Meifu Bonsai Exhibition 2015

Meifu Bonsai Exhibition is one of the longest running shows still happening each year in Japan.  Second oldest in fact, right behind Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition held each year in Tokyo.

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The entrance display is always very impressive at Meifu-Ten.

I really have a great time at this show.  It is by far my favorite exhibition venue.  A large convention center with floor to ceiling windows pouring natural light onto the bonsai.  Some of the trees are really great and many of the visitors and other professionals are from the Nagoya area, so I get the chance to chit chat with some familiar faces while hanging around at the show.

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From what I’ve heard, Meifu-ten was at one time considered a top level exhibition.  Similar to Taikan-ten and Kokufu-ten.  Bringing huge crowds and some of the highest quality bonsai from all over Japan.  Since the 1970’s however, bonsai popularity has been in decline all over the nation and consequently many bonsai shows have scaled back and become local shows or even dissolved all together.  At this point, Meifu is somewhere in the middle.  Many of the trees are amazing, previous Kokufu winners, certified masterpiece bonsai, and trees working their way up in the circuit. Some of the trees have a very local feel however, sort of top level amateur or lower level professional quality.  When there is a huge gap in quality its much easier to appreciate the good stuff.  Go to a top level show and its one world class tree after another.  Not to say this is a bad thing, just saying its more difficult to compare.  Especially if you dont look at bonsai all day every day.

In this article I’m going to share photos of displays from the show.  As you’re scanning through, try to take note of a few things.  How the display is set up.  Do the display elements enhance the tree or draw attention away from the tree?  Are the sizes of the display items and available space proportioned well?  Is the table a good match.. strong enough, soft enough, too high, to low, etc.  While there are no set rules to display at Meifu-ten, there are a few general guidelines that tend to make for a more attractive set up.  Typically a center focused display works best.  By this I mean a display set up in a way that the bonsai and the accent are both moving toward each other and the center of the display, versus moving away from each other.  The idea is a common layout concept in many design formats, not just bonsai.  When everything is moving toward the center it keeps our eyes in the display.  When we face things away from each other it has a tendency to break our focus and kick us out of the display.  It’s amazing to watch people consistently walk right past a display at a show and not even realize that they did it.  I wont get into rules and rights and wrongs with this thing.  Just thought it would be fun to give some food for thought while you view the show.

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And last but certainly not least, an old Japanese Black Pine named Zuio.  Zuio is a previous winner of the Kokufu prize and is a certified important bonsai masterpiece.  Additionally it took 1st place at Meifu this year.  Zuio has a long history at Aichien and is one of the most powerful pines I have seen.  Mr. Tanaka was kind enough to grant me the privilege of preparing Zuio for the show this year.  Exhibition aside, it was an honor just to spend a few days working on it.  Sometime in the near future I will be doing a blog post dedicated to Zuio’s history.  Keep an eye out!

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Ok everybody, thats all I’ve got for this one.  Maybe you noticed some new things about display that you previously didn’t consider.  If so, keep trying to view bonsai displays with this type of eye.  Taking in the entire composition as a whole.  It can make bonsai shows even more enjoyable.  A strong display is often times much more than just the sum of its components.  If they don’t go well together it might not work, regardless of how nice they are.  When its good, its good.

Thanks for reading! Until next time…

Danny