Masahiko Kimura transforms a special juniper and aims for a Kokufu-Ten revenge!

Text and photography Kinbon magazine, Kyoto, Japan Translation: Peter Warren

Juniperus chinensis before work. The lower trunk of the current front.
The shari trunk appears to be very straight Interesting movement of the shari is hidden from this side
Height: 36 cm / 14¼" Width: 75 cm / 30"

Front and styling before work . . . but are there any problems?

Mr Kimura tells us 'I am always struggling to achieve 100% in my work. There is no difference between 99% and 0%. People may mistake this for pride, but actually this is professionalism. This is what I try to teach all my apprentices; professionalism in everything, especially watering.' As with any human activity, there is nothing certain and reaching perfection is subjective. However, Mr Kimura aims to perform perfect work on this tree and display it in the Kokufu exhibition; that is his challenge. Before starting to work on the tree, Mr Kimura will point out its faults from the perspective of a Kokufu judge. The front will certainly be changed and, additionally, the tree will be flipped around. But why is there a need to do this?

Making more of the juniper shape

It has been decided to make the tree into a more dynamic and characteristic juniper which will help it to success at Kokufu by making it flow towards the right. Bonsai is highly subjective and there are several possibilities for the front depending on your individual taste. The important factor is not to simply change the front for the sake of it, but rather to put 100% effort into the front that you feel is the best.

The new front is covered by a back branch which is in front of the shari in the lower trunk, hiding the interest and also the powerful movement of the live vein. The characteristic of junipers that should always be brought out is the relationship between the live vein and the natural deadwood.
If we change the front on a round-trunked tree, little change can be seen. However, with such a characterful trunk as this, the change of front has a massive impact on the image of the tree.

While Mr Kimura considers the styling of this juniper, a couple of different possibilities will be presented here as well. The transformation that he proposes, however, is not just a simple change of planting angle, but something much bolder, a sign of his obsessive pursuit of perfection.

The new front. The tree has been flipped around and the back is now the front

The lower trunk from the back. The powerful nature of the trunk is lessened, but the relationship between live vein and deadwood is characteristic of junipers

New front as seen from the left

New front as seen from the right

The lower trunk line of the original front.

One of the reasons why this tree was unsuccessful with the Kokufu judges was the slanting nature of the lower trunk line and the monotony of the shari. If you look carefully at the tree, it reveals more character, but at first glance appears dull and this is all the judges will see when they have seconds to evaluate the tree. 'This is an unfortunate situation,' says Mr Kimura, himself one of the judges. 'By carrying out a little work now it would be possible to give it another opportunity of being chosen for exhibition.'


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