Bonsai is a widely known Japanese art form that dates back centuries. While there are many practitioners around the globe, only a chosen few become world-renowned masters in this field. One of them is Masahiko Kimura.
The word “bonsai” translates to “planted in a container.” It involves cultivation techniques to yield miniature trees that resemble the scale and shape of full-size trees. Its goal is to depict a miniaturized yet realistic portrayal of nature in the form of a tree.
For thousands of years, bonsai artists have adhered to the traditional rules of bonsai making. Masahiko Kimura, on the other hand, defied convention and created his own path by applying his personal style and design in his works.
Mr. Kimura was born in Saitama, Japan, on March 31, 1940, and began his career as a bonsai artist when he was 15 years old. It all started when he served as an apprentice to bonsai master Motosuke Hamano in Toju-en Bonsai Garden. For 11 years, he worked for Mr. Hamano until he decided to pursue the craft on his own. Since then, Mr. Kimura has created miniature forests that are considered the best in the world.
During his early years, he was seen as a rebel by traditionalists in the bonsai making community. While the general practice was to cultivate a single tree or shrub planted on a container, Mr. Kimura used slanted deadwood as the foundation for his works. Soon, however, many people have come to appreciate his work, and it became widely recognized and respected around the world.
The Hinoki forest, which features a gravity-defying mini forest, is one of his most stunning works so far. It features Hinoki cypress and Itoigawa Shimpaku Juniper balanced on two pieces of interlocking slate. He has produced and sold several versions this, but his most prized possession – the original one he created over 20 years ago – still sits proudly in his garden. Located in Omiya, Japan, this garden featuring his award-winning trees is open to the public only on appointment.
This historic bonsai left the hands of its master at the 38th annual Nippon Bonsai Taikan Exhibition held in November 2018. It was sold for ¥1,800,000, which is equivalent to approximately $15,800.
Unsurprisingly, many bonsai artists around the world are fascinated by his radical techniques in bonsai-making. To share his unique practices, Mr. Kimura holds demonstrations and workshops within and outside of Japan. Since 1988, Mr. Kimura has been receiving prestigious awards for his creations. He has also gained an impressive network of apprentices in different countries. As a brilliant teacher, his students have become masters of the field in their own rights.
At 79 years old, Mr. Kimura is showing no signs of slowing down. Take a virtual tour of this master’s bonsai garden HERE.
Gain more insight into Masahiko Kimura‘s early years as an apprentice, the way he teaches his students, and how he successfully builds a lucrative business in the video below.