Buddha & Bonsai: Shimpukuji Temple bonsai show coverage.

Nestled in the bamboo covered hills just 45 minutes outside of Nagoya City, there’s a small town named Shimpukuji-Cho.  It’s a town built around (and named after) a magnificent Buddhist temple.  A temple and surrounding scenery that easily fits a westerners daydreams of what Japan probably looks like. Traditional style and antiquity are two of my favorite things about Japan; Shimpukugi Temple has them both, in spades!

Front view of the temple.

Front view of the temple.

Statue at the foot of the large stair case.

Statue at the foot of the large stair case.

Side view of the entrance at the top of the stairs.

Side view of the entrance.

The original version of Shimpukugi temple is said to have been built around the year 595, during the Asuka period of Japan’s history.  That’s only about 50 years after Buddhism was introduced to Japan.  While walking the temple grounds for the first time, I smiled while considering the fact that this place has been maintained and cared for since the days when Buddhism was a relatively new religion in Japan.  What an interesting thought.  While the locals are accustomed to this type of history, I really enjoyed wrapping my mind around it.  For me it was a new experience due to the fact that we just don’t have man-made things with history this long in the US.

The current version of the temple (pictured above) was constructed in 1274.  It looks great, especially for it’s age.  There is obviously a very high level of care that goes into this place.

Side view of the stairs leading to the temple.

Side view of the stairs leading to the temple.

As if Shimpukugi temple wasn’t amazing enough, there is also a well established bonsai museum that is maintained by the Daijuen/Aichien group.  Being a part of this group means I get to spend time at Shimpukugi whenever a few extra hands are needed.  It’s always a pleasure.

View of the main outdoor display area of the bonsai museum at Shimpukugi Temple.

View of the main outdoor display area of the bonsai museum at Shimpukugi Temple.

Each year the museum at Shimpukugi hosts a bonsai show put on by the Ki Hatchi Kai bonsai club.  A Nagoya area club that is taught by Mr. Tanaka, owner of Aichien.  The club is about 15 active members strong and is a really friendly group of people.  This year marks the 25th annual club show at the temple as well as my 6th (and counting) opportunity to set up a bonsai show with this group.  It’s always a good time and incredibly inspiring to see how well this group works together.  Even though it’s a small show, everyone puts in a lot of effort and tries their best. There is a real sense of community with these small shows that I don’t feel as much when we set up at the national level bonsai shows.  It’s a feeling of bonsai purely for the sake of bonsai, I like that.

So lets take a look at the photos from the show.  It was a nice variety of trees and a wide range of experience levels from beginner to advanced.  After the show photos I’ve got a few more photos of the temple and bonsai museum to share.  Here we go!


Great tree to start the show! The lighting was really nice too.





This red pine was one of my favorites from the show. It also participated in this years Taikan bonsai exhibition in Kyoto. The owner of this tree is a very talented wood sculptor, he hand carved the figurine accent. I wish I could have gotten a better photo.


This tree belongs to one of Aichien’s customers. It was styled by me a couple of months before the show. This was the initial styling for this tree. Usually we would wait a few years before showing a tree after so much work. In this case however, its ok. The owner was excited to show it.












Great little white pine. I’ve really started to like white pines in this style.



This tree is also owned by one of Aichien’s customers and was styled by me a couple of months before the show. Almost identical situation. We would have liked to show this tree in a smaller pot, however since so much styling work was done this year we need to wait until next year to safely re-pot.




As you can see, the show area is quite small and the trees are very tightly grouped together.  Maybe not ideal, but the club does a good job of working with what they’ve got.  The shots with the crazy bright yellow background are in front of a window.  Unfortunately the sun was not on my team when it was photo time so the trees in some photos are hard to see.  Better luck next time.

Sales and trading area.

Sales and trading area.

Overall I think the show was a success and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.  I look forward to doing it again next year.

Now lets take a look at some of the trees that are part of the temple’s museum collection. Shimp28






















And now a few more shots from around the temple.













Shimp3 Shimp2



There is also a separate museum in the basement of the bonsai museum that has a lot of art and artifacts that have accumulated at the temple over the centuries.



Great collection at the Shimpukuji museum!

Me,Enjoying every moment at Shimpukuji temple and trying my best to stay warm

A room at Shimpukuji

Of all the photos I've taken so far in Japan, I think this one may be my favorite.

more from the collection at Shimpukuji museum

Nice old statue at Shimpukuji.  Great patina!!

Temple Stairs.  I walked up and down these things 8 or 9 times.  :)

A stack of roof tiles at Shimpukuji

Its so cold even the statues need to bundle up.

And suddenly I get reminded that I may be enjoying my time at Shimpukugi too much.  Either that or I’m being encouraged to continue having a good learning experience in Japan.  There’s really no way to effectively read “the look”

Mr. Tanaka giving me "the look".  This can mean anything from "nice work!" to "Danny, what the hell are you doing?"  Occasionally it's followed up by a laugh and him telling me that I'm having to much fun, but usually its strictly non-verbal communication.

Mr. Tanaka giving me “the look”. This can mean anything from “nice work!” to “Danny, what the hell are you doing?” Occasionally it’s followed up by a laugh and him telling me that I’m having too much fun, but usually it’s strictly non-verbal communication.  This is apprentice life.

Well that wraps this one up.  I hope you all enjoyed the photos.  Thanks so much for reading and the continued support.

Until next time…