Culture Raised by Nature — Japanese Bonsai (Tray Planting)

2019 Japan Cultural Envoy (long-term dispatch type)
MORI Takahiro
Bonsai Master
  • Countries visited:Canada, the United States of America, Australia, Singapore
  • Period of the activities:From July 17 to September 14, 2019

I am the third Japan Cultural Envoy for bonsai. I want to pass on my techniques and expertise while familiarizing others with the world of bonsai and realizing the best of my potential. Keeping this in mind, I have been taking on challenges from the moment I was appointed with such duties and responsibilities up until today. Bonsai has earned recognition around the world and many practitioners have studios overseas. There are groups of bonsai aficionados in major cities with some having more than 100 members. Yet, many of these groups share our same concern: they want greater involvement from the younger generation. The idea that“ bonsai is a hobby for the elderly” seems to be a common understanding in the world.

Demonstrating how to transform local garden plants into bonsai at JICC

My mission for this program is to “give lectures with bonsai.” I want to make the attractiveness of bonsai more appealing to the younger and working generations, who have no personal experience with bonsai, at various venues, such as cultural, educational, and research institutes to reshape the industry by driving change.

Giving a lecture to a diverse audience at JAPAN HOUSE LA

During two months of activity in summer, lecturing at universities as my main purpose was not realized because it just happened to be summer vacation. Regardless, I gave lectures in all eight cities I visited and had the opportunity to cover various topics for non-aficionados, from the basic knowledge to the philosophy of bonsai craftsmen. I gave a demonstration after each lecture. I thought that demonstrations could provide time for people to become familiar with bonsai after receiving background information.
Bonsai grows as plants grow. How can I help them feel familiar with bonsai when they live in a culture and climate different from Japan? Conveying Japanese spirit as well as the attractiveness of bonsai is very important. This helped me go back to the basics, which meant a lot to me.“ Bonsai craftsmen should stay behind the scenes.” This is the teaching handed down by my master. It means that bonsai is the leading actor and the craftsman is a stagehand with a limited time responsibility. So, one should be modest in growing bonsai.

Demonstrating for botanical garden staff at Gardens by the Bay

Here, modesty presents beautiful attitudes nurtured in the climate spun with four distinct seasons and in awe of nature. Modesty means respect and harmony. The beautiful spirit of Japan nurtures the beautiful culture of bonsai. In working overseas, we should respect the local culture and climate, and then the bonsai brought from Japan can become harmonized with the local people. This program has been successful thanks to every relevant culture built over the years and the cultural exchange through bonsai. Again, I would like to thank all those who have worked hard for this program, and I hope that it will be continuously handed down through future generations.

Working with a huge cedar bonsai at Nikkei Centre