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National Bonsai & Penjing Museum’s Japanese Pavilion rededicated
Jill Odom | October 6, 2017
Japanese Pavilion at the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum

Photo: Stephen Voss

Today the National Bonsai Foundation (NBF) and the U.S. National Arboretum celebrated the rededication of the Japanese Pavilion at the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum.

World-renowned designer of Japanese gardens, Hoichi Kurisu, redesigned the pavilion, which holds the Japanese collection of bonsai trees. Kurisu studied landscape design in Tokyo, Japan, and became director of the Garden Society of Japan in 1968. His previous work includes the Portland Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon, and the Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens in Dubuque, Iowa.

The Japanese collection began in 1976 during the American Bicentennial as a gift from the Nippon Bonsai Association.

The collection of 53 bonsai was dedicated in a ceremony where then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was the featured speaker and accepted the gift on the behalf of the United States. The pavilion now has 63 bonsai that are on display from April through October in the Japanese Pavilion. From November to March these bonsai can be viewed in the Dr. Yee-sun Wu Chinese Pavilion.

The gift of bonsai was the cornerstone of the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum, which is located on the 446-acre campus of the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. The Japanese Pavilion was the first structure of the museum and was designed by architect Masao Kinoshita of Sasaki Associates.

Kurisu was inspired by Shin, Gyo and So, the traditional concepts of spatial design in Japan that focus on the elements of water, earth and vegetation. The design creates a secure space for the bonsai and accommodates the increased number of visitors. Kurisu proposed a more creative display for the trees, placing them on boulders, reminiscent of the trees’ past.

“The art of bonsai itself relies on appreciation and profound understanding of nature’s wild elements,” Kurisu said. “Bonsai specimens were originally obtained by people climbing cliffs to retrieve them. With this in mind, the new design will reconnect them with their origin.”

Shading and air circulation has also been improved for the collection and new lighting will create an interesting nighttime display of the trees.

The pavilion will be open to the public on Oct. 7. The upcoming Aki Matsuri Autumn Festival will also be hosted there on Nov. 4 where visitors will enjoy an entire day and night of Japanese-themed events, including music, food and a moon viewing ceremony.

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