President of Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation!

            Michael joined Fuku-Bonsai in 1983, just two years before the Fukumoto sole proprietorship nursery evolving into a Hawaii corporation to become the catalyst to own and operate both the 12-acre Fuku-Bonsai nursery in Kurtistown, and the 17-acre Fuku-Bonsai Center in upper Keauhou-Kona. The non-profit 501(3)(c) Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation was formed a year later to become the public guardian of memorial bonsai in the Hawaii State Bonsai Repository;  to preserve, promote, and perpetuate the art and culture of bonsai, and to be the liaison with the community. 

            Michael became the Kona Fuku-Bonsai Center project manager when we began construction in 1987 as the initial sole employee on site while we continued to raise funds.  This aerial photo shows about 3 acres of the 17-acre project when we were preparing to open.

           Unfortunatedly we sprayed defective Benlate in 1989 and this caused over $30 million of losses and began a 25-year long battle for survival.

             As project manager Mike work included operating a backhoe, masonry and concrete, carpentry, irrigation, landscaping, and overseeing contractors.  The center was designed and built largely by our in-house staff.  The caretaker's cottage made it possible to house and feed the Kurtistown staff who went over. When financing came through we built a Kona staff.

            The center celebrated a grand opening in 1992 to critical acclaim.  But by then all surviving plants had been sold and we struggled without our primary projected income.  Fuku-Bonsai was just one of over 5,000 lawsuits against DuPont and we stuggle in court with litigation to 2007!  

            Fuku-Bonsai was forced into bankruptcy and the Kona Fuku-Bonsai Center closed in 1994.  We retrenched to Kurtistown and opened a modest center at the nursery and opened for visitors in 1996 in spite of a poor location.  We got a lot of local support,  were included in the Big Island visitors guidebooks and a steady amount of visitor traffic developed.  The Benlate contamination prevented us from growing our original crops and it took us 16 years to develop new Dwarf Schefflera products and to make it our primary specialty even though we had been growing it since 1973.  
            In 1983,  the same year that Michael joined Fuku-Bonsai, we germinated a seedling of Port Jackson Fig (Ficus rubiginosa) and while the center was being built in Kona, ground-planted it in the Kurtistown parking lot over a mound covered with plastic. Being preoccupied the tree over grew! 

            In February 2001, we dug out the tree with Michael in charge of "his" tree, assisted by Edison Yadao and Cliff Tanaka.  It was going to be a huge bonsai!

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             During these difficult years,  the Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation played a quiet supportive role in caring for the memorial bonsai in the Hawaii State Bonsai Repository led by Hilo bonsai master Hiroshi Ikeda.  In 2005 Hiroshi was named "president emeritus" and Michael Imaino became the second president.  By then he was also Senior Plant Manager and a Fuku-Bonsai corporate director.  
            In June 2002, the concept of the tree was changed to represent a tree growing on a hill that had been toppled, knocked over the hill, and fighting to grow upwards.  Rains had washed out the soil and the tree was perched on tall exposed roots.  Because of the size,  we believed it would be far more likely to obtain a suitable pot for a plant with a vertical concept.  The story of the tree to this point is posted at:  

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          By May 2006, the tree was HUGE.  The top section was developing nicely so the long bottom trunk was to be removed.  But first Michael made air layers of three sections and when rooted he removed the long section. The tree is closer to a manageable size and roots are proportionally heavier.  To this stage,  the tree had been "in training" for 23 years and Michael had also developed a full range of bonsai skills to compliment his various construction capabilities.  
           He led the nursery and had largely become the primary Fuku-Bonsai trainer of the older bonsai including being the curator of the Fuku-Bonsai Collection.  During this period, David struggled to keep the business alive and document the protocols for training Dwarf Schefflera. David and Michael jointly worked on the premium Custom Collection plants. This major training session is posted at:   



               The finest bonsai are unique individuals with a name and a story to explain how the tree developed.  This will serve as a guide for refining and completing the styling of the tree, and to help suggest the tree's personality.   The tree was really once a large heavy- crowned banyan tree that sat squarely on top of a hill surveying his kingdom. He was a proud tree with a bit of arrogance and lorded over the trees below. Then catastrophe struck!

               A hurricane toppled the tree and threw it down the side of the hill! Flood waters wore down most of the hill and exposed the roots. A large portion of the tree died and rotted away. The proud tree had a strong spirit of life and over the years one section kept surviving, dying back, but regrowing each time.

               In overcoming adversity, the personality of the tree steadily changed. Perched atop tall exposed roots, with an unusual form, it now reaches out to greet friends and visitors. The tree is named:  "HUMILITY!"

          April 2013:  MICHAEL CELEBRATES THIRTY YEARS IN BONSAI!   The tree was allowed to grow vigorously to thicken the roots.  We've gone through several systems of supporting the tree and from time to time, pruned heavily, created more branching, and had no problem reducing the size of the leaves to 2" long.  Before major training sessions, the tree was growing vigorously, with leaves 6" to 8" long long.
           The tree is thirty years old from a seedling and the top portion represents just a small percentage of its total growth.  During the initial collection in 2001,  we had cut a root that was almost 6" in diameter and in the 12 years since,  we had been trying to develop roots that were heavy enough to support the tree.  Recently we discovered a new technique that creates strong long aerial roots and it was time to apply it to this tree.  With the back plyboard panel removed, much of the exposed roots can be seen. 
           Michael was assisted by Edison Yadao who assisted from the original 2001 collection.  He joined Fuku-Bonsai in 1999 and is currently Customer Service Representative, Workshop Manager and Vice-president of Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation. Also assisting was Antonio Dias who is leaving us and who is also featured in another article in this issue.  The tree will be tilted back to center the growth over the roots in a very non-traditional styling.  To enter the Fuku-Bonsai Collection, the tree must be distinctively different and Michael's tree easily qualifies!
           To blend out the large scars from removing a 6" thick root when it was collected in 2001 and the long trunk in 2006,  we gave it seven years to rot back or heal.  Michael uses a wood carver's mallot and curved chisel to trim and blend the scared area which will heal and not be noticeable in a few years. 
        We've learned that roots develop faster when we build a supporting structure to initially support the tree.  We calculated the preferable diameter of the root column to be ten inches.  With the circumference formula being  C = π x diameter,  Michael cut a piece of corrugated cardboard to the preferred height of 24" x 32" long and wrapped it on both sides with 6 mil plastic sheeting to give it some protection.  When wrapped around the root system, it formed a 10" diameter column 24" tall . This was filled with coarse mixed with body mix and Nutrient Granules. 

         Note that the major roots already are the proper length and bottom roots spread out to form a wide base to support the tree.  The training pot is made up of 1x6s and 2x4s.  The inside of the 30" square box was lined with 6 mil plastic sheet which was slit between the 1/2" spaces between the 1x6 floor boards.

           With the cardboard column stapled and taped closed,  it was partially filled and a photo was taken while it was still lighter and easier to move to the display location.  The media in the column will firm up in a few months and we should be able to remove the 2x2 wood support.   

         NOTICE:   The Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation sponsors a BONSAI DAY on the second Saturday of each month beginning at 9:30AM with major work on the Fuku-Bonsai Collection such as the report above.  The Big Island is large and it's a 2 1/2 hour ride one-way from West Hawaii.  We are getting more visitors and workshop participants from West Hawaii and it may be time to start organizing a West Hawaii Bonsai Club and arrange a car pool to Fuku-Bonsai on the second Saturday of each month.  Please email if you are interested in participating. 

         After the morning demonstration,  we're suggesting everyone either bring a "brown bag lunch" or pick up a take-out bento lunch at nearby Hara Store in Kurtistown or at various locations enroute. 



        "Bonsai Day" afternoons are a good time for a range of workshops and on Saturday we did two: 

        MPBF members Jane and Howard Mayo III traveled from Kawaihae and did an advanced workshop to up-pot their 8LS8-Roots into a nice ceramic pot they had obtained.

        New member Zach Hagen did the first of three Introductory Workshop Packages with Edison and will do the next two via email with photos and captions.


2nd Saturday May 11, 2013 starting at 9:30AM

        Morning Demonstration Program:  Edison Yadao creating a new concept using a hollow log planted with several pre-trained trees.  Each tree will conceptually be a "branch" and the overall result will one day be a large bonsai!

        Bring Your Own Brown Bag Lunch (or obtain box lunches enroute or in Kurtistown).  Refreshments to be provided.

        Afternoon:  Option I:  Participate in the formation and organizational meeting of the West Hawaii True Indoor Bonsai Club.  Please email ahead if interested.

                               Option #2:  Introductory, Intermediate, or Advanced Workshops (By reservation)

                               Option #3:  Participate in  maintenance of memorial bonsai in the Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation's Hawaii State Bonsai Repository.


***  Return to the April 2013 Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai
***  Go to the Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation
***  Go to the Fuku-Bonsai Home Page
        Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and Fuku-Bonsai, 2013