A Mind Bending Transformation

You’ll never guess what happened to this tree (unless you’ve seen our Masters’ Series Juniper book or Bonsai Today issue 21). Here’s a hint: it was flipped upside down somewhere along the way from where it started (below) to where it ended (above). The artist is Masahiko Kimura, aka The Magician.

Bonsai Today back issues and our Masters’ Series books present literally hundreds of bonsai techniques. Some are quite simple and suitable for any beginner. Many others are fairly advanced, though doable if you pay close attention and take your time. And then there are the few techniques that no one should try without parental supervision.

This particular Shimpaku lives in that rarefied realm of mind bending (and trunk bending) bonsai transformations. If I had to take a wild guess, I’d say some of you will like this transformation, some of you won’t be quite so sure, and some of you will take issue with the radical, technique driven, sculptural type bonsai that this represents.


Here’s the old front before it was flipped. Clearly Mr Kimura doesn’t always see what what most of us see when he looks at a tree.

How Kimura got from the photo at the top to the photo immediately above, might remain a bit of mystery, unless you have our Juniper book or Bonsai Today issue 21. We ‘ll show you a handful of photos here just to whet your appetite (the original article has 52 photos).


Separating the living vein from the rest of the trunk.


The separated strip of live wood has been cleaned up with a tiny power grinder.


The separated living vein is supported by long strips of wire and then wrapped with rafia.


Ready to bend.


Bending. It has to come all the way down.


Getting close.

A side view after the bending is complete and the raffia has been removed.

Done (for now at least).


Related posts:

    Natural Transformation: A Tree’s Life Story by Robert Steven
    Another Radical Transformation by Robert Steven
    A Great Transformation, But Still…
    Mission of Transformation by Robert Steven
    Mission of Transformation is rapidly approaching
Posted in Bark, Cuttings, Styling and tagged , , , , , , , . Permalink.


  1. Bill Coles-Tyro
    Posted 05/28/2013 at 10:19 AM | Permalink

    I guess the why is because he could. I know–my lack of sophistication is showing.

  2. nuromeo Vinluan
    Posted 05/28/2013 at 11:17 AM | Permalink

    HE really is THE MAGICIAN.

  3. Al Polito
    Posted 05/28/2013 at 12:23 PM | Permalink

    Definitely magical but I prefer the original to the finished version. I would have put it in a round Nanban-style pot and messed with the angle a bit. I probably would have knocked off the long jins coming out the left side of the composition and gone for a much more simple, lyrical bunjin. I love Kimura-san’s work but this tree has always bugged me as a case of “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”

  4. Ann Mudie
    Posted 05/28/2013 at 2:28 PM | Permalink

    I agree with Al. Kimura-san definitely thinks way outside the box but this tree was beautiful to start with, now it looks good but it’s not stunning anymore.

  5. wayne
    Posted 05/29/2013 at 6:32 AM | Permalink

    Hello Al and Ann (two old internet friends),
    I suspect he did it for a Kinbon article as a challenge and a way to show his technical virtuosity and open up possibilities for others to stretch their imaginations and their bonsai. Whether he would done this just on his own with one of his own trees, is open to question.

  6. Al Polito
    Posted 05/29/2013 at 11:42 AM | Permalink

    That does make some sense. Kimura worked on a bunjin for an article, and was given the challenge of doing it with one branch only. The article stated that K’s preference was two branches but he accepted the challenge.

  7. Rick
    Posted 05/30/2013 at 9:59 AM | Permalink

    Not really sure this is all that much better to be honest. I think the wood is more interesting in the first picture, and something equally creative could have been done with the foliage to make it more interesting. Seems like a lot of work for not much gain.

  8. Jose Luis
    Posted 05/31/2013 at 7:49 AM | Permalink


    I also agree that the original tree is better; reminiscent of antique Chinese painting.

    On another note, the gentleman assisting Kimura is Mr. Takeo Kawabe, who recently published a book (Bonsai Craftsman (His Soul and Footsteps) on Juniper, Pine and Yew.


    Jose Luis

  9. wayne
    Posted 06/03/2013 at 5:46 AM | Permalink

    Thanks as always Jose Luis…

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