An Exhibition of Deciduous Bonsai October 26, 2022-February 25, 2023

Curator Bob Hilvers! Walking Lecture Tour -TBA

The arrival of each new season is acknowledged and celebrated in the Japanese culture. This sensitivity to seasonal change is an important part of Shinto, Japan!s native belief system, which has focused on the cycles of the earth. Similarly, seasonal references are found everywhere in the Japanese literary and visual arts. A distinctive Japanese artistic convention is to depict a single environment transitioning from spring to summer to autumn to winter in one work. In this way, Japanese painters and poets expressed not only their fondness for this natural cycle but also captured an awareness of the inevitability of change, a fundamental Buddhist concept.

Bamboo in Four Seasons from Seasonal Imagery in Japanese Art
Bamboo in Four Seasons from Seasonal Imagery in Japanese Art

This tradition expresses the confluence of Shinto and Buddhism in the use of seasonal references. Shiro Nakagawa was acknowledging this tradition when he suggested the four seasons concept to Paul Saito, Shinzen Friendship Garden’s original landscape architect. He was inspired by the 15th century Japanese artist, Sesshū Tōyō, famous or his 50 foot long hand scroll taking the viewer on a journey through the four seasons.


After the fall color display has passed, bonsai show us another image entirely: the Winter Sil- houette. When deciduous bonsai have shed all their leaves, we see the artistic skill that formed the structure of the tree. Only then can we fully appreciate the angularity and refinement of the branch structure. This is like the study of architecture or anatomy. Some bonsai exhibits are exclusively devoted to showing the trees in their Winter Silhouette, particularly for the apprecia- tion of the patience and skill required to develop a beautiful “skeleton.”

This exhibition will also feature winter blooming bonsai including camellia and Ume (flowering apricot also known as plum blossom). At the end of the exhibition, the final seasonal image occurs when the bright green or red leaf buds of early spring emerge on the bare branches, bringing the journey of the seasons full circle. This is a dynamic exhibition that is worth revisiting a few times between October 26 and February 25 to fully appreciate the changing displays of the deciduous bonsai as they transform through the seasons.

Maple Forest-01
Maple Forest-02
Maple Forest-03
Maple Forest-04

Irene Tamura’s Japanese Maple forest through four seasons.


Two of the flowering bonsai on display will be the Camellia throughout the winter and the

Ume (flowering apricot, aka plum blossom, in late January.