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  • Tom Lau

The Return of the Saikei Master


In Southern California we are spoiled to have so many master artists in the field of bonsai. Last Thursday night was no exception. Frank Goya from Huntington Beach graced us with his mastery of Saikei. Frank Goya trained under Frank Nagata-san (our club founder) before meeting John Naka and others. He also states that Baikoen Bonsai Club was his first club he joined, when he started this hobby.

Saikei in bonsai is the art form of producing small landscape using plants and rocks. This particular form was developed in Japan after World War II when plant material were scare or underdeveloped. It was the ability to develop a composition without the use of a highly developed trees was the true highlight of this form.

Frank explains that saikei the basic elements are stones, small trees and accent plants. The pot to be used tonight is a training pot and wishes it was a tad more shallow, but it will do its job for the demonstration for tonight. The positioning and number of items in the composition is in the same relationship of bonsai branches. Grouping are in odds numbers and in cluster in the movement a general direction.

(Frank using his repotting stick to show us the direction of the stone.)

Mr. Goya shows us that all items in a saikei has direction. The stone in his hand has front and back. The front having more features than the back and each stone has a direction. The goal of placing the stones first is to give a sense of direction to the composition as it will give us locations to place our trees later in the pot. In this current composition he has selected 3 stones to be the foundation of this saikai. He said that the stones were from China Lake which is now an off limited collecting site.

Frank already pre-wired the 4 procumbens nana juniper before coming to tonight's demonstration. Frank stated that he loves to use procumbens nana because of its shade tolerant nature and that the needles keep a relative size without the overgrowth like the other juniper species. If you wondering why Frank is using 4 trees not and odd number is because one of the trees is a twin trunk, so its fits the composition has odd number of trunks for the scene.

This part of the demonstration starts to fly-bye. Frank and Jaime Chavarria starts to remove about half the soil for the potted plants and proceeds to place them into the saikei setting. Frank says he likes to place the number 1 tree in front of the main stone. Because this is still bonsai and tree still needs to be the main item in the composition. He also puts second tree on the same side first or main tree to give the composition some depth, just like the back branch does for any good bonsai tree.

Frank states that the tree should flow with the direction of the stones. Everything needs to work together not against each other. Harmony of the different items is needed for a good composed saikei. The trees are positioned as a group of 3 larger trees and a group of 2 smaller trees similarly to a small yose-ue.

Frank and Jaime spent another 20 minutes added the small accents and moss to the saikei. All of sudden, the saikei is completed! Frank does the final touches with misting the tree and adding a small river of stones down the middle of the saikai.

(The time to win this saikai is here!)

Of course Frank donated the saikei for the club to raffle for the night. We have learned a lot this night and all of us was totally amazed how quickly and easily the composition came together.

Frank still chewing his bubble gum, selects the winner for tonight! And the winner is?

Congratulations Enrique Mendoza!

Thank you Frank Goya for the wonderful demonstration. I have learned tons for watching you put this saikei together tonight. The club thanks you taking the time to come out to us on a weekday to share your legacy with us!

Big shout out to Jaime Chavarria for helping out Thursday night. Frank would not be able to come out to us without Jaime escorting him. We, love to give you a big thank for everything you do! Well, it for tonight all! Until next month!

#FrankGoya #jaimechavarria #saikei

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