Just a plant in a pot? Bonsai trees from Japan hide a meaning

DON’T THINK IT JUST AS A PLANT IN A POT.
THERE’S SOMETHING YOU DON’T SEE… YET.
LET ME GET YOU THERE.

DON’T THINK IT JUST AS A PLANT IN A POT.
THERE’S SOMETHING YOU DON’T SEE… YET.
LET ME GET YOU THERE.

1. WHAT EXACTLY IS A BONSAI TREE?

BJT Bonsai tree 盆栽 artisan main image dromediary Best Japan Tools

© Dromediary– Bonsai Artisan in Nagoya, Japan

You’re about to understand:
Bonsai are not just plants.
But living work of art.

Let’s start from the essentials.

Since ancient times Japanese people loved to be surrounded by elements that capture the essence, beauty and best features of Japanese landscapes.

Have you ever seen a Japanese garden?
And what about flower compositions?
Bonsai are part of the family too!

But what’s a Bonsai?

Bonsai is a miniature representations of natural sceneries.
An harmonic composition in a vase, recreating an entire landscape view.

It’s a microcosm.

You need to be in a positive attitude to understand it.
In watching it, remember yourself you’re looking at a landscape.
A forest, a valley, a river…
That mindset will soon bring that landscape to life.

Bonsai definitely is the pure expression of the grower’s personal view of nature.
Such a spiritual art form. Not just trees, but living art!

Now that you get it, let’s dig a bit deeper…
…or, better said, further back.

2. WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF BONSAI TREE?

Dromediary - bonsai pot Hokusai origin - Best Japan Tools

Hokusai – Bonsai trees in ukiyo-e art movement

Now that you get it, let’s dig a bit deeper…
…or, better said, further back.

Do you know where all this bonsai thing started?
Nope! Wrong answer!
It wasn’t Japan.

It all began in China, in the 7th century.
They used to trivially call it “tray plant” (Penjing 盆栽 )

Only 800 years ago this tradition finally arrived to Japan.
At first, just among few passionates, aristocrats and high ranked samurai family. Then, 500 years later, this passion begin to spread all over Japan.

Several old paintings clearly show bonsai integrated in houses’ rooms and gardens.
But, most importantly, some of those ancient Bonsai are still alive.

Yes! The same same bonsai, made hundreds of years ago!
Can you imagine?

But how can they survive so long, by just sitting down in their Bonki (Bonsai pot) all that time?

The secret lies in the skills of Bonsai artisans.

When planted in a pot, it’s basically taken away from nature.
Since then, one (or more) skilled person dedicates their life – THEIR LIFE! – to take complete care of it, by cleaning, watering, fertilizing and keeping pests away from it.

Now you know!
That basically a bonsai is like a baby.
Loved and cuddled by its growers in every possible way!

Can you imagine the grower, asking his plant:
“Have you finished your homework?!”😅

3. HOW TO MAKE A BONSAI IN 3 EASY STEPS

BJT Bonsai tree 盆栽 artisan main image dromediary Best Japan Tools

© Dromediary– Japanese Bonsai Maker at work

Bonsai are not made, but grown.
It’s a spiritual process.

It takes time and patience to transform your vision in a living bonsai creature.
Just think that the trunk grows only one millimeter (1/25 Inch) in thickness, in a decade!

As we said before, if well treated, they can live a very long life.
Just think that Japan owns bonsai, that are 1000 years old!!

As an Italian person, let me show a bit of pride and say this, though.
The gran-gran-granpa of all of them is conserved in Italy.
It’s believed to be the oldest existing bonsai tree in the world at an estimated 1,000+ years old.

Ok ok. I was wandering off.
Let me get back and show you the way..

Which way?
The easiest way to Bonsai, of course.

You just have to follow three steps:

1. Mix apposite dirts.
2. Cover the roots of your plant with the soil mixture.
3. Enrich the dirt-roots area with spongy green muss.

Ok. That’s obviously just a quick recap.
A light version of an accurate serie of processes.

Wanna dive deeper in bonsai making and
discover more tricks, techniques and best tools to use?
Check out other suggestions HERE

Why should I start bonsai making?
You’re maybe wondering.
Well. Everyone has it’s own reasons, I guess.

When starting or just trying new experiences, remember this:

Exposing yourself to something completely different is a wonderful way to open a new window into your world. Click To Tweet

 

Ok, now you got an idea about how bonsai are made.
But… What’s for?

4. WHAT IS THE MEANING OF A BONSAI TREE?

© Dromediary - bonsai green leaf - Best Japan Tools

© Dromediary– Tiny bonsai tree, tiny pot 🙂

In the past it was an essential element of the Japanese hospitality.
Used to create a pleasant atmosphere to welcome all guests.

Not so much as changed nowadays.
Since bonsai are still used to decorate a special room, or a corner, inside the house (or specific points in private gardens).

Truth is, using just a plant, a pot and few other elements, the grower creates his/her own personal vision of nature.
A glimpse of the purest essence of nature.
Not so far from displaying in your house a piece of art.

That introduces another critical reason why bonsai are so important.

In everyday life we’re so used to have trees everywhere around.
It’s so common that we tend not to spend any time looking at these.

That’s the importance of bonsai.
It’s a living tribute to nature.
Trees and landscapes right in front you, made to be directly enjoyed and appreciated!

I well remember the first time I was inspired by this bonsai philosophy.

It was as well my really first long travel around Japan.
Backpacking from Kagoshima (southern part of Kyūshū) to Nagano (northern part of Honsū) for roughly 3 months.

Sure thing.
That simple Bonsai class has been crucial to me, to deeper understand an important side of Japanese culture.

 

Check out the video I did to that lovely Bonsai artisan in Nagoya

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5. A REAL BONSAI CLASS IN NAGOYA, JAPAN

BJT Bonsai tree 盆栽 class workshop dromediary Best Japan Tools

© Dromediary– My first Bonsai class in Nagoya, Japan

Many Japanese people (and an increasing number of foreigner tourists) takes bonsai classes, courses or workshop (from beginner to higher level).
This make Bonsai art a fun experience accessible to anyone.

It surely offers you relaxing pleasant moments, a path of multi-sensory meditation to connect yourself with nature through art.
And it’s fun and fulfilling too! Guaranteed!

As said, I still gladly remember my first bonsai beginner class.
A 25 yo Italian guy among 8 mid-aged Japanese lively women!
Fun memories!

While my spiritual guide-sensei at that time was trying to introduce me to bonsai universe, she was telling me:

Calm down, relax, free your mind, feel the power of nature, feel the energy, this magnetic atmosphere…and now, slowly, summarizes all those nice sensations in your bonsai. Click To Tweet

But that was just my experience…
Why not to try yourself?

The complete story of my Bonsai experience is coming soon.
Plus my suggested bonsai workshop info.

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🙏 Thanks for reading.
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Written by: Dromediary