Bonsai is often called a green little cosmos.
Bonsai is trees or plants grown in a container in such a way that they look their most beautiful. One admires the beauty of living things and energy of nature over the reproduced esthetics of wild nature in a small container. Captivating bonsai is an artistic hobby.
Bonsai is truly a living art. In this small world, there are the changes of seasons and the simple perception of nature forms alongside seasons.
The roots of bonsai is said to be far back in Heian era, running from 794 to 1185, and early bonsai can be seen in picture scrolls in the early 14th century.
In ancient times, bonsai was only for high-ranking people such as aristocrats and priests, but it became typical for commoners in the 17th century. Bonsai in the life of commoners in Edo era was often chosen as a theme of Ukiyo-e paintings. Those capture the popularity of bonsai and the vivacious life with bonsai as shown in some examples below.
Photo via Ukiyo-e Ota Memorial Museum of Art
Photo via Network 2010
Photo via 内外資料堂
After Japan opened the country up to Western countries in 1868, bonsai became to be appreciated as an object of art by Westerners. ‘Plant hunters’ from Western countries began to visit Japan since then. A record remained in the UK that says those plant hunters were impressed by seeing so many Japanese people appreciate nature.
Plant hunters?? There is such a unique profession of searching for and studying new plants and trees in the world. It is fascinating to just imagine how the plant hunters from Europe saw the little cosmos of bonsai everywhere in Japan and the affection of Japanese people toward that back in the 19 centuries. I guess a plant hunter looks like him, Seijun Nishihata. If you are interested in his work, please take a look at his site from here. It is only in Japanese but full of weird BUT brilliant plants and trees.
Today, bonsai continues to be a hobby of the general public in Japan as well as an important part of Japan’s artistic tradition.
Speaking of bonsai, at the Hermes’s ‘Leather forever’ exhibition, bonsai was used as a motif to demonstrate a number of shared values between Hermes and Japan, such as ‘respect for tradition, the will to perpetuate savoir-faire, the patient and meticulous approach of the artisan, and a focus on detail’. In the exhibition, Hermes exhibited a set of unique pieces of micro-bags such as Kelly, Birkin, and Constance, inspired by a bonsai.
I got my little bonsai for my house. It is Japanese apricot tree and is expected to bloom in one to two weeks from now. I am so looking forward to it!
There are many bonsai tours and a dedicated museum available in Japan. I leave a directory below: