Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Winter - exhibition season

Some time after my previous post I was tempted to think "Hey, stuff is going dormant, not much to write about" but I couldn't be farther from the truth - now is when it all happens! It's time for bonsai exhibitions. Why now? Well mostly because deciduous trees have shed their leaves so that it's possible to see the structure of branches, a way of assessing quality. I have to think that another reason is the lack of other pressing bonsai chores during autumn and winter, an exhibition in late spring or summer would probably be a lot more disruptive, especially for the professionals.

First out was Koju-ten on October 19th-21st. I've been pondering a blog-post about this local club-exhibition for four months! The Bonsai nursery just south of Kyoto station, Koju-en, organizes a shohin-bonsai exhibition every year. Instead of hosting it in some anonymous convention-centre, they cooperate with a temple, Zuishin-in in south-eastern Kyoto. It's a great environment, very relaxing and good for photos, if a bit dark at times. With many of the sliding doors removed, you are ever on the border between the garden outside, and bonsai inside. Gone are the crowds pushing you on from behind or brushing past you when you take a minute to observe. Here you get to kneel on a tatami mat before a tree on a low table, daylight reflected from behind and observe all you want. You won't find an exhibition with quite the feeling of authenticity as this. The summer heat has passed, but the winter chills have yet to come.
Fond memories indeed, especially as my room has kept a constant 13 degrees C (55 F) for the past three days, Indoors!
 Pictures (of the exhibition) are up at Flickr.

Next was the 32nd Taikan-ten, on the 23rd to 26th of November in Kyoto. This is the second largest exhibition in Japan, next after Kokufu-ten. For Kokufu-ten there is a jury which decides on the trees that are exhibited; from what I understand, there is no such jury for Taikan-ten. You pay - You get. I don't know how they manage to keep the number of trees approximately equal from year to year but the systems appear to be different between the shows. Taikan-ten is considered more eclectic, both in terms of quality but also in the variety of species. Of the four exhibitions I've been to, this is my favorite.
In Kyoto the weather is still pretty mild around this time in November, the autumn colour of maples were mostly at their peak except at higher altitudes. This means that there's a good chance of seeing a few trees in leaf, and lots of fruit such as Japanese persimmon and Chinese quince. I did spot a few fruits at Gafu-ten in January but at that point, the time for picking had both come and gone.
Another thing I like about this show is the good atmosphere around the sales area which is pretty much a continuation of the exhibition-space. There's food and tea available, and some open tables for just hanging out and waiting for your friends. Pictures available here.

I got both pictures and a video from Gafu-ten - Kyoto's big shohin-exhibition.
From Kokufu-ten, some pictures and video as well. More on those two, and perhaps on the upcoming Shunga-ten in Osaka, in another post.