Bonsai Life

by Kenji Kobayashi

by Cheryl Petty -- February 2, 2009

The title says it all with this very stylish, contemporary magazine/catalogue for the designer trade. Twenty pages are devoted to gorgeous full color still life photographs showing display options in the tea house, art studio, windowsill and other rooms. You can easily imagine you are in the young artist and his wife’s home, alternating with cameos of featured Keshiki Bonsai arrangements.

These pieces utilize much younger material than used for shohin to create scenery for viewing in our living space and is a cross between kusamono and mini-bonsai. Is is not Saikei and not shohin bonsai. The kanji characters for Keshiki can also be read as ‘keishoku,’ and means scenery or view.

Many pages have a series of photos numbered in Arabic numerals Westerners will recognize. Careful study of these sequential groupings reveal important information regarding specialized skills used repeatedly throughout the book:

  • Prepping nursery plants for transplanting
  • Prepping the pot for transplanting
  • Transplanting and finishing.

Four arrangements are shown in detail using photos to illustrate every step and nuance beautifully. The first is a semi-cascade, han-kengai, acer japonicum with bright coral bark and aconitifolium type foliage in a small round bowl stuffed with moss in a smooth hemisphere above the edge of the pot. Every step of creating this piece is illustrated with a fine photograph from prepping the rootball to applying the final moss.

The second and third pieces are twin or triple tree style. Whips of unequal lengths of a deciduous shrub share a small conical bowl or fine wooden tray with a miniature flowering plant, some mounds of moss and small rock particles.

The fourth arrangement is of a small acer cutting emerging from a sphere of moss wound with fibers set in a round tray of white and black gravel, very modern.

Twelve pages of principles of bonsai, 5 pages of containers and other accessories, 6 pages of plant directory of 60 useful plants, all very good pictures and possible to gain much information from careful study.

25-30 pages of what appears to be arrangements for sale, some exactly like the ones in the do-it-yourself section, all beautifully photographed and inspiring to readers to express their creativity and learn by trying to imitate these exquisite examples. Using today’s currency exchange rate, the pieces ranged between $32 for a small bowl of moss to $646 for a grove of Chinese elm.

The author favors these trends: Curled up pine seedlings, lanky acers, fruit or berry producing deciduous, equisetum or horsetail rush, moss covering every dish, ferns, grasses, everything miniature.

Bonsai Life promotes the bonsai lifestyle to a wider audience. It caught my eye! The 127 page book, 8.25"x 10.875" printed in Japanese language in 2007 can be previewed online and purchased for $34 from Miniature Bonsai at Miniature Dave Paris, a founding member of the American Shohin-Bonsai Association, runs this great website offering many goods and services to the bonsai community.


Kenji Kobayashi bas born in 1970 and studied engineering and landscape before learning about bonsai in Portland, Oregon and went back to Japan to lean more about bonsai and started his form which he calls ‘Keshiki Bonsai.’ Mr Kobayashi is an up and coming entrepeuneur, running his own business Sinajina since 2002 creating and selling modern bonsai, landscape design, displays, producing retail and wholesale keshiki, indoor bonsai landscapes.

Mr Kobayashi teaches, writes, and appears on television promoting his vision of “little landscapes of our lives.” He is exposing the world of bonsai to a wider audience in Japan. The economic condition of the world economy is such that many luxury products have taken a big hit. Japan is especially hard hit this year. Smaller specimens at lower prices are finding their market niche in this downturn. You can visit Kobayashi at his website

Published Golden Statements The Magazine of the Golden State Bonsai Federation Vol xxxii No.3 May/June 2009 Book Review p.10