By David W. Fukumoto,  Fuku-Bonsai president & founder

              Hawaii has the oldest English-speaking bonsai community outside of Japan and China and played a role in developing the current "International Bonsai"  that includes all forms of "artistic pot plants"  including Chinese penjing, Japanese bonsai,  tropical outdoor bonsai, and Fuku-Bonsai's True Indoor Bonsai™.  This Haruo "Papa" Kaneshiro memorial bonsai in the Hawaii State Bonsai Repository is believed to be amongst the oldest bonsai in Hawaii and our connection to our Japanese bonsai origins.  With it is Michael Imaino, the president of the 501(3)(c) Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation,  the co-sponsor of the Fuku-Bonsai Cultural Center and the Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai.

             Hawaiian bonsai began with Japanese immigrants over 100 years ago and the first generation found only few Japanese temperate climate plants would survive in tropical Hawaii.  The second generation returned with distinction from the battlefields of World War II and after establishing their careers,  worked closely with their former enemies to create the World Bonsai Friendship Federation to make bonsai a bridge to international friendship and peace.  David Fukumoto, of the third generation, pioneered True Indoor Bonsai™ since 1962.  He was amongst the most active of his generation.  As a survivor of the original Hawaiian leadership group, he is now leading the creation of a "Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai" community.

              "BONSAI" are different things to different people in the same way as the the word:  "PAINTING."  Bonsai is also an art, a craft, and a hobby and it is appropriate to substitute "Artistic Potted Plant"  to include all of the many forms as each country and group establishes their own goals and definitions. 

              The Chinese have the oldest written and graphic cultural and pottery history. So having the oldest evidence of  potted plants is logical. Interesting stunted trees dug from gardens or harsh natural environments were probably the first bonsai.  Equally likely is man's inherent nature to create miniature landscapes with rocks,  with or without plants.

               Japanese created versions of the various Chinese cultural arts and their "modern classical bonsai" gained interest after American occupational forces returned home after World War II. Individualistic Chinese penjing was transformed into a disciplined Japanese temperate climate craft that has since largely dominated international bonsai.  To many,  Japanese style names and their single apex - tier branch structure are the essence of bonsai.  Elms and azaleas are trained into "pine tree shapes."  Even in China, Taiwan, and southeast Asia,  the Japanese codification is such a dominant influence that tropical trees including banyans are trained into pine tree shapes. This "modern" form of bonsai is less than 50 years old.

                  "CREATING A BONSAI WORLD"  is an innovative 360° complex landscape that is attractive from all sides. It has been published in national and international bonsai magazines and is mounted on  4' diameter concrete disc. It made up of multiple rocks and multiple trees in each formation and is an assembled arrangement of such formations. Originally created as the featured group demonstration at the opening of the Kona Fuku-Bonsai Center in 1992 using then 2-3 year old trees, the Dwarf Azalea trees only a few inches tall are now 25 years in training. We have just begun to start teaching how to create 360° complex landscapes to the most advanced members of the Fast-Track Study Group and articles about this will begin to appear in the Journal of Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai.


               Hawaii has a unique perspective because of it has the oldest English-speaking bonsai community outside of China and Japan;  but also because of our American and Hawaiian values and traditions and tropical climate.  The first generation grew Japanese bonsai plants,  the second generation grew tropical trees trained like Japanese pine tree bonsai with single apex - tier branches.  The third generation created Banyan Bonsai in the shape of banyans with multiple trunks, arch branch structures, and aerial roots.

              Unlike traditional Japanese temperate climate outdoor bonsai which is largely an extremely disciplined cultural craft,  TRUE INDOOR BONSAI is promoted and taught as a casual art and hobby.  There really are no secrets and the rules for success has been distilled and are based upon easy to understand "common sense!"  Hawaiian bonsai are based upon horticultural principles that emphasizes that maximum effort be first placed upon learning to grow healthy plants in YOUR environment.  So for us, it is silly that most Americans kill bonsai by trying to grown outdoor plants in their homes and offices!  If you want to grow plants indoors in homes and offices,  start with proven durable houseplants! Doesn't that make sense?

              Most grow bonsai using outdated rules and practices that produce scrawny, extremely limited or no development over many years.  Or they start with trees that have absolutely no potential to become an attractive bonsai!  Their bonsai are based upon myths and fairy tales.  A macho segment of bonsai fanatics study in Japan and focus upon refinement of collected old "Nature's Bonsai" that may already be hundreds of years old that are not available and which requires a great amount of skill and discipline.  These are not available to the large number who want to enjoy a more casual more successful form of bonsai.  So why is the organized bonsai community focusing on that elite form of bonsai? 

             There are several basic ways to grow bonsai and while refining ancient collected trees is one route, for most it makes sense to explore all of the other major ways:   1)  Building,  2)  Reduction,  3)  Rearranging, 4) Assembly,  and 5) Creative Potting.  Fuku-Bonsai uses each of these methods to create superior prepared bonsai stock that have a lot of character within 1" of the soil line and a shallow compact root system within 1/2" of that soil line.  This may take 2-4 years and is the most difficult part of bonsai that requires the most skill.  But because of this ALL FUKU-BONSAI PREPARED BONSAI STOCK have high potential and this is the basis of our superior product lines! 

             So by beginning with our INTRODUCTORY WORKSHOP PACKAGE, those new to bonsai are already pass the most difficult part of bonsai!  The choice is very clear.  Do you want to start with plants with know success and potential,  or is it more important to start with the cheapest plants that will likely only develop into cheap old plants?

             "Reduction-Building" techniques are the basis of our "Sumo" designs.  "Creative Potting" is the basis for our "Roots" designs.  "Rearranging" produces "Hawaiian Dragons!"  While our basic prepare bonsai stock all utilize "reduction-building" techniques,  Fuku-Bonsai offers older premium potted bonsai in "Sumo,"  "Roots" and "Hawaiian Dragon" stylings.  For those who want to move into advanced bonsai, THE BEST AND FASTEST ROUTE IS TO LEARN "ASSEMBLY" TECHNIQUES!

             "ASSEMBLY" combines two or more components so the finished project is greater than the sum of its parts.  The photoed landscape "Creating a Bonsai World!" is probably the most complex assembly with a large number of rocks and plants.  Start with combining two average bonsai trees to become a more attractive two-tree bonsai that overcomes the negatives of each tree.  Learn rock-planting and a average bonsai can instantly be transformed into a scenic vision!

             In Japan, following the devastation of World War II,  Toshio Kawamoto developed "SAIKEI" tray landscapes that utilized small pre-shaped bonsai trees and common rocks. Over the years,  we used similar design concepts to develop 360° complex landscapes.  The late Japanese grandmaster Saburo Kato created majestic forest arrangements.  The late John Naka of California created his masterpiece "Goshin" that resides in the National Bonsai Collection in Washington D.C. All of these utilize "ASSEMBLY" techniques that are ideal for incorporating Fuku-Bonsai products into advanced bonsai!  These other factors contributed to developing Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai:


             Michael is shown in the photo at the early stages of restoration of  a Chinese Banyan in the Fuku-Bonsai collection after catastrophic losses of over $30 million due to defective Benlate contaminated with weed killers sprayed in 1989. During the worst days of our 25-year long battle for survival,  much of the collection bonsai received only minimal care. Net proceeds after legal costs and taxes was less than 10% of our losses, but we survived and are rebuilding.


                   Fuku-Bonsai took the lead to identify the most suitable ideal houseplants and we were amongst the early researchers that identified the Ficus (or Fig family) of plants as amongst the most promising of all houseplants for bonsai. Most tropical outdoor bonsai will not grow indoors.  Ficus is amongst the most successful indoors if given strong light.  It and other tropical bonsai (including Dwarf Schefflera) can be grown outdoors when night temperatures exceed 55°F. In Hawaii, we believe that Ficus should ideally be trained as Banyan Bonsai with multiple apex - arched branched structures with rounded crown and aerial roots.  In most other areas,  Ficus are trained following the Japanese pine-tree structures.  I am delighted that Jerry Meislik has continued where I left off and has become the premier Ficus Bonsai authority and participates as contributing editor of the Journal of Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai! 


            Fuku-Bonsai's first products were Hawaiian Lava Plantings that combined a proven durable houseplant with an attractive rock to create an easy-care new form of bonsai for homes and offices.  These are the easiest care and most successful gift bonsai for anyone, anywhere who can grow house plants!  As Hawaii's first certified nursery,  visitors to Hawaii are able to hand-carry them to could have them shipped to all parts of the United States. Because Schefflera is amongst the most durable of all house plants, the Fuku-Bonsai plants were very successful.   The Benlate contamination prevented growing this original specialty and Dwarf Schefflera was developed into our new specialty. It is a superior plant with smaller leaves and branching traits that are ideal for bonsai.  It can be trained into more styles than any other tree grown as bonsai!  It can produce world-class masterpieces either as large or miniature bonsai and can grow anywhere in the U.S.! 


               This plant was introduced into Hawaii in the early 1970's and Fuku-Bonsai created the first Dwarf Schefflera bonsai.  The entry tree is from the original introduction plants and on a 6' diameter concrete disc and turntable.  It creates better Rainforest Banyan shapes than ficus due to an abundance of aerial roots.  This tree is an epiphyte known to grow high on other trees or clinging to rocky cliffs.  This tree is ideal for exposed root styling and rock plantings.  It is a lot more drought-resistant than most trees and the easiest way to kill it is by over-watering! 

             We strongly recommend following our cultural sheet and water only by submerging the rock planting or placing potted bonsai  in water up to the rim of the pot for a minimum of 30 minutes but only once per week.  If you see white roots, all is well.  If roots are black and rotting, the odds are that you are over-watering.  But if leaves become lighter green, droop badly, and have small creases on leaf stems, branches and trunks, you may be under-watering.  Take clear photos and send to me as soon as possible and I will likely be able to help you!

               The key to high-potential bonsai is having lower trunk character, multiple trunks and low branches within one inch of the soil line and a shallow compact root system within 1/2" of the soil line.  It requires 3-5 years for plants to be trained to meet this standard and ALL Fuku-Bonsai plants meet that criteria. This explains the quality of our entire product lines.  The Introductory Workshop Package features a young plant that is already showing promise and starting with choice plants makes it the easiest way to learn (or teach) bonsai.   Because Dwarf Schefflera is the single outstanding indoor bonsai, we produce stout, stocky Sumo,  elegant exposed Roots, and twisty-turny Hawaiian Dragon styles for a varied indoor collection. 


               The "Rules for Success"  are simple and now well-known!  1)  Start with a tree that will grow well for you in your environment or change your environment to meet the needs of your tree.  Dwarf Scheff is the most durable and most successful house plant with ideal traits for bonsai.  2) Start with as much character as possible to avoid the most difficult first few years. 3)  Then learn to grow these trees as vigorously as possible and we'll help!

               Whether you are a customer,  a gift recipient,  or want to learn to train bonsai,  Fuku-Bonsai produces the highest quality high-success gift items and we're just an email away if you need help!  I  n the past year,  Fuku-Bonsai and the 501(3)(c) Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation has partnered to become the best integrated bonsai resource that includes:

               INFORMATIONAL RESOURCE.  www.fukubonsai.com is already the most comprehensive educational True Indoor Bonsai website.  The monthly email JOURNAL OF TROPICAL & TRUE INDOOR BONSAI supplements and report on current activities of those in the study groups as well as respond to customer requests for assistance.  Cultural sheets and the True Indoor Bonsai Workshop Handbook are concise and apply to our plants.  Future publications will focus on the specific plants that we grow for shipping throughout the United States.

              SPECIFIC PLANTS & SUPPLIES.  Fuku-Bonsai has the highest quality, high-potential gifts or plants to be trained in various sizes, ages and stylings.  Our Introductory Workshop Package was the long-sought "Bonsai Educational Holy Grail" and features a tree that has been pre-trained for 2 to 4 years.  It includes all needed materials and is the ideal place to start for isolated individuals without any other bonsai resources,  for bonsai clubs to teach newest member,  for those who now grow some outdoor bonsai!  The Introductory Workshop Package is the easiest, most economical, and the best way to learn (or teach) bonsai and over 1,000 units have been shipped to date.  Those completing the initial workshops can move into the intermediate and advanced workshops as well as set their own bonsai agenda that could include rock sculpturing and planting as well as the most challenging 360° complex landscapes!

              ON-GOING CUSTOMIZED ONE-ON-ONE ASSISTANCE.  Those with the energy and enthusiasm who are willing and able to help others are encouraged to actively participate in our Fast-Track Study Group.  Join the Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and get special assistance on projects to be reported in the Journal of Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai. Get access to plants that may be five to forty years in training that may be ideal for your envisioned custom design.  Get discounts when purchasing 16 or more plants or workshop packages to teach beginner or intermediate classes.

*** Go to "INDOOR BONSAI;  Myths, Facts, and Misrepresentations!