Keshiki Bonsai: The Easy, Modern Way to Create Miniature Landscapes

Keshiki Bonsai: The Easy, Modern Way to Create Miniature Landscapes

by Kenji Kobayashi


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Keshiki Bonsai: The Easy, Modern Way to Create Miniature Landscapes by Kenji Kobayashi

Traditional bonsai can be complicated, time consuming, and expensive. Keshiki bonsai is different. Gone are the confusing rules. There’s no need to wait for years until your bonsai is “ready,” or to worry that you might kill some ancient, precious plant. Keshiki bonsai is about taking inspiration from a natural scene and creating a living piece of art using easily available plants and small containers. Anyone can do it! Just follow the clear step-by-step instructions and you’ll have an exquisite bonsai that will enliven any style of room.

This dazzling book features 37 stylish projects with simple, step-by-step instructions that anyone can follow. The projects start simple, with five designs that feature moss combined with unique containers. Readers then move on to six designs combining moss, small trees, and containers. The next ten projects add perennials to the mix, and the final ten projects have it all: moss, trees, perennials, and stones. Each project is made with a wide variety of containers, from the most delicate, artisan clay to a repurposed ramekin and a simple box

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781604693591
Publisher: Timber Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 10/02/2012
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 798,235
Product dimensions: 7.00(w) x 9.40(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Kenji Kobayashi studied engineering and landscape design in his native Japan before learning about bonsai in Portland, Oregon, where the art of miniature landscapes captivated his imagination. After returning to Japan he immersed himself in the study of bonsai and in 2002 created the style he calls keshiki bonsai, or literally, landscape bonsai, and opened his shop, Sinajina, in Tokyo, where he creates and sells modern bonsai as well as other handcrafted home decor items. Active in solo shows and exhibitions across Japan, Kobayashi also teaches, writes, and appears on television and in workshops sharing his vision of “little landscapes for our lives.”

Read an Excerpt

Bonsai means literally a planting (sai) that is nurtured in a tray or planter (bon). In Japan, bonsai has a long history going back as far as the Heian period (794 –1185) when envoys from China are said to have introduced the art. Today, people all over the world have become captive to its charms. In fact, I traveled to America to learn the art of bonsai. While there, I began to realize that bonsai has taken on a stylish new image that appeals to people interested in design and the arts.
In Japan, there is a preconceived notion that bonsai is an expensive pastime for the senior citizen. Bonsai suffers from being considered a complicated hobby, a high-maintenance sibling of elaborate gardening. Indeed, I was one of those people who thought of bonsai as a stale, excessively intricate diversion for those with too much time on their hands. What first got me interested in the world of bonsai was a photograph I saw in a book by Toshio Kawamoto called Ki to ishi no dezain (Designing with Trees and Stones). It showed cedar trees planted in a flat container, but what was remarkable was that the scale tricked the eye into believing that the picture had been shot from nature. The illusion was so strong, I felt like I was about to walk into a real forest. I still cannot forget my amazement that trees, rocks, and moss could evoke such a vibrant world in a single container.

The pleasure of composing a form that conjures nature in all its grandeur and yet is contained in just a small vessel rests in recreating and building a remembered landscape—say, a mountain seen in one’s youth or a scene glimpsed on a trip—with plants and stones. As the plants develop, the four seasons reveal themselves through changes in foliage, and you find yourself immersed in the unfolding of nature. That’s why I call my bonsai keshiki (landscape) bonsai. Even one pine, placed on top of a little hill of moss, presents a year-round communion with the living essence of scenery.
A miniature bonsai can pack a dynamic punch far exceeding its tiny footprint when placed thoughtfully in an interior. Consider it like an evolving work of art and let it serve as an element of decor. Cultivating an appreciation of the natural landscape is an acquired skill, like choosing the right wine to go with hors d’oeuvres.
Bonsai need not be associated solely with Japanese style. Instead, I’d like to see bonsai incorporated into your home as part of your living environment. It is with that goal in mind that I offer this book to introduce you to all there is to know about making the miniature bonsai landscapes that I have come to love. I’ve included bonsai terminology throughout the book to help you understand some technical terms that you may encounter in the world of miniature plant cultivation. Look through the photographs and then start with a container that you particularly adore.

If this book serves to inspire just one more bonsai fan, whether old or young, male or female, I will have fulfilled my deepest wish.
Kenji Kobayashi

Table of Contents

Foreword Diane Durston 8

Preface 10

Basics of Keshiki Bonsai 12

Keshiki bonsai in my own living space 22


1 A play of textures between Japanese paper and moss 26

2 A trio of tiny mosses all in a row 29

3 Moss in a contrasting patterned container 31

4 Red and green: Christmas colors 33

5 Moss in a square container with a layer-cake pattern 36

Hisao Iwashimizu, Ironware Artist 40

Moss and Trees

6 A white container with brilliant green moss and tree 44

7 The imposing beauty of a tall cypress 47

8 Gracefully bending branches, a classic bonsai motif 50

9 A grove of trees on a hill of moss in a silver bowl 55

10 A tree on a knoll in a tall, narrow container 58

11 Berries and leaves in a lush meadow 61

Nobuo Hashiba, Contemporary Artist 64

12 A wild mountain landscape you loved as a child 68

13 Grasses sprouting from a jar-shaped pot 71

14 The bold lines of horsetails in a waterside landscape 73

15 A densely overgrown forest in a sleekly modern bowl 76

16 A striking vertical planting in a brass bowl 79

17 The feeling of wind in the branches on a tabletop 81

18 Spreading branches in a full-bodied container 84

19 Bright red berries in a festive arrangement 87

20 A mini bonsai bewitching in its delicacy 91

21 A vigorous branch exuding strength 94

Mito Tajima, Ceramics Artist 98

Moss, Trees, Perennials, and

22 A small garden in a tin container 102

23 An indoor prairie in an earth-toned container 105

24 A trickling stream-where fireflies might appear 100

25 Stones and moss on a tiny hill 110

26 A leafy garden to restore your senses 112

27 The slender line of a tree in a white pot 114

28 Reliving a climb to a lone tree on a mountaintop 116

29 A stream meandering between mountain slopes 119

30 Tall trees and rough stones in a deep forest 123

31 A moonlit scene at water's edge in a whimsical container 126

Ritsuko Sato, Textile Dyer 130

Bonsai in Novel Containers

32 A reimagined coffee cup 134

33 A repurpoaed Jelly mold 137

34 A new life for a ramekin 140

35 The possibilities of an empty box 143

36 An empty can transformed 146

37 A new use for a plastic tray 149

Akiko Tsuruta, Glass Artist 152

Plants for Keshiki Bonsai 154

Metric Conversions 168

Resources 169

Index 170

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