Kokufu Bonsai Ten, Part VI

("National Bonsai Exhibition")

Kokufu ten calligraphy
Koku       Fu          Bon        Sai       Ten

Compiled by Robert J. Baran, with William N. Valavanis

This Page Last Updated: March 18, 2017

The Shows by Year
Some Photos
Some Albums


A personal e-mail reply from Dr. Tom Elias to RJB on 26 Sep 2005 started this quest when an initial listing of shows and years uncovered several discrepencies.

William N. Valavanis personal e-mails to RJB on 30 Oct 2005, 31 Oct, 01 Nov, 19 Nov 2005; 02 Feb 2006, 07 Feb, 12 Feb, 15 Feb, 16 Feb, 19 Feb, 19 June 2006; 30 May 2007, 31 May, 08 Jun 2007; 06 Jan 2010, 07 Jan, 28 Jan, 02 Feb, 07 Feb, 08 Feb, 15 Feb, 21 Feb, 25 Feb 2010; 20 Feb 2011; and 9 Feb 2014.  "No album published" for the 17th and 18th shows per Kunio Kobayashi, in e-mail from WNV to RJB 18 June 2010.  Most of the show pictures above are from Bill, including all the color photos of the 2006 show, reprinted by permission.  Also, his IBC Gallery post Aug. 11, 2005, Reply #7 to http://internetbonsaiclub.org/index.php?option=com_smf&Itemid=132&topic=16391.0.  His IBC Gallery post June 8, 2007, http://web.archive.org/web/20080803064107/http://internetbonsaiclub.org/index.php?option=com_smf&Itemid=133&topic=21952.0 et al.  and IBC Forum postings 15 and 16 Feb 2011, http://ibonsaiclub.forumotion.com/t5641-2011-85th-kokufu-bonsai-exhibition.  Dates per the NBA's 3-volume Bonsai Encyclopedia and various older Kokufu Ten albums.  The display count for 1965 is from a Correction in the July 2007 AisekiKai.com newsletter, pg. 7 by Bill Valavanis.  Bill first viewed the exhibition in 1972 while as an apprentice in Omiya.  By 2008, he had seen the show perhaps 25 times.  He missed the shows in 2009 and 2010 because of a broken foot each winter, but then returned after that.

RJB and Bill Valavanis at the ABS/BCI Convention in Denver
RJB and Bill at the ABS/BCI Convention in Denver,
June 23, 2012   (Photo by Kenny Asher)

Photos and stats from the 2015 show from WNV's blog, beginning with Part I of the show,

Photos and stats from the 2014 show from WNV's blog, beginning with Part I of the show, http://valavanisbonsaiblog.com/2014/02/05/2014-88th-kokufu-bonsai-exhibition-part-1-2/.

Photos and stats from the 2012 show from WNV's posting to Internet Bonsai Club, 9 Feb 2012, http://ibonsaiclub.forumotion.com/t9120-2012-kokufu-bonsai-exhibition-report.

Show statistics for 2010 from 13 Feb 2010 e-mail to RJB forwarded from Yasue Dambara's reply to Wm. N. Valavanis.

Eight broken links on the first page brought to RJB's attention by Jogaila Mackevicius in 26 Jan 2017 e-mail when the latter was working on Lithuanian translation.

Koreshoff, Deborah R.  Bonsai: Its Art, Science, History and Philosophy (Brisbane, Australia: Boolarong Publications, 1984), pg. 10, with footnote 31: Kobayashi, Norio "History of Bonsai" -- excerpted and translated from a series of articles appearing in "Bonsai-Tsu," in Western Suburbs Bonsai Journal, Oct. 1972, pg. 10:
      "March 1934, however, marks an event of considerable importance.  It was the first Kokufu-kai bonsai exhibition held at Ueno Park, Tokyo, in the grounds of the Art Gallery -- and, since the gallery has always been extremely selective in the types of shows it allows there, this gave bonsai a new status.  It was now unquestionable that bonsai was an accepted and respected art form.
      "Two exhibitions were held that year at Ueno Park -- one in spring and one in autumn [sic].  These shows became annual events -- being suspended only during the Pacific War and being resumed in 1947."

This two paragraph quote, almost verbatim, can be found on pg. 24 of Bonsai: Japan Tourist Bureau No. 13, published in 1950. (1960 edition reviewed).  The two paragraphs are also in more or less the same form in New Zealander E.A. Scarrow's article "Bonsai," Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. VII, No. 10, Dec. 1968-Jan. 1969, pp. 7-8.

Morita, Kazuya and NBA Editorial Staff "Bonsai in Japan," in Tsukiyama, Ted T. (ed.) Bonsai of the World, Book I (Japan: World Bonsai Friendship Federation, 1993), pg. 89, including fourth Kokufu show picture.

Personal e-mail from Rune Kyrdalen to RJB 01 Oct 2006 which gives numbering of early shows per the 1983 Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition Fifty Years' History.

Nippon Bonsai Association  Classic Bonsai of Japan (Tokyo and New York: Kodansha International, 1989), pg. 172, caption for color plate 31. A slightly cropped copy of the above left-hand First Kokufu show picture can be found on pg. 155.

"1987 National Bonsai Exhibition (Kokufu Ten)," International Bonsai, 1988/No. 3, pg. 30, 61st Kokufu show picture.

WBC 5 Presenters, Hiroshi Takeyama, http://www.bonsai-wbff.org/wbc5/presenters/htakeyama.htm.

Looking at the various ads that Sanborn Shipping Service placed in BCI's Bonsai Magazine during the 1970's, one notices that b&w albums No. 42-45 are offered for sale, as well as color No. 47+.  The first color album No. 46 is not offered -- at least not initially.  RJB believes that this is because it became such a collector's item immediately upon publication.

Album dimensions and page counts from 1973 onward were mostly gotten from offers seen on ebay.com, ebay.ca, ebay.co.uk, ebay.com.au, or Dallas Bonsai Garden.

Some album dimensions and page counts for the years 1934 through 1969 are from listings in the National Agricultural Library (AGRICOLA), http://agricola.nal.usda.gov/, using the search request keyword of "bonsai."  The information about the Zen Nihon Bonsai Ten is also from this source.

Other dimensions and page counts were discovered on this French page "Catalogues Kokufu-Ten", which apparently also derived some of its information from these pages of ours in a kind of mutual feed-back.  Note that there are more albums shown here than we have.

2000 show tree stats per rec.arts.bonsai posting by Lynn Boyd, February 23, 2000, "KOKUFU-TEN - experienced" (hardcopy in RJB's files).

GardenBanter posting by Jim Lewis "Tokyo," 16 Mar 2003, http://www.gardenbanter.co.uk.showpost.php?p=62400&postcount=1.

Photo of Yuji Yoshimura at 1952 show per International Bonsai, 1998/No. 1, pg. 31, which gives the show number (erroneously) as the 27th.  (Or was the show actually No. 27 in 1953?)

Masakuni tree from back cover ad International Bonsai, 1986/No. 1.

Nakamura Mame Bonsai in 1971 per Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. X, No. 3, April 1971, pg. 3, "Picture from Mako Usami."

1984 pictures (room and three prize winning trees) per International Bonsai, 1985/No. 3, pg. 25.

2007 stats per International Bonsai, 2007/No. 2, pg. 37.  Prunus mume photo by WNV, pg. 15, Fagus crenata photo by WNV, pg. 16.

2008 stats per International Bonsai, 2008/No. 2, pg. 38.

2010 informal photo of Hemlock courtesy of Wm. N. Valavanis.  Photos of prize winning trees by Sean Smith, courtesy of Wm. N. Valavanis in e-mail to RJB 11 Feb 2010.  The five-needle pine also received one of the major awards at the Taikan Ten show in November 2009.

And how many trees have been seen in all the shows?  Using a crude estimate for the ninety Kokufu Ten to-date (there was not a No. 19) of an average of 150 to 250 trees per show -- assuming that the earliest presentations had a smaller number exhibited while the last 20 (at least) had 250+ trees -- we arrive at a range of about 23,000 to 25,000 specimens displayed.  Estimating that perhaps as many as 10% of the trees may have been "frequent flyers" appearing in more than one show, we can very roughly say that some 18,000 to 20,000 individual compositions have been seen by the many national and international visitors to the show since its inception in 1934.  And how many total awards have been given at these shows?  (We will try to fine-tune these estimates as time goes by with counts from at least representative albums through the years.)

Back to Top

The Shows by Year
Some Photos
Some Albums

Home  >  Bonsai History  >  Book of Days  >  Kokufu Ten 2