Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Bonsai Pilgrimage, Part 2: A Walk Through the Bonsai Village of Omiya

By Michael Rusnak

Cool man hole covers
A map from the Bonsai Art Museum showed areas of the famous Bonsai Village and the location of its nurseries. Somehow, I headed in the wrong direction from the museum and found that I had to ask directions again from friendly people who directed me back to the areas where the nurseries were located.   

I recalled the history of the Village—established in Omiya in 1928 after an earthquake, and four requirements: 1. Possession of at least 10 bonsai,
2. Agreeing to open their gardens to the public, 3. No two story houses, and 4. The use of hedge as live fencing.

This tradition was very much alive.   It seemed that just about
Awesome bonsai garden
every side street or alleyway I crossed through had well tended gardens, and many with a line of bonsai just over a gate or under a carport or on top of an elevated deck.   Bonsai were definitely still a part of the this city's character as well as its history.  

Having been lost for a while, it was good to find a large city map posted on a street corner, and following the you are here mark, I could see one nursery was very close by. I admit that the bonsai here had a certain enchantment over me. Either that magic or just reading the map upside-down, but right across the street was an open gate—entering into long rows of gorgeous bonsai.

Omiya Street Azaleas
The character of these trees was like a beacon-- these full flowing, lush foliage outlines just screamed at me in the sunlight and let me know that this was the place to see some fine bonsai being developed and cared for. I ran across the street. The tree guy there welcomed me and I was free to look around and take all of the photos I wanted.  
You were just in the middle of hundreds of great trees. I wandered through the pathways between benches and just lingered. This was bonsai heaven. They just have such great material to work on. Beyond the rows of trees in this particular nursery, you could see that there was even a growing area up above on top a car port. They were making good use of their space.
Carport bonsai patio

At this nursery, deciduous trees seemed most prevalent. I was especially taken by some of the grove plantings and the trident maples. Their foliage triangles were just spreading, well shaped and glorious. 

Such great material in Japan (Owner was OK with photos)
Just up the road, another nursery had many more pines and also shimpaku junipers. The gentleman working here spoke English and when I gave him our club card, he welcomed me and made sure I saw some of the fantastically shaped shimpakus in their collection. This nursery also had some serious pines—and some especially great cascade pines. Plus there were a number of tall literati specimens that I just wanted to hug they were so cool. 
One cascading pine sported a small hen and chicken companion plant cascading over the opposite side. Sort of a counter balance of the plant world.
I visited three different nurseries. All allowed me to wander about as much as I wanted and two permitted me to take all of the pictures I wanted.  

At the end of my time in Omiya, I wandered back toward the train station, and couldn't help but to feel the sense of mixing everything good that bonsai and the trees have to offer with the everyday lives of people.
Having fun in the middle of it all
Some of the side streets there served as a reminder of the village's original requirements—the concept of using live hedging, only here with azaleas to form the barriers between cars and bike paths. Plus more gardens in the homes, many with bonsai next to the front door, on the porch or on top of a garage, keeping the Village's original spirit.
Waiting for the train back to my hotel, I realized that in all the excitement I had forgotten about things like lunch, what time of the day it was and stuff like that. For certain, bonsai can cast its spell over, an obsession that just holds on and won't let you go.

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