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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

White pine in training since 1625 !!!

The 1625 Japanese white pine has a stout trunk with bark made of red-brown plates, each framed by fissures lined with light green lichens. The trunk forms the hub for 14 or so ascending branches, themselves diverging into two or three more. Here, on its turntable base, sits a survivor.

It was one of more than 50 museum-quality specimens donated to the United States for the 1976 bicentennial, including a Japanese red pine from the Imperial Household that has been in training since 1795. The white pine was donated by a bonsai master named Masaru Yamaki, whose family could trace its horticultural roots to the 17th century and had cared for the tree for at least five generations. Yamaki lived in Hiroshima, and years after its donation, his family members visited the tree at the arboretum and began to give a fuller picture of this astonishing plant.
Of all the daybreaks that this tree has witnessed, none was more ominous than that of Aug. 6, 1945. At 8:15 a.m. an atomic bomb exploded over the city. The Yamakis' walled bonsai nursery was less than two miles from ground zero. The property, the Yamakis and their ancient trees were all just far enough from the blast, just, to survive it relatively unscathed.

Just to be alone in the quiet presence of this tree is moving, and one cannot help but feel reverence for a venerable and palpable life force.

Masaru Yamaki's Views on Appreciating Bonsai

Each bonsai has its special quality. Some express changes in the four seasons, while others express the elegance of nature in a pot.
Bonsai is not limited to expensive trees in a classic shape. Indeed, by using excessive wire or growing unnecessary branches in order to create a classic shape, the artist may fail to express the tree's essential beauty.
Trees best expressing bonsai no kokoro (the spirit of bonsai) are often marked by unaffected simplicity. Even if the tree has a slender trunk, it can still touch one's heart deeply, conveying with overflowing vitality the beauty of nature in fields and mountains.