April 2019: The Candace & Chris Kyoto Tour

Our esteemed own members Candace Key and Chris Ross whisked the group away to Kyoto, Japan for our April 2019 meeting. As two of our most avid, experienced, and creative members, Candace and Chris did a marvelous job of transforming the photos from their trip into the closest thing to being there without being there.

Candace did most of the talking and photography, but Chris’ keen photographic eye was evident in some of the more spectacular photos. None will soon forget the gorgeous iridescent koi photo, for instance. Chris also served as fact-checker, as did Bill Castellon–landscape architect, master arborist, and shohin enthusiast–who had joined them on their trip and was present in the audience this night. It would be a feat indeed to try to convey the entirety of their presentation in this article, but I’ll attempt a taste.

Imagine tiny streets with restaurants and shrines or temples on every block. Listen for the occasional sound of a bell ringing, because it’s a form of prayer in many temples. Find yourself entering intricately built stone Nijo castle with something to awe every visitor. Chris tells us how the wooden bridge over the moat was designed to be dismantled nearly instantly in case of attack. Throughout Kyoto, impressive ancient woodwork was everywhere.

Daitokuji temple complex was next – one of their more engrossing destinations. This was a large area containing a whole collection of temples and gardens. There were lots of rock and Zen gardens and breath-taking architecture, of both the building and landscape varieties. A couple slides demonstrated how there were small contemplative gardens tucked into every possible corner of every temple. There were apparently people milling about everywhere – a thorough mix of worshippers, tourists, and tour groups – but Candace did a great job of getting some of the more spectacular features in isolation. There was so much going on that Candace said it struck her as amazing how the monks would go about their worship as if this near-circus of activity wasn’t going on around them.

The ultimate objective: the 38th Nippon Taikan Bonsai Exhibition. There were not too many photos of this due to the show rules, but Candace and Chris gave us a good sense of what it was like. This show was a little more relaxed than something more prestigious, like Kokufu, with themed areas and more experimental types of bonsai. And the sales area had a lot more affordable material. Too bad it’s pretty much impossible to bring stuff home from there! The same sentiment had been expressed earlier as we got to see a few photos from their visit to a nursery specializing in shohin.

A couple other Marin Bonsai Club members were apparently in Kyoto at the same time as Candace, Chris and the rest of their group. Candace and Chris tried to meet up with Lake Hanyu and Alison Seaman, but scheduling and navigation problems prevented any American reunions. They did meet up with the long-time friend of another member of the group, who gave them free tickets to the Golden Pavilion, which took the architecture and landscaping to another level.

They met up with Sensei Yasuo Mitsuya at one point in the trip. Mitsuya is the one who gave Kathy Shaner her apprenticeship, which led to her being the first non-Japanese to become a true bonsai Sensei. The entire group was very excited to meet up with him, the feelings were mutual, and he showed them a good time – after insisting on revisiting the Nippon Taikan Exhibit so that he could give his own take on everything.

All in all, they had an incredible time, want to go again as soon and as often as possible, and highly recommend the trip. From the wowed looks on many audience members’ faces after the presentation, I’d say a lot of people will be taking their advice. Certainly there were some in the audience whom have already been, and they were enthusiastically nodding their heads in agreement.

– David Eichhorn

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