked immediately.  He would learn this blend of art and horticulture in his tiny New York apartment, where he would water his growing collection of plants when they needed to be watered (which was daily).  In the winter months, when they would be dormant and need to be in a dark, cold place, Felix would use every inch of his refrigerator to store the plants.  His wife would like this because it'd mean that the couple ate out all the time.  As the years went by, his collection would grow, as did his love of bonsai.  In 1977 he would move to Washington, D.C. to open the office there for Dewey Ballantine LLP and continue his work as a corporate tax attorney.  Of course, he would bring his trees with him.  He would become involved with the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum, the world's most comprehensive museum featuring both the Japanese art of bonsai and its Chinese counterpart, penjing.  From that involvement he would help establish the National Bonsai Foundation in 1982, and go on to become the third President of the NBF in 1996.  In 2001 in Munich, Germany for the Fourth World Bonsai Convention, Felix would become the new World Bonsai Friendship Federation chairman, as he was at the time president of the North American Bonsai Foundation, which was chosen to host the Fifth World Bonsai Convention in 2005.  Upon retirement from the tax world, he and wife Betty Gayle would move with his trees in 2011 from Washington, DC to Asheville, North Carolina.  He would then become a Member of the Board for the North Carolina Arboretum.]    (Felix B. Laughlin at Caplin & Drysdale; Laughlin, Felix, "Finding Balance With Bonsai Trees", Huffington Post, May 3, 2012; History & Milestones, National Bonsai Foundation; The History of the World Bonsai Friendship Federation (WBFF); EXPO 2011 in NC - Felix Laughlin, Walter Pall's Travelogues, Oct 13, 2011)   SEE ALSO: Oct 8

1952 -- Daniel Joseph Chiplis was born in Indianapolis, IN.  [His involvement in bonsai would begin when was 17.  Later, he would study with international teachers while pursuing horticulture degrees which would lead him to work for the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. and then the Smithsonian Institution.] (SSN Master File by Number)   SEE ALSO: Sep 29

1981 -- In order to promote the Chinese penjing art and bring together professionals, enlarge the team of amateurs, make spiritual contributions to the traditional art form and befriend other international sister associations so as to improve skills and exchange experiences, the China Flower and Penjing Association was formed.  [The association would be run by a management committee and an executive management committee.  Committee members with academic achievements would be recommended and elected by the other organizations to hold office.   The first management committee would be formed in 1990, with Professor Wang Ju Yuan working as chairman of the association.  A new management committee would be formed in 1995.  International activities would include anticipation in or holding of the Asia Pacific Penjing and Suiseki Conventions and Exhibitions.  Other activities organized would be penjing study classes (three times), theoretical discourses on penjing (twice), and a symposium on penjing publications, as well as the regular organizing and experiencing of exchange parties, workshops, group studies and specific talks, etc.  There would be over 80 organizational members of this body spread over the nation by 2004.]   ("The Organization and Activity of Penjing in China," by  Prof. Su Xuehen, WBFF Director of China Region, World Bonsai Friendship Federation,, accessed 05/31/04.)

1981 -- The First Japan Grandview Bonsai Exhibition (Nippon Bonsai Taikan Ten) began today and would run until the 8th.  It was advertised as the largest indoor display in bonsai history.  [This would be another of the exhibits held for hobbyists although many of the better trees would have been styled and maintained by bonsai professionals.  Moved slightly to be held in late November, this largest late-season show would feature bonsai, satsuki azaleas, and suiseki.  The Nippon Bonsai Association, the Taikan Ten Organizing Committee, the City of Kyoto, and the local Kyoto Television and Newspaper companies would jointly sponsor this exhibit.  It would gain popularity and notice in part due to the widely publicized bonsai contest sponsored by Japan Airlines (JAL).  This would be a worldwide contest where individuals submit photographs of their best bonsai for judging by an expert panel.  The winners of this annual contest would be flown to Kyoto where the photographs of their prize-winning bonsai are displayed at the Taikan Ten exhibition.  The Taikan Ten, held in the Kansai region, Kyoto, would have a slightly different mix of trees than would the February Kokufu Ten, held in the Kanto region, Tokyo.]     ("The Second Grandview Bonsai Exhibition" by William N. Valavanis, International Bonsai, IBA, 1983/No. 1, pp. 12-13; "The Best Bonsai and Suiseki Exhibits in Japan" by Thomas S. Elias,, originally in the May/June 2002 issue of Bonsai Clubs International's Bonsai Magazine.)
 5 1978 -- The Montreal Bonsai Society (La Société de Bonsaï de Montréal) was formed.  [Although initially having only a few members, the general public would become interested in the art because of a 1980 Floralies Internationales held in Montreal which included a presentation to the city of an important collection of penjing and bonsai from the Chinese and Japanese governments.  The society 's first public display would be made in the spring of 1982.  Development would quickly progress after that, and by its tenth anniversary it would host the international congress of  the American Bonsai Society's Congress, July 6-10, 1988.  In January 1991 it would be renamed the la Société de bonsaï et penjing de Montréal.  By the group's 25th anniversary it would have had over 2,000 members with 300 current active members, continuing to welcome bonsai masters from all over the world to come and teach.]   ("Bientôt 25 ans...," ; Easterbrook, David "Montreal 1988," Bonsai Journal, ABS, Vol. 21, No. 4, Winter 1987, pg. 9)
 6 1900 -- Zeko Nakamura was born in Japan.  [He would go on to become the world's expert on very small bonsai, mame.] (Personal e-mail from Yukio Murata to RJB, Apr. 22, 2006)   SEE ALSO: Dec 9
 7 2016 -- The two-day Bonsai Without Borders (BWB) Global Summit and Black Scissors Bonsai Creators Convention began in Nanxun, a beautiful ancient city perhaps a few hours from Shanghai, China.  The event was co-hosted by the Huzhou Nanxun Phoenix Cultural Tourism Development Group and the BWB Global Summit and Black Scissors Community.  Su Fang, President of the Chinese Penjing Artists Association was also the co-founder of the "Black Scissors Community," and promoter of Chinese penjing.  This is a movement of new bonsai culture spirit, neither formally organized nor with president or members, so anyone who feels having the Black Scissors spirit can call himself/herself a Black Scissors fellow.  Black Scissors will remain as an informal and inclusive community which is cross-nation, cross-culture, cross-religion, cross-gender, and cross-generation.  Their mission is to promote the spirit of inclusive and respective bonsai sisterhood, spirit of enthusiasm to explore new ideas, spirit of freedom to create and to express, spirit of motivation to encourage and to share creativity of bonsai art in order to lift bonsai art to higher level in a new perspective.  Free from bonsai politics.  During the 2 years since its founding, Black Scissors has been spreading like mushrooms after rain all over the world.  It becomes phenomenal as a new world bonsai culture movement on the spirit being promoted.  There were now 33 international bonsai organizations from 22 countries which had joined the KOSBI Sister Community to promote the Black Scissors spirit.
        Black Scissors Founder Su Fang and his assistant Mia Wang worked very hard to organize and conduct the historic Bonsai Without Borders convention.  Nearly 300 bonsai leaders from around the world were invited to attend the BWB Global Summit from 35 countries, the first world convention initiated by China, the origin country of bonsai/penjing.  The summit included media and honored guests, as well as 70 bonsai/penjing artists from those 35 countries for a demonstration.
        The two-day convention began with an Opening Ceremony, complete with loud music and a variety of lighting.  In the afternoon attendees were bussed to the Shuanglin Guiran Bonsai Garden for a bonsai exhibition and demonstrations.  There were about 50 large and a few small beautiful bonsai on display surrounding the demonstration area.
        The demonstration by the 70 bonsai/penjing artists was truly unique and well-done.  Upon entering the large greenhouse with shade cloth each artist picked a ball by lottery indicating which tree he or she was to work on.  Nobody knew which tree was theirs, or were they where to demonstrate from.  The large-size Chinese junipers were 20 years old and had been wired twice.  They were huge, all potted in identical containers in a soil, which looked like concrete.  Each must have weighed 100 lbs (approx. 45 kilos).  All the artists were provided with a complete selection of wire and the trees were placed on small, but strong and sturdy turntables.  Each artist had a shelf where they could put tools and other articles out of the way.  A trash box as well as a full bag of Japanese akadama soil, drinking water, a can of beer and wooden blocks for changing the angle of the tree were provided.  Many of the trees were created into cascade-style bonsai.  Additionally a carpeted strong wooden box was provided for every artist to stand on while working on the trees.
        Following the four-hour part 1 of the demonstrations, the artists returned to the hotel for the BWB Ball.  People were asked to dress in their country's native dress.
        The final day began with part 2 of the demonstrations.  Depending on the complexity of the composition and amount of dead wood, fine wiring was not always completed, but the basic design was there.  Many of the demonstrators had time to pot their trees into bonsai containers.  All the trees were photographed against a black background for the upcoming book.  In addition, the garden's sales area had great containers, display tables and more for sale there.
        In the afternoon, the artists returned to the hotel for the BWB Forum where 25 bonsai leaders from around the world spoke and showed images of their country's bonsai, activities, and their thoughts on the Black Scissors creative bonsai movement.
        In the evening of the final day everyone was bussed to another hotel for the BWBonsai Gala, a black tie formal event that began with an interesting and educational illustrated short program on the history of Chinese penjing.  Following was loud music and lighting, which looked like a stage show complete with stage girls, singers and even a belly dancer.  People partied and danced, a great finale to this wonderful event.  U.S. demonstrator Bjorn Bjorholm posted an early video immediately afterwards.  Additional videos posted include Felipe Dallorto's in Portuguese and several by Bonsai Empire.

(Valavanis, William N. "Bonsai Without Borders Global Summit," Valavanis Blg, December 10, 2016, with many pictures; Corrections and clarifcations by Robert Steven on Dec. 11 to Bill's posting on Facebook.)   SEE ALSO: Jun 25, Nov 22
 9 1989 -- Zeko Nakamura died.  (Born in 1900, he had been a Zen Buddhist acolyte as a child, but changed his work and became a comic actor c.1920 when he and his friends established a comic troupe named "Casino Follies."  He became a comedian and supporting actor in movies and television, and a small bonsai (mame) expert.  Following the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and still a bachelor, he found life so dreary in a wide stretch of burned ruins that he followed a friend's advice and placed bonsai of maple and pine trees on the roof of his boarding house.  He lost some 500 pots during WWII by air raids and fire.  In the late 1960s he held a very successful special show of "bonsai and pots" in Tokyo with Mrs. Teruko Tsuji, one of the foremost ceramists in Japan.  (One result of this was an increase of women growing mame bonsai, formerly an exclusively male hobby.)  About this time he authored two books in Japanese on his 40-year experience in growing small bonsai.  Shufunotomo Co., Ltd. brought out an English translation in 1973 as Bonsai Miniatures Quick & Easy.  One of his first maples he bought back 45 years later and it was a happy reunion: "Each bonsai has its 'face' that I can recognize as easily as my 'child' which I brought up."  Articles by Nakamura were published in the U.S. in both of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden handbooks on bonsai.  A color movie was made featuring him working on his bonsai.  He enlisted the help of his entire family, including his 92-year-old mother, to water his mame when he was away on tour.  When he was in town, he returned to the house between performances to tend the trees.  Thirty-four members of the U.S. tour to Bonsai Expo '70 visited his home and collection that March.  His limited English proved no problem as "there were only my friends and I enjoying bonsai."  He kept between one and two thousand small bonsai in his garden of 200 sq meters.  At the time he was touring Japan as chairman of the All Japan Small-Bonsai Society.  He accepted an invitation to visit Australia around age 70 to be the patron (advisor) for their Mame Bonsai Association.  A small part of a group of 17 Americans on a bonsai study tour in November 1971 visited Nakamura.  Coincidentally, shortly after this Nakamura took ill and was confined to his bed during the first half of 1972, but then returned home from the hospital and was said to be recovering nicely.  He continued to receive visitors for years afterwards.)

Zeko Nakamura, ABS Bonsai Journal, Spring 1983, pg. 2
"Zeko Nakamura with two of his collected bonsai. The Dandelion is in seed head and is planted in an Australian container.
The small willow came from a movie location in the mountains and is planted in a freeform 'stone'-like container.
Photograph was made prior to 1972 and came from Zeko's collection."
(Bonsai Journal, ABS, Spring 1983, pg. 2)

Zeko Nakamura minidisplay, Bonsai Magazine, BCI, October 1972, cover
"This is a 'beauty spot' for a miniature Tokonoma, and follows great Japanese Tradition"
(Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. XI, No. 8, October 1972, cover and pg. 2)

(Personal e-mail from Yukio Murata to RJB, Apr. 22, 2006; Bonsai Journal, ABS, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp. 9, 15; Vol. 3, No. 3, pg. 16; Vol. 4, No. 1, pg. 16 has a short article and 3 b&w photos about bonsai and pot exhibit; Vol. 4, No. 3, pg. 17; "The Art of Bonsai" by Jean O'Connell, Science Digest, March 1970, pg. 37; "Mame Bonsai Societies," Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. X, No. 6, July/August 1971, pg. 14, "free translation by T. Usami from a news paper article of a Tokyo Shinbun"; "A visit with Zeko Nakamura and his trees" by Donald M. Vining, Horticulture, July 1972, pp. 32-35; "Zeko Nakamura Is Ill," Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. XI, No. 5, June 1972, pg. 7; "Mr. Zeko Nakamura Is Recuperating!," Vol. XI, No. 7, September 1972, pg. 11, with b&w photos by Dave Bartruff on pp. 9 and 11; See also movie credits from the 1930s-60s.  It is not known if any of his mame ever appeared with him.)

1990 -- The first four postage stamps and a souvenir sheet of the series "Bonsai" were issued by the Maldive Islands to commemorate Expo '90, International Garden and Greenery Exposition in Osaka, Japan.  [The balance would be issued on Jan. 29, 1991]   SEE ALSO: Jan 23, Jan 29, Feb 3, Feb 16, Mar 1, Mar 27, Mar 31, Apr 3, Apr 6, Apr 18, May 6, May 29, Jun 16, Jul 20, Aug 20, Aug 22, Sep 22, Oct 1, Oct 4.

2011 -- Willi Benz died at age 80.  (As long as his health allowed he worked untiringly for the spread of the arts of Bonsai and Suiseki.  His commitment received proper recognition.  Japan awarded him the "Order of the Rising Sun," the highest Japanese order which can be awarded to foreigners.)  (Posting by Walter Pall to Internet Bonsai Club on 10 Dec 2011 listing death date as "yesterday,"; EBA website gave date as 10 Dec,, accessed 14 Dec; personal e-mail from Rob Kempinski to RJB on 14 Dec 2011 clarifying date: "According to the e-mail I received from his wife it was Dec 9, 2011.")   SEE ALSO: Feb 15
10  1874 -- Yorinaga Matsudaira was born in Japan.  [He would go on to become one of the most well-known growers and collectors of miniature bonsai, in addition to being elected the first president of the Kokufu Bonsai Association.] (Personal e-mail from Yukio Murata to RJB, Apr. 22, 2006)   SEE ALSO: Sep 13

Days 11 - 20
Days 21 - 31 +



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