Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Bonsai Stories and Other BS with Dennis Makashima! Bonsai Time Podcast Ep 18-20

           In the latest episode of the Bonsai Time Podcast, Kevin and Ryan welcome Dennis Makashima. Dennis has been a witness and active participant in bonsai history as he learned from many of the greats of California Bonsai and even inherited many of their trees. Although Dennis is a second-generation Japanese American, he found himself drawn into the same line of work as many Japanese were at that time - gardening and aesthetic tree pruning. This is what ultimately drew him into bonsai and eventually a bonsai apprenticeship in Japan. Ultimately Dennis' own contributions to the art stand proud as he taught aesthetic tree pruning at Merritt College and served as president for the Golden State Bonsai Federation. Dennis also went into great detail regarding how he worked to improve GBSF during his tenure for the clubs and local scene. We hope you enjoy his many BS stories as much as we did!

Dennis Makashima is a long-time pillar of the Bay Area and the greater California bonsai scene. We are grateful for his time and for sharing his experiences! You can learn more about Dennis' life story in his upcoming autobiographical book "Mr. Omoshiori: Journal of a Sansei Baby Boomer and Bonsai Sensei". The book will come out in early 2024 and is being published by the Zentoku Foundation.

PART 1 - The video version is available here*:

*Check out our new YouTube channel! ⁠⁠⁠

PART 1 - Podcast version available here:

PART 2 video version:

PART 2 podcast version:

PART 3 video version:

PART 3 podcast version:

Show notes and additional pictures

Dennis Makashima's Bonsai Accomplishments

At one point, artist and photographer Takeshi Moro asked Dennis if he could photograph his bonsai for an exhibit. This is the result of that work. All of the trees pictured were owned by Dennis. The prints are available here.

In the past few years, Dennis decided to auction all his bonsai off to the California community so that he could ensure they would continue to be well-cared for beyond his time. Details from last year's auction were printed on one local bonsai club website here.

Another picture of Dennis at the bonsai auction.

Dennis and his bonsai collection. Many were grown by him and many also were passed down to him by prior bonsai old-timers in California which he then continued to care for and help their evolution but he said he mostly kept the tradition of "benign neglect" and the unique style that created. Picture sourced from a news article about Dennis.

Dennis Makashima's Niwaki / Aesthetic Landscape Tree Pruning

            Among Dennis' many accomplishments, he also was a founder and teacher for the Lake Merrit College Aesthetic Pruning Club -- This article has some great pictures of Dennis from back in the day! We could not download the pictures so they are not reproduced here. The Pruning Club is still going strong over 30 years later. Dennis' work at the college has even led to other students, such as Yuki Nara, becoming professional landscape tree pruners in the area.

Dannis pruning a big pine niwaki.

A large niwaki Japanese Black Pine styled by Dennis Makashima in his heyday. What a tree! Picture sourced from a news article about Dennis.

Dennis Makashima & His Garden Today

Although his garden has less bonsai in it, there are still some fun finds there! Dennis has many rocks and figurines scattered around.

Dennis and a few other long-time California bonsai members!

Dennis Makashima and our new co-host Kelly Lui, sporting a Faris Landscaping and Design shirt by our own Kevin Faris!

Thanks for all you've done to sustain American bonsai Dennis!

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