Important Bonsai Masterpiece

***UPDATE*** I’m happy to say that all of the trees we had submitted for the Kichou Bonsai judging were accepted!

About this time every year a judging takes place in Tokyo for the newest entries of bonsai into a select group know as Kichou Bonsai, or Important Bonsai Masterpiece.  These bonsai are ones that are recognized as being some of the finest quality trees, ones that have been improved upon year after year to the point where they stand out above most other bonsai. I am told that this judging has taken place over the last 35 years or so and although some of these trees have died over the years for one reason or another, there have been about 750 trees awarded with this honor. A handful of professionals from around Japan make up the group of judges and are typically the same group that has just judged the past Kokufu trees. After a tree is designated Kichou Bonsai, it is given a handmade plaque that can be displayed with the tree and a metal tag which is hung from a branch.

Being that Bonsai is a living art, these trees change over time. Sometimes they get better, other times worse. Sometimes big changes are made to the design of a tree or a disease or insects attack a tree forcing a change upon the tree. So not all trees that have been designated Kichou Bonsai stay as magnificent as they once were. I have seen a few of these important trees that have fallen ill and have been let to grow freely for some time. But the important thing about these trees is that when in their prime and perfect state, they exemplify what a bonsai is more so than any other bonsai.

Here are a few trees from our nursery that we have challenged to undergo this years judging. We have matched each tree with a stand as to better display them for the judges. A funny thing about this is that we tend to select stands that elevate the trees slightly. By doing so, we help to save the backs of the judges who are looking at them from every angle. Many of the judges are elderly gentlemen and you wouldn’t want to give them any reason to knock points off your tree, such as having to bend over too much to see the trunk! 😉

Goyomatsu, White Pine

Arakawa, Cork Bark Maple


The juniper pictured above was worked on by my sempai Matt and just may be the subject of a post on his blog in the near future. You can visit his blog here,

Goyomatsu, White Pine

Juniper...I also really like the stand in this picture and am thinking of a way to get it into my collection...

The next tree is one that I was tasked with working on for the judging. Here it is before…

When telling me what I should do to this tree, Oyakata cut a large branch off the apex and told me to make it more compact.

In addition to the cut on the apex, I removed a large branch on the front about half way up. The branch was blocking the trunk and an interesting part of the whole composition. I feel that the tree becomes more refined after removing this branch and allows the viewer to move up and down the trunk of the tree more fluidly. There wasn’t much detailed wiring on the tree so I began placing some where it was needed. Obviously on the apex, most of the branches needed some wire in order to fill the new hole and to make the apex more compact overall. For the rest of the tree, some detailed wire was placed in order to pull branches back into line making the silhouette fluid. Also, the line of each pad was cleaned, pulling needles that were hanging down. Then the deadwood was scrubbed clean and lime sulfur was applied.

Here is the tree after my work…

Lastly, each tree was mossed and the pots were oiled. As an added bonus and a little fun, I have begun to make T’s with moss and hide them on the surface. So far, Oyakata hasn’t spotted one of my T’s, so i don’t know if  I am that good at it or I just haven’t made it powerful enough! (Power T for all my Tennessee readers!) In one case I used lichen to make a T…can you spot it?

T marks the spot....

Lets hope that all of these trees receive this prestigious award of Kichou Bonsai. I will let you know as soon as we hear the results.

I've done all I can, now its up to the tree to shine!

Please feel free to add your comments to any and all of my post in the comment sections. Also, at the top right of each page there is a section where you can sign up to follow my blog, Please Do and I can keep track of who and how many people are reading my blog! Thank you for reading!

This entry was posted in Before and After, Bonsai Exhibition, Display. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Important Bonsai Masterpiece

  1. bonsai eejit says:

    Great post Tyler, keep them coming. What will happen if your ‘T’s’ are spotted? 🙂
    The lack of fine wiring on the juniper makes it look more natural in its outline, if you know what I mean. So many fully wired junipers look artificial!

    • tylersherrod says:

      Ian, I don’t think Oyakata would really know what my ‘T’s’ were if he did spot them. He’d probably just laugh and think I was a little crazy if I were to tell him about them. I do agree with you about the natural look of the juniper. We typically do that type of wiring for showing tree and for just that reason. Plus a tree such as that one which is refined, typically dont need a lot of wire to move a lot of branches back into place. Mostly just a little tidying up! Thanks for the comment Ian!

  2. bonsai eejit says:

    Reblogged this on Bonsai Eejit and commented:
    Great post from Tyler about bonsai masterpieces in Japan.

  3. Jeremiah Lee says:

    Very impressive and gorgeous trees! You crack me up with your T’s. Awesome work on that juniper!!! I have a question about the second White pine in exposed root style. Do you know if it was grown from seed/cutting or is it yamadori? It looks so good I feel like it has to be collected. But, I would also think that many exposed root style are not collected. Thanks for posting!

    • tylersherrod says:

      Great question Jeremiah! Matt and I were discussing that after you asked and both came to the conclusion that it was most likely field grown. I would have to agree with you in thinking that most exposed root styles that we see are most likely man-made. I saw an article in the most recent Bonsai Focus (I believe) talking about a guy here in Japan who grows exposed root style in the field. I’m sure there are a few here and there that are yamadori though. But I guess part of the beauty in it is not being able to tell, that is the sign of a great grower and artist! Thanks for the comment!

  4. traveler says:

    your trademark the power T

  5. Good work Tyler – sweet trees!

  6. Brian VF says:

    Thanks for writing about this. Looking through the Kokufu books, I was curious about the label of important bonsai masterpiece. How about sticking a nice crimson A in one of those pots for your neighbors to the South…

    • tylersherrod says:

      Thank you for checking out my blog Brian! Before I made it to Japan, I had always wandered about those important bonsai masterpieces in the Kokufu books as well. Glad to shead a little light about them. I think I might get banned from Tennessee if I were to put an A in the moss! I know my little brother who is currently in school at Bama wouldn’t let me live it down. It’s a little hard for me to do this, but I will give you a ‘Roll Tide’ for visiting my blog! Thanks again!

  7. Trip wheeler says:

    Tyler, fantastic work and hello from Charlotte. Can’t wait to hear all about your journey. I hope you are well. I’m still addicted. Your trees look incredible.

    • tylersherrod says:

      Hey Trip, it’s good to hear from you! Glad to hear you are still at it, obviously it can be very addictive. I am doing well here in Japan and am learning a lot. Hope all is well with you and your trees! Thanks for visiting and the comment, Keep in touch!

  8. zimrian says:

    When you go over styling a tree, would you mind adding more pictures showing steps that you took to get the end result? I love your work and I am pretty new to bonsai, so seeing your genius would be greatly appreciated. ^-^

  9. Ken Judd says:

    Reblogged this on Bear Tales and commented:
    Great bonsai. Just had to share.

  10. Sam Ogranaja says:

    Tyler, thank you for taking the time to post so much great information and so many great pictures. I absolutely love that Arakawa clump. Any chance you can post more pictures of it? I’m infatuated with such natural looking clump maples. I have one and am in the process of buying another one. It’s because of this tree that I’ve actually started looking into getting an Arakawa maple to take some cuttings. Unbelievable tree.

    Have a great week!!!!
    Hope to meet you in the future.
    Sam – in Raleigh NC.

  11. Pingback: Important Bonsai Masterpiece | Potted Plant Society

  12. Dilip says:

    Fasinating and inspiring. Thank you.

  13. website says:

    Wow that was strange. I just wrote an really long comment but after
    I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all
    that over again. Regardless, just wanted to say superb blog!

    • tylersherrod says:

      Thats very kind of you! Sorry to hear your comment didn’t show up…hope the problem wasn’t on my end. Please feel free to comment as much and often as you’d like. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog, hope you find some of the information helpful. Please stay posted a few post are in the works so you will have another chance to leave a long comment! 😉

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