International Bridge-Builder, His Heritage and Legacy, Part II

Compiled by Robert J. Baran

This Page Last Updated: January 27, 2013


        In 1980 Hideo Katō (born 1918), owner of the Yagumo Mansei-en bonsai nursery in Saitama's Bonsai-cho (Omiya Bonsai Village), received the Prime Minister Award at the 5th Sakufu Bonsai Ten, the annual National Professional Bonsai Masters' exhibition.  (The first Sakufu-ten was organized in 1975 by Katō at the Daimaru Department Store in Tokyo, where the exhibit has been held ever since.)

        Two years later he taught in four European countries under the sponsorship of the Japan Foundation.

        For the World Bonsai Convention in Omiya in 1989 he demonstrated the cascade style.  Hideo Katō enjoys great popularity for his precise, accurate shaping technique and for his humorous lectures.  Specializing in "creative" bonsai-like group or rock plantings, this standing director of the Japan Bonsai Association is well known for his talent to discover and enhance the natural, individual beauty of the tree. 21

        In 1991 the book Practical Bonsai, Their Care, Cultivation and Training by Paul Lesniewicz and Hideo Katō was published. 
        (German teacher Lesniewicz in his 1984 Die Welt Des Bonsai (English edition, 1990, The World of Bonsai ) stated that Saburō Katō's Mansei-en is the hub of Omiya and that one of the oldest trees in Japan has belonged for generations to the family of Hideo Katō.  The bonsai is an 800 year old twin-trunk Chinese juniper, 100 cm. tall.) 22

        And 1991 saw the International Bonsai Congress in Birmingham, from July 26 to 28.  There were over 600 participants from twenty-two countries.  Among the lecturers and demonstrators at the event was Hideo Katō who, assisted by Shigeo Katō, designed a very old Chinese juniper ( J. chinensis "Sargentii").   This Congress also included a bonsai exhibition of the finest trees from the thirty participating British clubs, over fifty vendors at the trade fair, raffles, and a "silent auction."  A European tour after the Convention included stops to nurseries in Germany, Switzerland, and Holland. 23

        Hideo assisted his brother Saburo at the end of May 1993 at the WBFF Convention in Florida.

        As an official lecturer of the NBA, Hideo was sent to the 4th Asia Pacific Bonsai and Suiseki Convention and Exhibition held in Shanghai, China, from October 31 to November 2, 1997.  There he created a beautiful black pine semi-cascade bonsai.  24

Hideo Kato, BCI Bonsai, January/February 2002, pg. 5

        He also served as one of the judges of Kokufu-ten for a long time and made the name "Chu-hin Bonsai," creating a new category in Kokufu-ten as "Three Pieces Display."  Hideo was the chief instructor of bonsai classes at the Ueno Bonsai Club sponsored by the Nippon Bonsai Association.  He toured Japan and also Europe and Asia to give lectures and demonstrations cooperating with the Japan Foundation.  His humorous talk entertained many audiences, and he sometimes talked to young bonsai growers on various subjects to educate the younger generation.

        On November 3, 2001 Hideo Katō died.  His widow Taeko continues as proprietor of the Yagumo Mansei-en bonsai nursery in Saitama. 

        The third son of Tomekichi Katō, Terukichi, was born in 1921.  He, too, would become a contemporary bonsai master.  He would write with Kenji Murata the book Bonsaizukuri hyakka (1968) and with Keiji Murata Shumi no bonsai hyakka (1976).  Nobuyuki Kajiwara, who would go on to be a teacher in Europe, was Terukichi's apprentice at the family's Masei-en Shiten nursery from 1986 through 1991.  The youngest Katō brother has since died.  26

        Born in 1942 to the master Saburō Katō and his wife, Hatsuji Katō shares the responsibility with a brother for running the family bonsai nursery, Mansei-en.  Hatsuji has worked for his father since completing high school.  Although he is a director of the Nippon Bonsai Association Cooperative, a Vice-Director of the NBA, and is a sought-after teacher for the JBS, Hatsuji still considers himself a student, everyday studying new things and describing new techniques.  As a fourth-generation bonsai grower, he is dedicated to furthering the understanding and practice of bonsai, directing people away from the notion that it is only a rich person's hobby, or an old person's hobby.

        In 1978 he received the award of the Minister of Education for his white pine, "Kyoko-Yamato." 

Hatsuji and Saburo Kato, Bonsai Magazine, BCI, November/December 1984, pg. 3.
"Hatsugi [sic] Kato with father-teacher Saburo Kato"
(Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. XXIII, No. 6, November/December 1984, pg. 3.)

        A joint BCI-ABS convention was held from April 3 to 7, 1985 in New Orleans, LA with Hatsuji Katō as the guest artist.  He conducted a three-hour demonstration with a native Louisiana Hawthorn.

        Hatsuji Katō won the first prize at the Safuku Bonsai Ten professional exhibition in 1990.  He has participated annually and won several other awards there.

        From May 5 to 9, 1993, the first Russian Bonsai Convention was to be held at the Moscow Botanic Gardens and was expected to attract visitors from all over the old Soviet Union.  Hatsuji Katō of Japan, Craig Coussins of Scotland, and Colin Lewis of England were scheduled to be the speakers.  In addition to bonsai programs and exhibit trees, tours of historical note were planned.

        In the mid-1990s he presented a sequential approach to creating Ezo spruce forest plantings in a 45 minute VHS video tape distributed by Stone Lantern Publishing Company.

        He headlined the Latin American Bonsai Federation (FELAB)'s Second Latin American Bonsai Encounter in Cali, Columbia in March 1997.

        As Executive Director of the Nippon Bonsai Association, in 2002 he was a screening committee member for the World Bonsai Contest.

        Hatsuji was a special guest for the California Bonsai Society 45th Anniversary Exhibition and Conference "Expression of Honor" at the Burbank Airport Hilton in March 2003.  John Naka was the featured headliner.

Alan Walker photo: Hatsuji Kato, 032302.
Hatsuji Kato working on a tree while a videographer stands behind him, 03/23/02.
(Photo courtesy of Alan Walker, 05/11/07)

        Hatsuji styled a large twin-trunk Picea abies 'Nidiformis' (Birds' Nest Spruce) at the Bonsai Society of Greater Hartford, CT in the spring of 2005.  He was also a demonstrator at that year's MidAtlantic Bonsai Societies Spring Festival.The other featured artists for this event were David Prescott (UK), Cheryl Manning (CA), and Andy Smith (ND).

        Hatsuji's son, Haruhiko, works at Mansei-en and has learned from both his father and grandfather, to Saburō Katō's great delight.  (Haruhiko was a participant at the 3rd WBFF Convention in Seoul, Korea in Oct. 1997.)

        Apprentices from around the world continue to come to Mansei-en to learn bonsai techniques from the Katōs. 27

        See this recent update on Mansei-en posted on 22 Jul 2011 by Morten Albek.  Includes a couple of pictures of the collected estimated 2,000-year-old juniper.

        See also "a bonsai apprentice" by Alex Bennett, , and

        "Bonsai Drawings by children in Japan," .

A segment on Mansei-en, including the statement by Hatsuji Kato and close-ups of a few trees, can be found on this Omiya Bonsai video starting at the 11:40 mark.

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Except where mentioned in specific article titles, the family name has been standardized above by RJB to be "Katō"
and the grandmaster's given name to be "Saburō."

    "Mansei-en and the Kato Family: Part One" by Thomas S. Elias, Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. 40, No. 3, May/June 2001, complementary color copies without page numbers in program packets of the International Scholarly Symposium on Bonsai and Viewing Stones, May 18, 2002, Washington, D.C.  This (with Part Two) is a most excellent and enjoyable article -- not all of which I've made use of here.; per personal e-mail to RJB by Alan Walker 09/13/2004, page numbers for this article are 16-18, thus Part One, pp. 16-17 for this footnote; Murata, Kyuzo, "The Early Days of Ezo Spruce Bonsai," International Bonsai, IBA, 1990/No. 2, pp. 14-17. 

2     Tsukiyama, Ted T., "Profile of a Bonsai Internationalist: Saburo Kato," Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. 29, No. 3, May/June 1990, pg. 21; Fukumoto, David W., "Saburo Kato: The Gentle Spirit of International Bonsai and Peace," Bonsai Journal, American Bonsai Society, Vol. 22, No. 4, Winter 1988, pg. 6. 

3       Elias' article, "Part One," pg. 18, and "Part Two," pg. 10; Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. 40, No. 4, July/August 2001, pg. 10; Tsukiyama's "Profile" article, pg. 21; Fukumoto, David W. "Saburo Kato: The Gentle Spirit of International Bonsai and Peace," Bonsai Journal, ABS, Vol. 22, No. 4, Winter 1988, pg. 6;  Chida, Hiroshi "Third-generation bonsai planter supervises village," Stars and Stripes, Stripes Pacific Travel, Thursday, February 19, 2004,

4       Elias' article, "Part Two," pg. 11; "Living bonsai treasure spreads the word overseas" by Ken Kawashima, Asahi Shimbun News Service,, accessed 08/22/02; Bonsai Masterpieces, 1972 English booklet translated by Yuji Yoshimura and Samuel K. Beech, pg. iii; Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. 14, No. 4, May 1975, pg. 113.  Although most English references cite "Japan Bonsai Association" and "JBA," the title "Nippon Bonsai Association" and abbreviation "NBA" have been used instead in the above biography.

    Elias' article, "Part Two," pg. 10; Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. 31, No. 6, November/December 1992, pg. 46; Tsukiyama, Ted  "Saburo Katoh -- Bonsai Poet, Philosopher, and Master," Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. 19, No. 3, April 1980, pg. 84.

    Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan, Tokyo: Kodansha International, Ltd.; 1983, Vol. 2, pg. 237; Bonsai Masterpieces, 1972 English booklet, pg. 83; Tsukiyama's "Profile" article, pg. 21; Elias' article, "Part One," pg. 18. 

7      Elias' article, "Part Two," pp. 11, 13; Tsukiyama, Ted T. "An Odyssey To Our Bonsai Roots," Bonsai Journal, ABS, Vol. 13, No. 3, Fall 1979, pp. 64-68; Tsukiyama's "Profile" article, pg. 21; Catalog per

    International Bonsai, IBA, Summer 1980, pg. 29. 

    Tsukiyama's "Profile" article, pp. 21-22; resolution in International Bonsai, IBA, Summer 1980, pg. 29. 

10      Tsukiyama, Ted T., "'Bonsai No Kokoro' (The Spirit of Bonsai)"; Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. XXIV, No. 1, January/February 1985, pp. 11-14; Tsukiyama's "Kato" article, pg. 2; Elias' article, "Part Two," pp. 11, 12, the former which gives the title as "president of the NBA."  Per Saburo Kato's card presented to RJB at the International Scholarly Symposium on Bonsai and Viewing Stones, May 18, 2002, Washington, D.C., the title is "Chairman, Nippon Bonsai Association"; Tsukiyama's "Saburo Katoh" article, pp. 84-85.

11      Tsukiyama's "Kato" article, pg. 21; Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. 25, No. 2, March/April 1986, pg. 20, the President's Message by Jean C. Smith. 

12      Elias' article, "Part Two," pp. 12, 13; Golden Statements, GSBF, September/October 1994, pg. 2; 1; Kawashima's "Living bonsai treasure" article. 

13     Elias' article, "Part Two," pg. 13; Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. 33, No. 3, May/June 1994, pg. 55 and No. 5, September/October 1994, pg. 44; Tafur Rosade, Solita D., "European Bonsai Congress 1994, Valencia, Spain," Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. 34, No. 2, March/April 1995, pp. 39-40; Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. 28, No. 1, January/February 1989, pg. 25. 

14      Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. 34, No. 3, May/June 1995, pg. 40. 

15      "Bonsai News," Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. 37, No. 4, pp. 9-10;"ABStracts" column by George Heffelfinger, Bonsai Journal, ABS, Vol. 33, No. 1, Spring 1999, pg.36.  "Chairman Kato Explains Bonsai to the President and First Lady," by Kazuya Morita, Editor, Nippon Bonsai Association magazine, Japan Region, World Bonsai Friendship Federation,, accessed 07/02/2007.

16     "JAL World Bonsai Fair '99, East Meets West,", also and, all accessed 08/23/01; personal e-mail to RJB from Tomas Melo of Slovakia, July 11, 2001; Elias' article, "Part One," pp. 16-18 and "Part Two," pp. 10-13.

17     RJB and program page from the International Scholarly Symposium on Bonsai and Viewing Stones, May 18, 2002, Washington, D.C.

18      Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. 28, No. 1, January/February 1989, pg. 25; "The Best Bonsai and Suiseki Exhibits in Japan: Where to Go and What to See" by Thomas S. Elias, Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. 41, No. 3, May/June 2002, pg. 11.; Hill, Warren  "Reflections on Japan," NBF Bulletin, Winter 2000, Vol. XI, No. 2,, pg. 4.

19      NBF Bulletin, Summer 2005, Vol. XVI, No. 1,; and the following posting,

20      William N. Valavanis' post, "The Passing of Saburo Kato," Internet Bonsai Club, February 8, 2008,  This was subsequently widely copied and translated into other languages for enthusiasts around the world.  At the bottom of the original and each version of it was a link to this biography; Mrs. Sato's passing in personal e-mail from WNV to RJB 27 Apr 2011.


22      Lesniewicz, Paul  The World of Bonsai, New York: Sterling Publishing Company, Inc., 1990, pg. 130. 

23     Bonsai Today, No. 11, pp. 4, 65; Mann, Martin, "International Bonsai Without Boundaries," Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. XXX, No. 6, November/December 1991, pp. 3-9. 

24     Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. 32, No. 2, March/April 1993, pg. 50; "It Was An Experience!" by Martin L. Mann, Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. 32, No. 5, September/October 1993, pg. 9.  "The 4th Asia Pacific Bonsai and Suiseki Convention and Exhibition," by Kazuya Morita, Editor, Nippon Bonsai Association magazine, Japan Region, World Bonsai Friendship Federation,, accessed 07/02/2007.

25      "Bonsai Regeneration: Youth cultivates the classic art of bonsai" by Ken Kawashima, Asahi Shimbun News Service,, accessed 08/22/02; Nakamura, Susuma  "Hideo Kato," Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. 41, No. 1, January/February 2002, pg. 5, b&w photo also;  Per the Dai-ichi Bonsai & Satsuki Centers site, accessed 07/02/2006, "Shigeo Kurosu [is] one of the leading figures in the Japanese bonsai art scene.  Mr. Kurosu is the second son [adopted?] of late Hideo Kato and has enriched the bonsai tradition of the Kato family by infusing it with his in-depth study of the art of bonsai display."  We are searching for additional information on this individual.

26      Elias' article, "Part One," pg. 17; "Nobuyuki Kajiwara,"       

27      "Hatsuji Kato - Japan," The Bonsai Society of Greater Hartford,;  "IBC '85 Headliner: Mr. Hatsugi Kato," Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. XXIII, No. 6, November/December 1984, pp. 3-4; "Video Review" by Michael Persiano, Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. 35, No. 4, July/August 1996, pg. 43 (as "Hatsuzi" in review and in picture of video); "FELAB Conference," Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. 36, No. 1, Jan/Feb 1997, pg. 12 (as "Hatsuji"); World Bonsai Contest 2002 Invition to enter; Elias' article, "Part Two," pg. 13 which spells the name as "Hatsuji" three times.  Also as "Hatsuji" in Elias' article "The Best Bonsai and Suiseki Exhibits in Japan," pg. 10.

The Russian Bonsai Convention is mentioned in the sources in footnote 23 above.  However, per a personal e-mail to RJB from Craig Coussins on 15 Jan 2007, "it was Hatsuji Kato who actually came [not Hideo as mentioned in the footnote 23 sources].  I met him again in Kyoto and he remembered our time together."  

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