Shimpaku, The Unexpected Surprise

Updated: Oct 8, 2020

Shimapku, The Unexpected Surprise


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It was just another work day at Mr. Moriyama’s garden in early December and the weather was starting to get cold. Mr. Tanaka and I spent most of the first half installing thick plastic over the hoop house in the back of the yard. With us was Mr. Tohru Suzuki and his apprentice Mr. Takuya Suzuki of Daiju-en. After finishing the grunt work, we started to do some maintenance work on a couple of trees which consisted mainly of cleaning since we were only there for the morning. As I was working, I could hear Mr. Tanaka, Mr. Tohru Suzuki talking to Mr. Moriyama about something in Japanese. I picked up words here and there but didn’t much pay attention and kept my focus on the tree in front of me.


After we finished our work that morning, I wondered around the garden admiring many of the trees. Mr. Tohru Suzuki was looking around as well. I stopped to look at a large bushy Shimpaku that’s I’ve cleaned in the past a few times and Mr. Tohru Suzuki walks up to me and point at the tree. “You wire, okay?” he says to my surprise. I didn’t get my hopes up too quickly because I thought he was joking around with me since he’s done that many times in the past. I quickly said, “no problem, easy work!” Mr. Tohru Suzuki looks at me and laughs and said, “for Kokufu?.” I said, “yes, no problem,” playing along and laughing myself. He smiles and walks away looking at the other trees and my mind went to other things.

It was time to leave and I was packing up our tools when Mr. Tanaka calls me and says, “you and Takuya, take the Shimpaku and put it into the Daiju-en van. I guess Mr. Tohru Suzuki is really going to try to put the tree into Kokufu! Since we’re putting into his van, I figured that he was going to take care of the work. Takuya and I both carried the heavy tree into the van and I finished packing up the Aichien van.

During the drive home, I looked at Mr. Tanaka and told him about what Tohru Suzuki said jokingly to me about working the Shimpaku for Kokufu. Mr. Tanaka looked at me and said, “he wasn’t joking.” I looked at him surprisingly and said, “really???” Mr. Tanaka then said, “yes, that’s why they’re following us home with the tree.” I turned around and sure enough, the Daiju-en van was right behind us. All of a sudden, the events of that day didn’t seem so funny anymore and became more serious…


Once we got home, I was told to wire and style the tree for Gomangoku-ten and Kokfufu-ten. I spend the second half of the day studying the tree and started to clean the tree. In this post, I will be sharing the steps I took in styling this large Shimpaku from cleaning the trunk to repotting the tree into the show pot. After filtering through all the photos I took of the work, I cam up with 71 photos to share, so I hope you have a comfy chair because this post is going to be a long one. Technically I could have divided this article into three post but I figured it was the New Years and I’ll start it strong. Plus, who likes to see, “to be continued,” at the end of things anyways?


A Look At The Tree From All Sides


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The Debate on Foliage Size

Currently in Japan, the popular foliage is Itoigawa. It grows fairly dense, fine and light green. In the past, Kishu was the favorite because of its dark green and very dense foliage characteristics. Normally large collected trees have larger sized foliage and are than grafted with Itoigawa or Kishu. The reason people don’t just collect Itoigawa or Kishu Junipers in the past is because they don’t naturally grow very big.

Depending on who you ask, their feelings can differ on the foliage they like. Some argue that the tightness and density of Itoigawa and Kishu is superior in quality to all others. Where as other will argue that it is unnatural and strange that such a large tree would have such small foliage and that in itself causes an imbalance in the style of the tree.

To each his own but I would caution that being completely one-sided about different topics could limit our overall understanding of Bonsai in general.

A Look At The Soul Of The Tree


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Cleaning The Trunk and Life Line


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