This is the unique lava rock that inspired this complex 360° tropical landscape that formed the dominant themed view titled "THE GIANT SEA-CAVE."  One section had a broken section and David Fukumoto holds a matching rock that extends the rockscape "into the sea."  The complex landscape is mounted on a 48" diameter concrete disc with turntable.



INTRODUCTION BY DAVID W. FUKUMOTO.  In 1992 at the grand opening celebration of the Kona Fuku-Bonsai Center,  we created the first 360° complex landscape titled: "CREATING A BONSAI WORLD!  It was dedicated to Haruo "Papa" Kaneshiro who inspired us and who passed away shortly after its completion.  Twenty-two years later, the dwarf azaleas have begun to mature and recent photos are posted at

                        Unfortunately a few years earlier we sprayed defective Benlate that was contaminated with weed killers and this caused the closing of the Kona Fuku-Bonsai Center with total losses of well over $30 million.  The net proceeds of our 1994 product liability and our 2007 DuPont fraud settlements totaled less than 10% of our losses!  Life is not fair and DuPont used their legal clout to bully and escape responsibility.  But with the support of our customers, community, and associates, we survived. 


                        As we emerge from a 25-year battle for survival and to celebrate one year of publishing the Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai,  we created another unique complex landscape and dedicate it to Ted T. Tsukiyama, who embodies the best of Hawaii and it’s bonsai community. Ted's bonsai contributions were far beyond Hawaii and the United States and had major international significance as he played a major role in forming the World Bonsai Friendship Federation as its legal advisor and editor in addition to a pivotal role in forming the North American Bonsai Federation and supporting president John Naka as the first organization's secretary.  He had major roles at the National Bonsai and Penjing Collection at the United States National Arboretum and in Bonsai Clubs International as a director and long-time member of the editorial board. 

                        It is fitting that he should be recognized in a larger international bonsai venue and I contacted BCI editor Joe Grande and BCI president Thomas Elias to join in honoring Ted.  They agreed so we held back our Journal story for a simultaneous April 2014 publication and this gave time for the plants to be pruned and to leaf out.  I contacted Felix Laughlin, the president of the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum's support organization, the initial North American Bonsai Federation, and initial Saburo Kato successor of the World Bonsai Friendship Federation to join in honoring Ted and he agreed. I had left Oahu in 1973 and knew that Ted worked with Jane Yamashiroya.  But when contacted, Jane was just about to leave on a trip and recommended that I contact Warren Yamamoto, current president of the Hawaii Bonsai Association and who wrote a tribute on behalf of he Hawaii Bonsai Association. 

                        Ted is an extraordinary individual who has received honors for his own military history and as his generation's historian. He as been recognized for his work in arbitration and his legal profession and for his cultural and community contributions.  So it is only fitting that the bonsai community also recognize him for his contributions to the local, national, and international bonsai.  He participated in the creation of the first "Creating a Bonsai World!" in 1992.  Now having created the first major Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai complex 360° landscape, it is very appropriate to dedicate it to and honor Ted Tsukiyama and I thank those who joined with me in doing so.


                       This evolved in the summer of 2013 as the Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai showed promise of becoming successful and we needed to set our goals higher to gain the credibility needed to develop a national Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai community. During the first year of the Journal, the intention was to place emphasis on learning basic bonsai technique with an emphasis on creating strong plant growth.  We largely achieved our objectives in just six months and the editorial content steadily progressed towards teaching "ASSEMBLY" techniques in which a single tree is combined with another component so the net result is a large improvement. 

                     Although considered as "intermediate or advanced" bonsai techniques,  I believe it should be taught early and we began to teach rock-planting techniques to Fuku-Bonsai visitors that had some bonsai experience. I believe it could be taught even via indirect email only!  So we began and I was delighted that members of the Fast-Track Study Group were picking it up much faster and in greater detail than I originally believed possible.  Visitors to Fuku-Bonsai gave us their ideas and the goal was to be create another 360° complex landscape with potential standards equal to "CREATING A BONSAI WORLD!   But the goal was to achieve that standard in a much shorter time by utilizing larger, older pre-trained True Indoor Bonsai.

                       Ryan Chang, Journal contributing editor and leader of the Fast-Track Study Group, was scheduled to visit on December 14, 2013 and I wanted him to participate in the planting as a representative of the next generation.  Edison Yadao,  Fuku-Bonsai's customer service and workshop manage and vice-president of Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation would be the third member of the team. So the preparation was completed in the weeks before and the planting largely went off as planned. 

                        Named  “THE WORLD OF BONSAI ALOHA,” it was inspired by Hawaiian sea caves and Dwarf Schefflera tropical banyans. It features rare ocean-eroded Hawaiian lava rocks with a magnificent main specimen and complimenting rocks originally found 25-years ago in Kona while we were constructing the Kona Fuku-Bonsai Center.  As we transition into a new era, we start with a special arrangement assembled from remnants of our past



          The primary rock is a reminder of what could have been. There was no inspiration  to create while we battled for survival. Several months ago, the idea took root. A thick 4’ diameter concrete disc that had served as a large stepping stone for many years was selected to be the “container.”  The rock is a miniature version of a sea cave formed by rivers of fiery molten lava that flowed through giant lava tubes in prehistoric times that grew the Big Island of Hawaii.  As the flow ended, lava drained out and as the ocean tore down the new flow,  giant sea caves formed.


           Once the primary rock was positioned on the disc, colored cement and rounded stones filled the gap under the rock to separate the rock-only aquascape from the section to be planted.  The matching rock that extended the main rock into the sea was positioned to the right height by larger smooth stones.  This visually widened the rock and was the key to creating the landscape.   

           Rotating the disc counter clockwise, a second rock was added to create a small inlet cave.  It was positioned to extend the visual line along the edge of the main rock and this resulted in the section called "The Giant Sea-Cave" being clearly defined.  That line would limit and prevent any potting media to migrate into the sea-cave section.
           Rotating a bit more counter clockwise,  this photo shows the extensive amount of concreting on the bottom backside of the main rock.  It also shows the very large amount of potting soil volume that will support a fairly large tree!  Note that just below my hand, there was a section that would have held water.  With drill, mallet, and a stone chisel, that section was removed to assure the tree planted in that cave-like area would grow strongly.
           Because we had already selected the trees and decided where they would go,  we knew where we needed to place wire loops into the cement for the anchoring wires.  Generally when coloring cement, it should be a bit darker as it lightens when it dries to match the dry rock. But it darkens when wetted to match a wet rock. 
           The other side of the main rock shows the next area that needed to be addresses to complete sectioning off the giant sea-cave.  The highest point of the main rock is almost in the exact center of the 48' diameter concrete disc and is 15" above the disc surface.  The plan was to have a "rock wall" several inches high to "protect" the large banyan from the ocean wind and waves.  About 3" deep of very coarse drainage layer would still allow a lot of room for the planting media.
          After a few more selected rocks were positioned and cemented,  smaller smooth stones were bonded to the surface of the concrete disc.  A light layer of colored cement was spread thinly over the entire giant sea-cave section and smaller smooth rocks was used over the entire surface with some medium and large smooth rocks strategically placed to add interest.   

         With the sea-cave separated from the two sections to be planted, this photo shows the large remaining area. 

         A 1/2" high and 1 wide concrete berm was built along the edge of the concrete disc to help hold in the potting media.  1" sections of plastic straws were embedded every 3"-4" and once cured, the straws would be pulled out with a needle-nosed pliers to leave small drain holes. 
           Several more wire loops were cemented for the wire anchors that would hold the trees in position until they become established.  Where the wire would be left in place permanently, we used aluminum bonsai wire.  Where the ties would only be needed for a relatively short time, we would use thin paper-covered iron wire that would rot away in six months or less and not damage trunks or roots. 
         After allowing a day to dry, the arrangement was gently flooded with water to wash away the loose sand, to test the drainage, and to enjoy seeing the deep water eroded holes turn into cool attractive pools as they filled with water.  The smooth rocks glistened and it was very satisfying to see that the plans were valid.  I could easily see the pieces falling into place. 
        Rocks that were to separate the planting area were selected and test positioned and held in place by filler rocks of a different color.  The straws in the berm edging were effective and it took a bit of effort to create a pool of water and it quickly drained out.  










          VIEWS FROM ABOVE with the left showing the Giant Sea-Cave facing front and the right showing the areas to be planted facing front.  These top views shows the dramatic heavily water eroded sculpturing of the unique major rock that provided the inspiration for the design. 



        The two trees selected were from our Custom Collection growing-on area with the 25-year old rainforest style banyan in a 25"x15"x2" rectangle pot and the stout 15-year old Roots banyan is in a 17"x12"x2" oval pot. Both had been allowed to over grow to allow severe cutting back to offset any roots lost in the planting. 

        With plans completed, the landscaped prepared, the trees selected and with tools and supplies on hand, we were ready and looking forward to the planting day December 14, 2013 finally arrived!  

       With the trees out of the pots, we were ready to start.  Edison on left would tackle the large tree while Ryan on right would take on the smaller young tree while I installed the main bonsai aluminum wires that were used as the permanent and major anchoring wires that primarily ran up and down. 

         Ryan was ready first and the tree was secured high with the roots partly in the cave-like section over looking the giant sea-cave. I had several permanent wire loops anchored into the concrete so this first tree was easily and quickly secured.  A wire netting was made with thin paper covered iron wire running horizontal about an inch apart.  

       There was about 6" of potting media that went under that first tree and it was largely held in place with a veneer wall of flattish heavily textured rocks. Ryan used an open top funnel to aid in dibbling potting media between the roots. 

       Sphagnum moss was inserted just inside the wire network and as he filled all openings,  the media pushed against the sphagnum moss and the wire network held all tightly in place. 

      There was a very generous planting area for the large rainforest banyan.  A 3" thick coarse bottom drainage layer tapered from the center to the outer edge.  Then a large amount of body mix and we were ready to the large tree. 
        Upon Edison completing the bare-rooting and root pruning, it was pushed up against the rocky back wall, planted high, and secured.  There's a lot of potting media and the trees should grow strong and vigorously.  Various techniques were utilized to create the illusion that there is only a modest amount of media and this adds a sense of nature and to the magical allure of good bonsai. 
        We took a break and Ryan and Edison received a review of the project,  the elements of the planning, the primary criteria that influenced the design and the selection of the trees,  and the symbolism and the significance of selecting a stout exposed root bonsai and a larger Rainforest Banyan as the dominant tree.

       Up to this point, the work went quickly. Ryan and Edison would now need to do the tedious detailed work to probe, find, and fill all air pockets and to complete the potting. 

        It is Fuku-Bonsai's practice to leave extra branches to allow the future owner to leave it full, to cut back for a more compact shape, or to both prune for more detail as well as cutting back.  While Ryan and Edison completed the potting, I did some selective trimming. 
        Edison, Ryan, and I were pleased with the results and took a final photo featuring the giant sea-cave section that would not change during the slow detailing which would take a month or two.

                   Shortly after completion of the planting, I forwarded the early photos and BCI accepted the article for publishing in their next April 2014 issue that had a submittal deadline in March.  I did not want to publish it first and we agreed that BCI and the Journal would publishing the article simultaneously in the April issues. Michael completed the display platform with turntable and on January 7, 2014,  THE WORLD OF BONSAI ALOHA! was moved alongside CREATING A BONSAI WORLD!  The two trees were cut back to create more compact crowns.

                    Within two weeks, the deep potting media (up to 12" deep in some areas) had begun to firm up and some of the guylines and anchoring wires began to come out.  After dibbling between the roots, a small amount of sphagnum moss formed the final surface and fine new moss from the adjoining Creating a Bonsai World began to create the mossed area under the rainforest banyan.  The technique of using sphagnum moss and a wire netting had been developed on the past several months as we developed a large range of rock planting articles for the Journal.  It proved to be very effective in allowing the creation of steep slopes that were stable enough for moss to become established and to water easily. This section contrasted with the first two sections that were primarily made up of rocks.

                    The section titled "The Transition to Land!"  was to have very textured lava boulders and these were carefully selected and positioned with a lot of trial and error. In this arrangement I tried to create three very distinctively different views and in some aspects this complex landscape was more difficult than Creating a Bonsai World.  The lines of ocean eroded rocks do not have a pattern and finding the final rock position requires patience,  imagination,  and bringing back visions of such scenes.  The trees leafed out as expected and the following photos were taken on March 8, 2014 and forwarded to BCI.   




                       I don't recall ever seeing a bonsai tray landscape with this theme and the unique main rock dominates and dictated the design.  In its natural position, the top of the rock would be almost level. But the rationale for a lava formed sea cave required that the back end be raised up a few inches to suggest an angle in which lava would flow into the sea.  Fresh lava quickly erodes and sea caves form and I tried to recall the sea-caves below the town of Naalehu near South Point on the Big Island of Hawaii. 

                      There in calm weather, fishermen use hoists to descend from the cliffs to the deep water where their boats are anchored.  In the nearby sea-caves the rough white water is the home of a fish called "Moi" which is delicious and in ancient times was reserved only for the Hawaiian royalty.  Such sea-caves exist in other parts of Hawaii and on the island of Kauai, it is a popular tourist activity to explore such a coastline in small rubber Zodiac boats. 




                  I tried to create an interesting plausible transition from the ocean view of the giant sea-cave to depict the rugged lava topography as you moved inland through the lava flows.  Lava flows in unimaginable ways, sometimes as a red-hot stream of swift fiery lava (called "pahoehoe") leaves a smooth terrain like a stream bed or a ropy surface as the top cools and thickens to create complex patterns as it freezes as it cools, sometimes forming lava walls with cave-like formations.  Much of the heavily travelled ancient routes  around the island were in this smoother form of lava. 

                 The other major form of lava is known as "A-A" with a very rough surface texture that can be made up of large boulders larger than a car!  The thick, slow-moving flow is often described like the tracks of large earth-moving tractors where the flow moves forward relentlessly with the top front falling forward to be buried by the flow moving over it.  When it cools, it forms fields of huge boulders that are very difficult to walk through. Over time,  ferns grow and some organic matter builds up a plants appear amongst the boulders.  It was this type of scene I wanted to depict with a stout exposed root banyan that may have started from a bird depositing a "fertilizer-encased seed"  that germinated and survived.  Where the lava was rough, trails were manually leveled and smooth rocks brought in to make walking easier. 

                  In planning this landscape with just two trees,  the trees were placed so when viewed from the planned positions,  the trunk and branches of one tree in the foreground would be enhanced by the other tree that would be directly behind it and this transformed the sparse exposed root banyan into a formidable tree! In both Japanese and Chinese landscaping,  this concept is known as "borrowed scenery."    




                  For those of us who grew up in the tropics,  our favorite playground was in the giant banyans that could become anything you wanted.  In the deep shade it was easy to find a cool place to nap, to take a precarious walk out on the horizontal branches, to slide down the pillar roots, or to swing from the aerial roots that had not yet attached themselves to the ground. As the canopy becomes more shady and dense, aerial roots drop down, become pillar roots, and provide nourishment to allow the branch to be supported and keep growing outwards.  In this manner,  a giant banyan can keep "walking" outwards and a single tree can cover a large area. 

                  I creating this landscape, the banyan will one day dominate this landscape as the crown thickens, becomes more dense and grows taller.  I expect the crowns of the two trees to one day merge and become as wide or wider than the 48" diameter concrete disc.  The current height of the top of the tree's crown is 22" above the level of the concrete.  It should be allowed to slowly expand and I envision it may one day be as much as 32" to 36" high.  As the crown expands, more aerial roots will develop and this can become an impressive landscape!

                  In the tropics, a banyan is a beloved tree when growing in a location where its vigorous growth will not harm adjoining structures.  It's the ideal tree consistent with:  "THE WORLD OF BONSAI ALOHA!"



                 In 1992 we established precedent for dedicating what was then the most complex landscape to recognize and honor Haruo "Papa" Kaneshiro who we call the "Father of Tropical Hawaiian Bonsai."  This complex landscape has the potential to be of equal stature and it is fitting to honor Ted T. Tsukiyama whose stature in Hawaii, national, and international bonsai is unprecedented. Ted is a humble person and while I've written the formal tribute, I've asked others to add some thoughts:

        ***  Go to dedication by David W. Fukumoto (Fuku-Bonsai, president and founder, editor Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai)  

        ***  Go to a tribute to Ted Tsukiyama by Felix Laughlin.  (President of the National Bonsai Foundation, initial successor to John Naka as president of North American Bonsai Federation, and initial successor to Saburo Kato as president of the World Bonsai Friendship Fedration.

        ***  Go to a tribute to Ted Tsukiyama by Warren Yamamoto (President of the Hawaii Bonsai Association)

               NOTE:  Ted has been closely associated with Bonsai Clubs International in a number of capacities including as a director and a long-time member of their editorial board.  So it was very appropriate that Bonsai Clubs International join in honoring Ted and that by agreement, the story of the World of Bonsai Aloha is published in the April issue of BCI Magazine and the Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai. For more information about Bonsai Clubs International, please go to their website at:  


*** Return to the April 2014 issue of the Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai
*** Go to the Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation website
*** Go to the Fuku-Bonsai website
© Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and Fuku-Bonsai, 2014