"The Father of Popular Bonsai in the Non-Oriental World," Part II

Compiled by Robert J. Baran

Through 1983
1984 Onwards

        In 1984 The Japanese Art of Stone Appreciation, Suiseki and Its Use with Bonsai was published by Charles E. Tuttle Co.  The authors were Vincent T. Covello and Yuji Yoshimura.  (The Spanish and Italian translations would be published in 1994 and a Polish one would see print in 2004!)

        Yuji Yoshimura gave a demonstration and a workshop at the fourth annual Mid-Atlantic Bonsai Festival on April 25 and 26, 1987.  The event for eight local clubs was held in North Haven, CT.

        The John Y. Naka Pavilion was dedicated in October 1990 to house the National Collection of North American Bonsai.  Connected to the Naka Pavilion is the Yoshimura Center housing a lecture and workshop room.  Two of Yoshimura's bonsai are in the National Collection. 19

Photograph from The New York Times, Oct. 5, 1990 by Jim Estrin with the caption:
"A Touch of the East Comes to the Bronx -- Yuji Yoshimura, a master of the ancient Japanese art of bonsai cultivation, tending the New York Botanical Garden's exhibit of the dwarf trees.  The five-day exhibit, which opened yesterday, will include lectures and instruction for novice bonsai enthusiasts."
(Copy given to Phoenix Bonsai Society charter member Alice Feffer)

        The Second World Bonsai Convention, "New Horizons," was held in Orlando, FL from May 27 to 31, 1993 in conjunction with the BCI and ABS conventions.  Saburō Katō, John Y. Naka and Yuji Yoshimura headlined for the over seven hundred delegates who attended.

        From November 3 to 6, 1994, a joint BCI/GSBF convention took place in San Jose, CA.  (The Golden State Bonsai Federation had been founded in 1978 and its conventions alternated between northern and southern sites in the state.)  Guests of honor were John Naka, Toshio Saburomaru, and Yuji Yoshimura.  Enthusiasts attending were also from nine countries and territories outside the U.S. 20

        In early March 1995, Yuji Yoshimura suffered a mild stroke while on lecture tour to North Carolina.  Improving after a short hospital stay and discharged to his daughter's care near Boston, near month end he suffered a major stroke.  On April 3, he successfully underwent neurosurgery to clean out a 95% blocked main artery.  The following week he had surgery on the other artery which was 85% blocked.  By May 6 he was well enough to attend a demonstration at the New England Bonsai Garden. 21

        (In April 1996, Toshio Saburomaru passed away.)

Bernard Gastrich and Yuji Yoshimura 1997 by Adam Hume, International Bonsai, 1998/No. 1, pg. 44
"Bernard Gastrich, President of the Yama Ki Bonsai Society, with Mr. Yoshimura at his
testimonial dinner in September 1997." (Photo by Adam Hume)
(International Bonsai, 1998/No. 1, pg. 44)

        On Christmas Eve, 1997, bonsai master Yuji Yoshimura passed away.

        The National Bonsai Foundation, Inc. established the Yuji Yoshimura Fund as a permanent endowment to keep this great artist's spirit alive for future generations. 22

        Having lived in the Western world for over thirty-five years, he had personally observed the differences in the Eastern and Western cultures as reflected by their arts.  Although his students had been primarily of the United States, he taught classical bonsai to thousands of students worldwide.  In that Yuji Yoshimura was a Japanese bonsai artist who lived outside of Japan for such a long span of years, he became a direct link between Japanese classical bonsai traditions and the progressive Western approach.  The result was an elegant and refined school of bonsai adapted for the modern world. 23

        TheWikipedia article about Yuji Yoshimura would be set up in early-October 2011.  In 2015, he would became the second inductee into the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum's Bonsai Hall of Fame.

     For further information, you are cordially invited to order the 1988/No. 1 issue of International Bonsai magazine which includes William N. Valavanis' "Yuji Yoshimura, A Memorial Tribute To A Bonsai Master & Pioneer" (pp. 29-44).  This detailed, wonderful biography is illustrated with forty-seven b&w photos and can serve as a complement to this web page (and vice versa).  Valavanis also composed "A Memorial Tribute" which was published in the North American Bonsai Foundation Newsletter No. 3, http://web.archive.org/web/20071022024253/www.bonsai-wbff.org/nabf/newsletter3/yoshimura.htm

     See also this memory.

     And then there is this more recent creative tribute.


1     Golden Statements, Golden States Bonsai Federation, September/October, 1994, pp. 23-24; Valavanis, William N.  "Yuji Yoshimura, A Memorial Tribute To A Bonsai Master & Pioneer," International Bonsai, IBA, 1998/No. 1, pp. 29-30.

At age 84 in 1974 [sic], Toshiji would recall "having sold the U.S. Ambassador to Japan some young bonsai when he was about 20 years old.  The family nursery was then located in the Chiba District [on the east side of the Bay] of Tokyo."  The date would have been about 1910 -- Larz Anderson was appointed ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to Japan in November 1912 by Republican President William H. Taft.  Anderson resigned the following March with the change in administration (Democratic Pres. Woodrow Wilson).  After his post, Anderson bought at least forty trees from the Yokohama Nursery Company, on the west side of Tokyo Bay.  These first significant bonsai in the U.S. reached his home in Brookline, Massachusetts on March 6.  Was Toshiji involved in some part of that sale?  Per Hinds, John  "A Greenhorn's View of the Japanese Bonsai World, Part II" Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. XIII, No. 5, June 1974, pg. 23; also, Bonsai Book of Days Feb. 7 and April 13; "A Talk on Masterpiece Bonsai and Master Artists, No. 16 - Toshiji Yoshimura (1891-1975) - Kofu-en," Kinbon magazine, October 2011, pp. 44-47, English translation kindly provided to RJB in personal e-mails from William N. Valavanis 12 and 13 Nov 2011; "Great People: Sacrifice and Achievement: Yuji Yoshimura, The First Bonsai Instructor in the U.S.[sic]," The Chicago Japanese American News, Jan. 1, 2012, Vol. 5881, pg. 9.

2     Dillon, Jim  "Sokumenzu -- Profile of Yoshimura," Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. XI, No. 6, July/August 1972, pg. 6; "Great People: Sacrifice and Achievement: Yuji Yoshimura" article, pg. 9; Koehn, Alfred  Bonkei: Japanese Tray Landscapes; Tokyo: Foreign Affairs Association of Japan; 1955, pp. 2, 35; Golden Statements, GSBF, September/October, 1994, pg. 24; Valavanis' "Memorial Tribute," pp. 30-32; a personal e-mail to RJB from Christopher T. Adcock, Jan. 14, 2004 mentioned that Mr. Adcock's grandfather had taken the class in the Spring of 1956.  Mr. Adcock was gracious enough to share a .pdf of the class flyer, which we have linked above.

    Golden Statements, GSBF, September/October 1994, pg. 24; Valavanis' "Memorial Tribute," pg. 33. 

    Smith, Jean C.  "I.B.C. '83 Bonsai Horizon Headliners," Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. XXII, No. 5, June 1983, pp. 159-160; Dillon's article, pg. 6; Valavanis' "Memorial Tribute," pg. 34; Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. XXXII, No. 3, May/June 1993, pg. 6; International Bonsai Digest Bicentennial Edition, Juyne M. Tayson, Editor and Publisher, 1976, pg. 36.

    Kosh, Davina  "Among the Greatest Joys of Bonsai," Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. IX, No. 2, March 1970, pg. 7;  Valavanis' "Memorial Tribute," pg. 35, has the date as 1962.

    Yoshimura, Commemorative Album: The Muriel R. Leeds Collection; Briarcliff Manor: NY: Yoshimura School of Bonsai; 1977.  Pp. 12, 48, with four b&w photos of juniper on page 20.   Limited edition of 500 copies. 

    Yoshimura, Leeds, pg. 64; Valavanis' "Memorial Tribute," pg. 35, comments that this "continued until 1994 with the exception of a few years due to illness."

    Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. XI, No. 5, July/August 1972, pg. 22, and Vol. XXXII, No. 6, November/December 1993, pp. 23-24. 

    Dillon's article, pg. 6;  Willse, James P.  "Bonsai, or Miniature Trees, Become a Fad: Fans Grow Their Own or Pay Up to $3,000," Wall Street Journal, January 4, 1966, pg. 9, states that there were eighteen founding members; Bonsai Journal, American Bonsai Society, Vol. 1, No. 1,  pp. 15-16; Valavanis' "Memorial Tribute,"   pg. 35, states that "In February 1963 seven of Mr. Y's serious students gathered at his nursery to organize..."; Stowell, Jerald P. Bonsai: Indoors and Out ; Princeton, NJ: D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc. 1966, b&w photo pg. 107;

10     Yoshimura, Leeds, pg. 64; Young, Dorothy S.  "History of Bonsai East" in International Bonsai Digest presents Bonsai Gems, Fall 1974, pp. 91-92. 

11     Yoshimura, "The Meaning of Bonsai," Horticulture, December 1964, pp. 16+ 

12    Willse's article, pg. 9; 

13     Stowell, Jerald P. The Beginner's Guide to American Bonsai ; Tokyo: Kodansha International, Ltd.; 1978, pg. 7; Bonsai Journal, ABS, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 3-5, Vol. 1, No. 3, pg. 13, and Vol. 21, No. 2 , Summer 1987, pg. 2. 

14     Golden Statements, GSBF, July/August 1994, pp. 36-37; Land, Dorothy "Celebrating 35 Years of Progress," Bonsai, BCI, Vol. XXXII, No. 4, July/August 1993, pg. 29, states that in November 1967 the renaming occurred. 

15     Golden Statements, GSBF, September/October 1994, pg. 23. 

16     "How It All Began," Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. XXXV, No. 4; July/August 1996, pg. 24; Valavanis' "Memorial Tribute,"   pg. 34; Yoshimura, Leeds, pg. 64.

17     Personal e-mail from William N. Valavanis to RJB on Feb. 12, 2006;  Bonsai Journal, ABS, Vol. 10, No. 2, Summer 1976, pg. 40; Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. XV, No. 3, pg. 67; Yoshimura, Leeds, pg. 61; Editor's Note in Yoshimura, Kanekazu "Methods of Bonsai Display nd Appreciaitton," International Bonsai, 19898/No. 3, pg. 12.

18     "How It All Began," Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. XXXV, No. 4; July/August 1996, pg. 26; Dannett, Emanuel  "The National Bonsai Foundation," Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. XXII, No. 3, April 1983, pg. 81. 

19     Valavanis, William N.  "Profile of an Artist," Bonsai Journal, ABS, Vol. 32, No. 1, Spring 1998, pp. 8-9. 

20     Golden Statements, GSBF, November/December 1994, pg. 5. 

21     1995 Internet posting 
           Date: Tue, 23 May 1995 14:09:05 -0500, from Rick Raygor 
            <raygor@TIES.K12.MN.US> which gave this news per Thu, 6 Apr 1995, INT BONSAI; 
             rec.arts.bonsai Article 11214, dated Mon., 8 May 1995 07:29:15 EDT, from Gary Bolstridge 
             (Newport, RI Bonsai Club) <gary@GAROPA.NPT.NUWC/NAVY.MIL>  .

22    Valavanis' "Profile" article, pg. 9. 

23     Paraphrased past tense from Golden Statements, GSBF, September/October 1994, pp. 24-25.

24     May 2 Bonsai Book of Days listing for 2014.

Through 1983
1984 Onwards

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