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The Secret Techniques of Bonsai: A guide to starting, raising, and shaping bonsai    by Masakuni Kawasumi II & Masakuni Kawasumi III order for
Secret Techniques of Bonsai
by Masakuni Kawasumi II
Order:  USA  Can
Kodansha International, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In his Foreword, Masakuni Kawasumi II (who died in 2002, leaving the completion of the book to his son) tells us that 'People the world over are taking up bonsai cultivation with extraordinary passion' and, in many cases, developing bonsai of indigenous speces to suit local climates. He speaks of the history of bonsai, its origins in China, and the application of specialized tools to a variety of techniques in bonsai cultivation. The book was translated by Kay Yokota, and is filled with color photos of bonsai, and black and white pictures of tools and techniques, taken by Yasuo Saji.

The book begins with Basics: the spiritual aspect of bonsai cultivation; a presentation of different bonsai styles (like formal upright (chokkan) or windswept (fukinagashi) or weeping (shidare); and ways to start a bonsai from seeds or cuttings. The author defines bonsai as 'trees and/or shrubs cultivated in a pot in a style that (1) evokes images of the trees and/or shrubs in nature, or (2) moves the hearts of viewers.' He tells us that the ultimate ideal is to express wabi (quiet refinement) and sabi (timeworn elegance) in plants. Some bonsai shown in the book have been cultivated for more than a century!

After the basics, the majority of the book covers hands-on Techniques (simple to advanced) using a large number of very specific tools, and requiring (it seemed to me) surgical precision. Techniques are shown via step by step black and white images and include Layering (Toriki); Grafting (Tsugiki); Making Bonsai with Multiple Trunks; Pruning; Repotting every one to five years; Bud Trimming (Metsumi); Defoliation (Hagari); Training and Reshaping; Making Jin and Sharikan (bald and withered branches and trunks); Making Ishitsuki Bonsai (that encompasses a rock); and Daily Care (placement, rotation, watering etc.). A final section covers bonsai tools and how to care for them.

Tree doctor Masakuni Kawasumi III concludes his father's book by elaborating on a bonsai master's words ... 'Bonsai will be what they will be.' Masakuni Kawasumi II tells us that 'He who loves bonsai possesses a heart that loves peace' and offers his detailed and informative book, The Secret Techniques of Bonsai, to help enthusiasts around the world develop their spiritual potential and 'create splendid bonsai.'

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