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 Post subject: Review: 'The Japanese Art of Miniature Trees and Landscapes'
PostPosted: Mon Feb 06, 2006 8:50 pm 

Joined: Fri Dec 16, 2005 7:29 am
Posts: 515
Location: Brisbane, Australia
'The Japanese Art of Miniature Trees and Landscapes'
by Yuji Yoshimura and Giovanna M Halford
Charles E Tuttle Inc. (USA): 220pp., USD$??? **
First published 1957
ISBN: 0-8048-0282-3
Reviewed by Hector Johnson*

If bonsai was a religion then this would likely be its bible. Renowned as the first serious English language publication on the subject of bonsai, this book is so much a part of the art and cultivation of bonsai in the West that it has been somewhat to the detriment of Western understanding of bonsai. Simply, the slavish obeisance and application of the principles portrayed in these pages has been responsible for many bonsai being styled far more rigidly, in compliance with "the rules" Yoshimura describes, than would be the case if there had been other information available in the 1960s and 1970s.

25 colour plates and 245 halftone plates and 42 diagrams are used to convey a comprehensive look at traditional Japanese trees and styles. In addition, there are more than 340 plant descriptions, to lend guidance to anyone interested in bonsai. I find it hard to imagine anyone who reads English, and purports to be serious about bonsai, not having a copy of this indispensable book in their library.

Some of the information is now starting to look a little dated, as technological changes in the 50 years since it was written has seen the advent of plastic pot mesh and anodised aluminium wire. Our understanding of suitable soil mixes for bonsai has moved on a little since then, too. Nonetheless, the bulk of this book is as relevant today as when it was first written.

Yuji Yoshimura passed away in 1997, after a lifetime devoted to the enhancement and furtherance of the art of bonsai, all over the world. He is probably responsible for a greater proportion of the interest in bonsai in the US than any other person, living or dead.

Giovanna Halford was an English military officer's wife, stationed in Japan, and studied at the Kofu-en, during the Allied occupation of that country. She studied bonsai for two years in Japan and became one of Mr Yoshimura's most skilled students. Her other works on Japanese art and culture range from Kabuki theatre to Suiseki (Stone appreciation)

The only criticism one might raise in respect of this book is that modern publications are more likely to show a greater range of colour plates, though it should be borne in mind that this book was first published 50 years ago.

This book was, and remains, the gold standard of English language works on bonsai, to this day. It is not always easy to find, so one should take your opportunity to obtain a copy when and where you find it.

**Prices may vary somewhat, with offerings from online booksellers such as being substantially cheaper than the RRP. It may be difficult to find a new copy of this book, but there are many available on the secondhand market.

*About Hector Johnson
Hector Johnson is an amateur bonsai enthusiast from Brisbane, Australia. In 16 years of involvement in the art of bonsai he has managed to amass a modest collection of trees of reasonable quality. His recent involvement with the Art of Bonsai project, as editor of print articles, is a rewarding and welcome activity, allowing him to contribute to the development of bonsai on the worldwide scene.

Last edited by Hector Johnson on Mon Feb 06, 2006 9:05 pm, edited 2 times in total.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Feb 06, 2006 9:00 pm 

Joined: Sat Jan 29, 2005 2:11 am
Posts: 6469
Location: Michigan USA
This is the book I cut my teeth on. There are most certainly things that are now outdated especially the section on soils. Today our soil mixes are far from what Mr. Yoshimura described. However when I first started doing bonsai we had to do it Mr. Youshimura's way because there were not the kinds of things available to us then that can now be found. Most of the soils were dug from the ground and would most likely be called natural or organic mixes; a title I disagree with but I think you know what I mean.

As I pointed out in my article his work at identifying forms, established the ubiquitous rules we all love to talk about and love to hate. Without them we would not have as many people doing bonsai today as we now do, simply because they defined how the classic styles of the time were assembled allowing those with just basic talent to produce a recognizable bonsai in the Japanese style.

Do I recommend this book. Absolutely, it is totally without bovine scatology in its content. So many modern bonsai books are what we commonly call coffee table books. Good only because the pictures are beautiful. Though there are a lot of things that have changed you would have to buy ten modern books to understand all of those changes and compile them in a single stack of books for reference. In short it is an honest no nonsense revelation of the basic techniques of the day in making a bonsai.
Vance Wood

[Editor Note: This post by Vance Wood was moved from it's original posting in the original review that was deleted due to technical concerns. Vance's words remain unchanged]

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2006 1:38 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 08, 2005 8:04 pm
Posts: 244
Location: South San Francisco, CA
There are two books that resided on my night stand in my early days of bonsai study, and were required bedtime reading. They were Yoshimura's book, and Naka's BONSAI TECHNIQUES. These two books still remain on my bonsai library shelf, and are still occasionally refered to.

My friend, Warren Clark took his first bonsai classes with Yoshimura in Japan in the early '50's. Warren maintained contact with Yuji after he came to the United States and settled in the New York City area.

In May of 1993, Warren and I were attending a bonsai convention in Orlando, FL. where Yuji was a headliner. I brought my 1964 copy of MINIATURE TREES AND LANDSCAPES, and Warren asked Yuji to autograph it. This book will always have a place of honor in my library, along with John's book.

Wise men they both were, and their influence should always be remembered and honored.

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