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Saikei Bonsai - Creating a Planting with a Deep Ravine


This planting from Toshio Kawamoto’s Saikei classic is quite similar to the planting on the cover (below): same trees (cryptomeria), same (or nearly the same) pot and somewhat similar rocky ravine separating two tree and moss covered areas. The main difference is that this one shows a deep ravine. The rocks that define it represent tall vertical cliffs

Today we're dialing way back to 2010 (our second year for Bonsai Bark) and revisiting one of our favorite and most popular series of posts. I've left my original text almost completely intact, with only minor editing. Stay posted for more...

How to create a deep ravine saikei...
The purpose of this section from the Toshio Kawamoto's original is to show how to create a deep ravine saikei, just like the one in the photo above. In fact, if you look at the drawings, it’s almost as if the author is inviting you to duplicate his work


Front schemata. The pot is 27″ x 19″ (69cm x 48cm) unglazed oval by Tokoname. There are 29 cryptomeria that range from 4″ to 14″ (10cm to 36cm) tall and 9 river rocks. The soil is regular bonsai soil (he doesn’t say which regular bonsai soil, but the Japanese almost always use akadama or an akadama mix for conifers). The other materials are moss, river sand and white sand


Bird’s eye view. Notice how the opening in front is off center and slants and curves as it goes back. If it were directly centered and straight it would appear contrived. Notice also how the ravine narrows and curves around and disappears from sight and then opens up into a pool. Viewed from the front, this creates a sense of mystery and the appearance that it just goes on and on into a vast landscape, rather than being restricted to a very finite pot


I found this old out-of-print classic* at Green Apple Books in San Franscisco for ten dollars (minus my family discount – see disclaimer below). It was in near perfect condition after more than forty years (now more than 50 years... copyright 196, Kodansha International). The original price was $6.95 (hardcover no less).
BTW: Green Apple is one of the best surviving used/new independent bookstores anywhere (disclaimer: my son-in-law is part owner, but this takes away nothing from the fact that it’s a great place and an institution in San Fransisco)
John Palmer, founder of Bonsai Today and Stone Lantern Publishing mentioned this book to me years ago. I think he was hoping that it would show up back in print, or perhaps he was entertaining ideas of reprinting it himself (memory doesn’t always serve). Years later I got lucky and stumbled upon it

*To answer your question in advance, no we do not have any for sale. There are however, several for sale online at a range of prices (be careful). All you have to do it google it.

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