This post is a little tribute to the craftsmanship and artistry of Naoki Maeoka. He was my “oyakata” while I was playing a deshi-for-a-month during my residency at the Fujikawa Kouka-en in Osaka (see the post about my work there at http://lomov.blogspot.com.au/2015/08/my-residence-at-fujikawa-kouka-en-osaka.html). Naoki is a resident bonsai artist at Fujikawa Kouka-en Bonsai Nursery in Osaka. He graduated from Osaka University of Arts and spent sixteen years working as a graphic designer. He began to pursue bonsai as a hobby in 2001. Eventually, his passion for bonsai grew so strong that he gave up his corporate career and completed a traditional five-year apprenticeship under the 2nd generation bonsai master Keiichi Fujikawa. This led Naoki to attaining professional bonsai qualifications awarded by the Nippon Bonsai Association. In 2012 Naoki began teaching bonsai at the Fujikawa International School of Bonsai. He has instructed dozens of students from all over the world and I am privileged to be one of them.
Here, I put together few before-and-after images of bonsai I witnessed him styling in June 2015. They represent about two thirds of the trees he styled during that month. Let’s start with the pine tree next to Naoki in the image above. This is a classic Japanese design where the tree evokes that famous pine bonsai illustration from Somoku Kinyoshu (see http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015086754721;view=1up;seq=4). The very first tree I observed Naoki to style is shown in the image below. It is a Black Pine variety with flaky bark. This bark gives a tree the aged appearance and makes the trunk look much thicker.
Below is the top view of a wired and styled branch of this tree.
Below is a Red Pine. Image ‘A’ shows it before the styling, image ‘B’ shows the tree after the removal of old needles and image ‘C’ shows it after the styling. This tree has been sold before Naoki finished styling it.
Below are before-and-after images of two more pines.
The Black Pine shown in the images below is somewhat odd. The images show the styling done by Naoki in June 2015. To see the previous work done on this tree see episode 37 of ‘Bonsai Art of Japan’ on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0LOZ3643sM). This kind of tree presents an artist with a real challenge, a true test of his abilities so to speak and I believe that Mr. Fujikawa and his apprentices were able to utilise most of this tree’s potential.
Apart from working with the trees, Naoki is a highly skilled bonsai pot maker. He carved the pot shown below from a single slab of clay. This method of making bonsai pots allows a lot of creative freedom, but it is very time consuming, therefore pots like this are very unique and valuable.