Saturday, April 11, 2015

Big Bonsai Trees

That was my first thought when I wandered into the Kokyo Gaien National Garden in Tokyo:  These look like big bonsai trees.  Even though "big bonsai" is an oxymoron, turns out I wasn't wrong.  These Japanese Black Pines are prized by bonsai aficionados because of their sculptural shape and ease of care.  These trees tolerate poor soil and can survive in dry, stony conditions.  If planted in the earth, rather than a pretty shallow dish, they will grow up to 80 feet, like the ones in this garden.

These trees were favorites among the samurai of old Edo.  It's hard to imagine that this area, southeast of the Imperial Palace, used to be an inlet of Tokyo Bay.  Thousands of these trees grew along its shores.  Now, of course, the bay is several miles away.  Landfill (much like San Francisco) has allowed the city to grow and expand.  In 1888, two thousand of these trees were planted and replanted to form this beautiful Fantasyland.  I swear, I had walked into a scene straight out of Princess Mononoke.

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