The first World Bonsai convention was held back in 1989 in Saitama, a city considered to be the home of Japanese bonsai. In the intervening duration it has been held every four years in various countries around the world, from the U.S. to Germany to South Korea, so as to contribute to the expansion of bonsai culture and to encourage international friendship.
Now, 28 years later, the convention is returning to where it all began.
On the face of it, you may not see much excitement in attending an exhibition of tiny trees, however this is a great opportunity to see first hand a booming aspect of an internationally renowned facet of Japanese culture. As the title pretty much suggests, the World Bonsai Convention is the biggest (and, by definition, smallest) collection of bonsai trees to be found worldwide, with over 300 from around the country on display. As well as the exhibition of the most prestigious examples of the art form, there will also be a meet and greet of established national and international bonsai specialists.
However, it isn’t just the tiny trees and their creators that are the draw, but also there are on stage exhibitions and many other Japanese cultural experiences that you can take part in, making it an educational and enjoyable day out for the entire family.
The convention will be held over five locations. The main venues are the Saitama Super Arena, the second largest indoor arena in the world, as well as Omiya Sonic City, the site of the first World Bonsai Convention in 1989. For outdoor locations you can see the beautiful bonsai at Musashi Ichinomiya Hikawa Shrine, the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum and Omiya Bonsai Village.
Saitama Super Arena -8 Shintoshin, Chuo Ward, Saitama (map);
Omiya Sonic City – 1 Chome-1-7-5 Sakuragichō, Ōmiya-ku, Saitama (map);
Musashi Ichinomiya Hikawa Shrine – 1 Chome-407 Takahanacho, Omiya Ward, Saitama (map);
Omiya Bonsai Art Museum – Torocho, 2−24−3 (map);
Omiya Bonsai Village – Bonsaicho, Kita Ward, Saitama (map)7
Bonsai, the artistic medium of growing trees in containers through pruning, trimming or grafting, came to Japan from China, where it is known as ‘penjing’ some time around the sixth century. The purposes of bonsai are primarily the enjoyment of contemplation and the pleasant exercise of effort and ingenuity, focusing particularly on the expression of wabi-sabi. Over centuries of practice, the Japanese bonsai aesthetic has encoded important techniques and design guidelines; so things to look out for include miniaturization, asymmetry, poignancy, and proportion amongst elements. Above all else, the most prized aspect is the appearance of a mature, fully grown tree, but in its miniature form.
There are of course many different styles of bonsai, from straight, upstanding trees to the sprawling ‘cascade’ form, which mimic falling streams, and most will be on display at the World Bonsai Convention. Well worth a visit for any Japanophile.
By Mark Guthrie