ADVISORY:   This is a lengthy story with a number of photos. It'll take a while to load up and read. It may be a good time for you to get a cup of coffee if you've earned a break. Or come back later when you have more time. 
                ~~~ David  (April 12, 2001)


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

               Aloha! I began bonsai as a hobby in Kaneohe and have been pioneering and researching True Indoor Bonsai™ since 1962.  I assisted in developing the Hawaii State Burrowing Nematode Certified Nursery Program in 1972; and upon approval, the Fukumoto family moved to the Big Island to form the first Hawaii State export nursery as a sole proprietorship. Fuku-Bonsai has an impeccable professional reputation in the international bonsai world. Over 50 bonsai articles have been published locally, nationally and internationally and I've been nominated for the National Heritage Fellowship (the United States cultural living treasure designation). I co-founded the Hawaii Bonsai Association (in Honolulu), the Big Island Bonsai Association, the Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and numerous bonsai clubs. I'm a big fish in a small pond.

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                I assisted in the formation of the National Bonsai Foundation, the North American Bonsai Federation, the Latin American Bonsai Federation, and the World Bonsai Friendship Federation and was an American Bonsai Society director and convention headliner.   Fuku-Bonsai is known for mastery of all forms of artistic pot plants including Japanese bonsai, Chinese penjing, tropical Hawaiian outdoor bonsai, and its True Indoor Bonsai specialty. In May of 1997, Mayor Stephen Yamashiro issued a proclamation naming me Hawaii County "Ambassador of Bonsai."


                Fuku-Bonsai became the most respected sole proprietorship bonsai nursery in the United States, but when it became apparent that the Fukumoto children would not take over the business, we needed a vehicle to perpetuate our lifework. This was necessary to keep faith with employees who were willing to devote time to seriously learn bonsai and to give us a lifetime commitment. In the early 1980's there was a lot of discussion amongst community leaders of what type of tourism was suitable for the Big Island. 

                Hawaii County mayor Herbert Matayoshi stated that local residents must become involved. If the industry was dominated by out-of-state investors, the Big Island would become another Waikiki. Tourism is continually changing either toward becoming a multi-cultural sustainable force for Kyoto, Japan or being a down-and-dirty marketplace like Tijuana, Mexico!  At that time, Fuku-Bonsai was strictly wholesale and retail mail-order. The nursery was not open to visitors but we hosted VIP's sent by the mayor. Apparently they enjoyed their visits and the mayor urged us to get involved. When we did, he committed to being a stockholder.

                I became the president and wife Myrtle the vice-president.  Hawaii County managing director Megumi Kon also gave us his support and became a director.  Mary Lou Bean was retiring as a Hilo high math teacher and heading back to live in Kona. She became the corporation's founding secretary and a director.  Two others who were associated with bonsai filled out our original six person board of directors. In the late 1960's Honolulu arbitrating attorney Ted Tsukiyama,  Dr. Horace Clay, and I were the amongst the co-founders of the non-profit Hawaii Bonsai Association (HBA) that took bonsai out of being exclusively for older Japanese men to becoming an international art and hobby.

                Horace served as president and Ted was the secretary-treasurer of HBA for the first 10 years. Horace was already a prominent horticulturalist and an extraordinary person who also encouraged participation in community activities.  Before he passed away, he helped to form the non-profit Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation, transfered his bonsai ukiyoe collection to the foundation, and committed his Walking Mangrove to the collection.   See Dr. Horace F. Clay & "Walking Mangrove"

                Ted Tsukiyama is the person who put Hawaii on the bonsai map. He was president of the Hawaii Bonsai Association, director and editorial committee member of Bonsai Clubs Internation, the co-founder and secretary of the North American Bonsai Federation, and the legal advisor and editor of the World Bonsai Friendship Federation. He played a prominent role in forming the National Bonsai Foundation and being the chief fund-raiser for the Haruo "Papa" Kaneshiro Conservatory at the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum at the National Arboreteum in Washington D.C. In April 2001, Ted was honored with an Order of the Rising Sun with Silver Rays by the Japanese government for his contributions to international friendships through bonsai and his other achievements. 

                Other past and/or present Fuku-Bonsai directors include electrical engineer Wallace Oki, community volunteer Janice Biltoft, Kiyotsugu Oshiro, and Aluminumside Products president Conrad Hokama.  In West Hawaii we were strongly supported by community leaders including Fred Fujimoto, Leon Sterling, Johnny and Helen Weeks, Mark Onaka and others who became stockholders and who have since passed on.  Fuku-Bonsai is a Hawaiian corporation of over 200 mostly Big Island stockholders of modest means that was formed to own and operated both the certified export nursery in Kurtistown and a 17 acre Fuku-Bonsai Center in Keauhou-Kona. It took over the Fukumoto sole proprietorship on January 1, 1985.

                In 1986, noted bonsai master Sadakichi Sugahara of Kauai was terminally ill and wanted to donate his collection to help raise funds to build the proposed Fuku-Bonsai Center. We formed the non-profit Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation to become the custodian of public bonsai and the liaison with the community.  Upon his passing, members of the foundation went to Kauai to help sell his collection and accepted three bonsai in his memory. One became the logo tree of the foundation. 

                With the funds raised from the sale, each of the Sugahara children became Fuku-Bonsai Inc. stockholders. We raised the necessary funds through nine stock offerings while we steadily built the Kona Fuku-Bonsai Center with in-house talent and donations.  Because of past and promised gifts, the non-profit Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation will be the largest Fuku-Bonsai Inc. stockholder. Future dividends will fund the educational activities and keep the memorial bonsai in the Hawaii State Bonsai Repository in the public domain.


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                The above aerial photo shows about three acres of the first increment while still in construction. The design, landscaping and construction of the grounds were done by our in-house staff and only the major buildings were contracted. The former Tanaka Quarry provided a dramatic amphitheater backdrop.

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                  The Grand Opening Celebration in September 1992 was satisfying.  The corporation had only modest financing but was committed to continual improvements.  The above photo shows "Bonsai of Japan" which was one of nine themed bonsai gardens. Other gardens were:  "Penjing of China," "Hawaiian Bonsai," "Banyans!", "True Indoor Bonsai," "Evolution," "Techniques," "Nature's Bonsai," and "Rocks & Landscapes." Each themed garden utilized a different layout and landscaping concept and a large amount of educational exhibits were planned for each.

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                A natural grotto formation became a dramatic "Rocks & Landscapes" bonsai garden and a serene setting when there were few visitors. It was also an elegant and a popular wedding site. The lookout was also popular.

                Unfortunately, in 1989 and 1990, Fuku-Bonsai sprayed defective Benlate fungicide at the Kurtistown nursery and it killed seedlings and stunted bonsai that had been in training since 1973. Without salable bonsai crops, the corporation could not subsidize the development and start-up costs of the Kona Fuku-Bonsai Center. Losses exceed $10 million.  Facing foreclosure, the corporation went into Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in March of 1994. The court ordered the center closed and the staff reduced to just four.   Shortly after, the bankruptcy court and creditors approved a settlement with DuPont that allowed paying off all creditors, attorneys, and other costs 100% plus interest. There being no other creditors, the bankruptcy was cancelled. But there were very little funds and the former Kona Fuku-Bonsai Center was sold under foreclosure at a huge financial loss. Life is not fair!

THE DARK YEARS 1994 - 2000

                With very little funds, the nursery and staff has been slowly rebuilt.  We brought back the bonsai exhibit collection and consolidated back to Kurtistown.  We received a huge amount of support and several of our suppliers actually increased our line of credit while we were in bankruptcy!  Others were patient and encouraging and one-by-one we brought our accounts current and we steadily began to supply our former outlets.

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                I continue to be committed to preserving and promoting my love of bonsai and delighted that the quality of Fuku-Bonsai's True Indoor Bonsai™ are again up to our pre-Benlate standard and have become "the most successful gift bonsai for anyone who can grow houseplants!"  As the leading "populist" who wants everyone to be successful, I take a lot of heat from the "bonsai elitists" who only want to promote and compete in difficult "traditional outdoor bonsai" associated with Japanese bonsai.

                Somehow past visitors to the Kona center searched us out and visited us in Kurtistown. They encouraged us to reopen a center and in 1997 we did.

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                The corporation provides the facilities, utilities and co-sponsors the Fuku-Bonsai Cultural Center & Hawaii State Bonsai Repository along with the non-profit IRS tax-exempt Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation. Most of our visitors come from West Hawaii. I like to talk story with our visitors and tend to open with the question: "Have you grown bonsai?"   Over half answer: "Yes, but I killed it." After a short discussion, I learn that they bought a juniper bonsai and grew it indoors. Many did not have the faintest notion that junipers are outdoor plants and don't automatically become houseplants because they are bonsai!

                We have a long way to go in bonsai education and in October 1999, our in-house developed website went online. It has steadily become the most comprehensive award-winning bonsai website and helps to attract visitors to the Big Island. By the end of 2000 nursery production was back to pre-Benlate days and we were finally able to supply our former accounts.  With the nursery recovering we reactivated the Promotional Partner Program that had been used very effectively to bring visitors to the Kona Fuku-Bonsai Center. For a bonsai nursery to provide cost-effective value, it must be done on a fairly large scale. The photo below shows a small portion of the nursery.

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                Towards the end of 2000, we developed the Keiki Bonsai™ concept that resulted in improved True Indoor Bonsai growth and increased the success rate which was already the highest of all gift bonsai. With the encouragement of those in the visitor industry, we researched and developed additional products that would be ideal components for high success workshops. We believe there are only three major rules for success:

            1.  "Select plants that will grow well for you in your environment, or change your environment to meet the needs of your plants."  Most people want to grow bonsai indoors and Fuku-Bonsai's True Indoor Bonsai are all durable proven houseplants grown in the bonsai manner.  It's logical and our plants are the most successful for anyone who can grow houseplants!

           2.  "Choose trees that already have character."  In bonsai, the bottom 2" is the most important. It is very rare for any nursery growth tree to have exciting bonsai potential. But ALL Fuku-Bonsai plants were "born to be bonsai!" We grow millions of seeds and cull out aggressively. By utilizing trained rock plantings that are already established, every workshop bonsai has exceptional potential for surviving and being aesthetically superior!  By providing plants that meet the first two rules, our plants have a 90% chance of success.

            3.     "For optimum growth, create the best possible environment."  In striving for 100% success, we've focused on provided essential content on our website. We include cultural information with each plant.   We assist those who visit, phone, fax or send us e-mails.  Now we gear up to host cost-effective workshops!

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                As you can see from the above photo showing the range of Dwarf Schefflera products, we've recovered. Fuku-Bonsai continues to be committed to preserving and promoting bonsai but it is no longer possible to develop and operate a stand alone international bonsai center in West Hawaii. As members of the "Greatest Generation" pass away, it will be more difficult to obtain community oriented stockholders who can will actively participate.

                Our location in Kurtistown is not appropriate for a major international bonsai center and we prefer not to build a facility geared to attracting tour buses.  We are comfortable hosting FIT visitors in rental cars that make the efffort to find us. Fuku-Bonsai is steadily evolving into a product developing and niche marketing company. Increasingly we will focus on bonsai education, publishing, and developing bonsai related products. 

                We are very aware and grateful for the extraordinary support, goodwill, and assistance that we've received. As we complete our recovery, it's time for us to again address our commitment to assist the local economy and compliment the Big Island visitor industry. The Promotional Partnership Program has been a vehicle to develop working relationships with those having similar values who want to work together informally to develop a mutually beneficial relationship.

                Fuku-Bonsai is a unique company with idealistic goals. I believe in the Big Island and recognize that I may never be wealthy. I don't believe anyone who chooses to live here wants the Big Island to be another Waikiki. Although we need some economic growth,  I believe very strongly that most of us "don't want to soil our own nest." I believe that we want to create a Big Island that reflect universal multi-cultural respect and courtesy. And I believe that anyone can recognize when something is fair and win-win!

                I believe that the Fuku-Bonsai Promotional Partnership Program is fair and win-win. I believe that it can become a major catalyst for greater things to come. If you believe this and are willing to try and work together, I invite you to visit so we can explore the future!

PO Box 6000 (Olaa Road), Kurtistown, Hawaii 96760
Phone (808) 982-9880;  FAX (808) 982-9883;   Email:
Contact:  David W. Fukumoto, president, Fuku-Bonsai Inc.
***   Return to Promotional Partner Program Index page     
***    Go to next Promotional Partner Program section

                I believe that the Fuku-Bonsai Promotional Partnership Program is fair and win-win. I believe that it can become a major catalyst for greater things to come. If you believe this and are willing to try and work together, I invite you to visit so we can explore the future!

PO Box 6000 (Olaa Road), Kurtistown, Hawaii 96760
Contact:  David W. Fukumoto, president, Fuku-Bonsai Inc.
***   Return to Promotional Partner Program Index page     
***    Go to next Promotional Partner Program section
***   Go to home page   
Fuku-Bonsai Inc.,  April 2001