Ume in Japan

Posted by on Feb 21, 2016 | 3 Comments
Ume in Japan

After the BIB show in late January it was only just over a week before I took off for ten days to visit Japan. I’ve travelled to Japan three times previously, each time during February to coincide with the Kokufu-ten bonsai show in the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum in Ueno Park, Tokyo.

Traveling to a one of the high caliber shows in Japan can be an eye-opening experience. The first time I saw some of the Japanese trees my mind was blown. I sometimes failed to even take photos on my first couple trips. Luckily, during this trip I snapped quite a few. And for the first time this year, the public was allowed to take photos during the Kokufu exhibit.

One of my favorite trees to enjoy while touring Japan is the Japanese Flowering Apricot – Ume. Ume bloom in winter, while the trees are leafless. Even after the blossoms drop, it can be weeks before the branches start growing for spring. The charm of ume is in the contrast between the craggly-barked, rotted and hollow trunks and the gently delicate and fragrant blossoms.

Ume blossoms are perhaps at their most beautiful right before they open.  They can be both white and pink.

Ume blossoms are perhaps at their most beautiful right before they open. They can be both white and pink.

The bark on old specimens is nearly as good as bark on pine trees.

The bark on old specimens is nearly as good as bark on pine trees.

Blossoms hanging from a tree at the Kokufu exhibit.

Blossoms hanging from a tree at the Kokufu exhibit.

The trees are often large and covered in blossoms for the show.

The trees are often large and covered in blossoms for the show.

This was my favorite ume from this trip.   It appears to be a stump that has turned on its side and grown as a bonsai.   The texture of the deadwood, although potentially helped along by human hands, is second to none.   The overall composition is unexpected and visually stunning.

This was my favorite ume from this trip. It appears to be a stump that has turned on its side and grown as a bonsai. The texture of the deadwood, although potentially helped along by human hands, is second to none. The overall composition is unexpected and visually stunning.

Because of their habit of dying back, ume can end up taking on very interesting and contorted forms.

Because of their habit of dying back, ume can end up taking on very interesting and contorted forms.

In the second half of the show a medium size ume was awarded the Kokufu prize.    This tree has all the qualities that make ume so amazing.

In the second half of the show a medium size ume was awarded the Kokufu prize. This tree has all the qualities that make ume so amazing.

While the show was certainly full of amazing trees...not all ume are big.  This one from the Green Club was both affordable and compact.

While the show was certainly full of amazing trees…not all ume are big. This one from the Green Club was both affordable and compact.

3 Comments

  1. Andrew Robson
    February 21, 2016

    Great photos Eric, thanks for sharing! Were most of the Ume that you saw in unglazed pots?

    • Eric Schrader
      February 21, 2016

      Hi Andrew,

      Not remembering off the top of my head I just spent a few minutes looking through photos. It’s interesting to note that two deciduous trees in unglazed containers won Kokufu prizes this year. The other was a crabapple, I did not care for the pot choice myself.

      The Ume were mixed about half and half. I prefer glazed containers myself. It seems that the smaller and more delicate examples were more frequently in glazed containers while the larger and more powerful ones were in unglazed containers.

  2. Phillip Jackson
    February 21, 2016

    THANK YOU, I find that each posting increases my knowledge and interest in specific areas of Bonsal. Please continue.

    Best,