Bonsai is a Japanese traditional pastime, which is long-time loved and was inherited from the ancients.

Artistry of bonsai is highly appreciated overseas as well and draws in growing a number of enthusiasts including wealthy collectors.

That said, bonsai basics are not widely known.

The basic knowledge, such as its history and bonsai tree species, will bring you to another level for bonsai appreciation.

Why not try learning bonsai? You will enjoy its aesthetics more.

What is Bonsai?

Meaning of bonsai

Bonsai is miniature representation of a natural tree form.

You grow a mountain plant or a tree in a small bonsai pot to appreciate the beauty of the shape, texture and colour.

Literally translated from Japanese, the term “ Bon” means a pot or a container, and “Sai” means living plants, trees and shrubs.

Therefore, the word “Bon-sai” means“Sai” is planted in “Bon”.

“Bon” and “Sai” are closely connected to a single form in order to create “Bon-sai.”

Therefore, a pot, “Bon” and a plant, a tree or shrubs, “Sai” are inseparable.

Please remember, “Bonsai” is different from vegetation in a gardening pot with the aim of enjoying flowers and leaves.

Must-know for bonsai appreciation

There are two tips for bonsai appreciation.

Firstly, appreciate the harmony of the bonsai pot and the tree, and secondly, enjoy bonsai, comparing with natural landscapes.

The most important thing is to appreciate the beauty of balance, a single harmonious form from the tree and the pot.

The well-balanced Bonsai presents fantastic Nebari (visible root spread), Tachi-agari (the lower trunk), Edaburi (gracefully-shaped branches), Mikihada (bark on the branches), Haburi (foliage), and flowers or berries.

Not only that, the bonsai pot is as beautiful as the tree. The harmonious aesthetics highly content you.

Another thing you should do is: appreciate natural landscape whenever you have a chance.

As bonsai represents native plants and trees in nature, it will help you to enjoy the beauty of bonsai more.

Bonsai’s History

According to a legend, bonsai originated from Chinese practice of Penjing, which started in the Tang Dynasty.

The bonsai was called Penjing and people enjoyed natural landscapes in miniatures.

During the Heian period, the Penjing was brought to Japan.

In the Kamakura era, it was wide spread to aristocrats, monks and samurai.

During the Edo period, bonsai became largely accessible for ordinary people.

Shohin bonsai (hand-sized bonsai) was a big hit and a variety of trees and plants were cultivated as a bonsai.

In this way, bonsai transferred from practice of the higher classes to the general public’s hobby.

By the end of this period, the term, “bonsai”, was used at the first time in Japan.

In the middle of the Meiji period, highly refined artistry and aesthetics were pursued, alongside the development of cultivation techniques and pruning methods, which is the foundation of the basics that we currently use.

However, as it requires laborious care and immense amount of time in order to achieve it, the demographics of the enthusiasts gradually changed and eventually bonsai became a hobby for particularly the affordable middle-aged and older.

Bonsai attracted overseas audiences throughout the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and the Bonsai exhibition held as a part of the 1970 Osaka Expo. Along with the growing popularity, “ BONSAI” became an English word and started to be written in English as it is.

One of the Japanese arts, “Bosai” is loved as “a work of living art”, which is paid attention to all over the world.

Bonsai Type by Tree Species

There are two categories, deciduous trees and evergreen (coniferous) trees.

For appreciation, the bonsai industry uses five categories: Shohaku, Zatsubokurui, Hanamono, Jitsubutsu, and Kusamono.

①Shohakurui bonsai

Shohakurui bonsai are known as a representative for bonsai and hence they are preferably displayed at bonsai exhibitions.

The typical example of Shohakurui bonsai includes black pine, tanyosho pine, Japanese white pine, yezo spruce, needle juniper, Japanese cedar, Chinese juniper, Northern Japanese hemlock, yew, and hinoki cypress. Larch, one of the deciduous trees, is also used.

②Zatsubokurui bonsai

Deciduous trees living in nature are cultivated for Zoukirui bonsai.

As they display beautiful seasonal changes, you can enjoy close at hand.

Especially, wax tree, ivy and vines, willow, hamabou, and gingko show a fantastic appearance during leaf.

Even after leaf fall, keyaki, Siebold’s beech, maple, soro, tall stewartia, and acer will entertain you.

③Hanamono bonsai

Hanamono bonsai’s beauty is the shape of tree harmonized with small flowers, not just the flowers.

In recent years, Shohin bonsai has become popular for Hanamono bonsai.

The main species are plum, flowering crab apple, quince, cherry, azalea, satsuki, wisteria, lily of the valley, and crape myrtle.

④Jitsubutsu bonsai

Jitsubutu bonsai is different from indeciduous trees or deciduous trees as it displays admirable flowers even before growing berries.

The typical species includes crab apple, staff trees, peach, Chinese quince, pomegranate, ilex, spindle trees, persimmon, and gardenia.

⑤Kusamono bonsai

Kusamono bonsai is created with mountain plants or wildflowers in nature, and was called “Kusamono.”

It differs from a potted plant transferred from a mountain to a container.

There are two types. One is cultivated for enjoying flowers and berries, and the other is prepared for enjoying the leaves.

The first includes violet, arabidopsis, dandelion, columbine, pecteilis radiata, gentian, and liverwort.

The later includes bamboo grass, love grass, calamus, tetraspora cylindrica, Taiwan amur silver grass, horsetail, and acorus gramineus.

Closing Remarks

With the bonsai basics, you will discover the insights of the Japanese into nature, such as a delicate sense of beauty or caring attitude.

The bonsai knowledge will broaden your mind and it brings you more fulfillments on admiration of Japanese landscapes.