A Visit To Kunio Kobayashi’s Shunka-en Bonsai Museum

Valavanis Bonsai Blog


Last week before the Opening Ceremony of the 8th World Bonsai Convention in Saitama, our group visited Mr. Kobayashi’s museum. Each time I visit this special garden there seems to be more and more bonsai, especially large size specimens. This visit was not an exception, except that the garden was also full of foreign visitors from Europe and China.


Despite his busy schedule, Mr. Kobayashi took time to greet us and autograph his books. His museum has about a dozen alcoves where his masterpiece bonsai and suiseki are formally displayed in the three levels of formality. It was wonderful to see the deciduous bonsai with fresh green foliage as I usually see them in their autumn colors or in their defoliated stage.


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Shohin Bonsai Europe - Morten Albek

4 items, three shohin-bonsai and one accents. Is it right or wrong? Does it matter? Does it work? 4 items, three shohin-bonsai and one accent. Is it right or wrong? Does it matter? Does it work? Photo: Shuga-ten and the Japanese Shohin-bonsai Association.

We are still clinging to the bonsai rules thing. When we do not cope with the artistic freedom or maybe are afraid of failing, we can always say we did what we did, because the rules told us to do so. But the frightening truth is, there are no rules in bonsai. There may be some restrictions regarding exhibit areas on a exhibition, how tall a tree going into the shohin category have to be e.g., but generally speaking THERE ARE NO RULES.

A common belief concerning shohin-bonsai displays is that the display has to be with a odd number of trees; when counting elements, dead items do not count in (scrolls), – and even at the latest  exhibition I took part in a…

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Mini-bonsai (shohin) exhibition in China

Shohin Bonsai Europe - Morten Albek

The 2nd Mini-bonsai exhibition September 2014 in Changzhou Qinxin Garden was an experience and a surprise to me. I had not expected something like this when I was invited to China to be part of this event.


At the exhibition I counted about 130 Mini-bonsai displays and many of high quality. Shohin- or Mini-bonsai, are growing rapidly in popularity in Japan, and in the west too. But clearly also in China, who can now make an event like this, showing the best of Mini-bonsai although still having a very short history of this type of bonsai. Not at least set up against a more than 1300 year history of bonsai in China.

Mini-bonsai has a different perspective than normal larger bonsai. Where large bonsai are displayed by themselves to show the beauty, strength and elegance of the tree, Mini-bonsai are focused on showing the beauty of the season too. This is done by displaying two or several trees…

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Workshop at Nordic Bonsai

Shohin Bonsai Europe - Morten Albek

A nice day with nice people at Nordic Bonsai today. Students progressed very nicely with good material, and made some future trees. Especially one brave student made the “Albek-cut” and formed the basics of a big Yew, making a step forward to a Shohin-bonsai in future. Thanks for being there, to both my Danish friends and friendly guests from Sweden 🙂

Here a few snapshots taken in between teaching.

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