The Mark of Beauty :  Bonsai

NHK Educational

Point 1 : Understanding the definition of bonsai
Bonsai is a recreation within a container of a natural landscape of living plants for the purpose of aesthetic appreciation. 
The tradition of bonsai came to Japan at the end of the Heian period, in the late 1100s. In Japan, as in China, it was popular to admire landscape scenery.
It was during the late nineteenth century, from the end of the Edo period to the Meiji period that the bonsai in its present form really took off. The impetus for this trend was the popularity of sencha (roasted green leaf tea) gatherings, during which the Chinese objects and decorations popular at the time would be displayed for the guests who were served steeped green tea. The potted plants used to decorate such rooms initiated today’s bonsai tradition.   As these potted plants grew increasingly refined for use in tea rooms, extraneous flowers and plants were omitted, leaving the tree as the central focus.
There are various nicknames for the different shapes of bonsai trees. The name Fukinagashi (Wind Blown) suggests a trunk leaning over as if being blown by a strong wind.
Kenkai (Suspended from a Cliff) is in a shape that represents a tree hanging over a steep cliff. 
Yoseue (Potted Trees) represents a forest. 
Point 2 : Appreciating age
To enjoy a bonsai is to get a taste of the past. Any tree that evokes a sense of age and dignity, regardless of its actual age, is said to have koshoku (aged patina). In particular, the white areas of dead wood are known as shari (literally, “relics”). This shari characteristic is one of the focuses of bonsai connoisseurship. 
Higurashi (Daily Life) a bonsai tree that exemplifies the term koshoku (aged patina).  Over 450 years old, it is considered to be the finest bonsai tree in Japan.
Point 3 : Decorating with bonsai
The appeal of bonsai is further highlighted when displayed within a traditional alcove (tokonoma) of a room. 
The Mark of Beauty : NHK Educational
Credits: Story

The Omiya Bonsai Art Museum, Saitama
National Diet Library Digital Collections
Kimura Masahiko
Kobayashi Fumiyuki

Music by maigoishi

Supervised by
Maezaki Shinya, Associate Professor, Kyoto Women's University
M. Rinne, Kyoto National Museum

Produced by NHK Educational Corporation


Credits: All media
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