John Yoshio Naka was born August 16, , in Ft. Lupton, Colorado. When he was eight years of age he moved to Fukuoka, Japan, with his parents to care for his aging grandfather. While there, he learned about bonsai miniature trees , an art form that dates back to as early as A. Bonsai was brought to Japan by Buddhist monks about years later. The Chinese form, penjing "pot plants with landscape" , is still in use, though there are physical, aesthetic, and philosophical differences between the two traditions.

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It is a forest planting of eleven Foemina junipers Juniperus chinensis , the earliest of which Naka began training into bonsai in Naka donated it to the National Bonsai Foundation in for display at the United States National Arboretum and it has been there ever since.

Naka began working with the first two of the eleven trees that would ultimately make up Goshin in Goshin first took shape as a forest planting around Inspired by a forest of Cryptomeria japonica near a shrine in Japan, Naka first combined the four trees he had already developed into a single, 4-foot-tall 1. He soon added three more, to create a seven-tree forest bonsai representing the number of grandchildren he had at the time.

In , Goshin was displayed at the Philadelphia Flower Show where it was viewed by nearly , people. Since , Goshin has repeatedly graced the covers of prominent bonsai magazines.

Today it is one of the most widely recognized bonsai in the world. John Yoshio Naka was born on August 16, in Ft. Lupton, Colorado. A second generation Japanese-American, he moved back to Japan at the age of 8 where he studied Bonsai extensively under the influence of his grandfather. He returned to the United States near Boulder, Colorado in ; eventually settling in Los Angeles, California with his wife Alice and their three sons in In Orange County, Naka and four friends founded a bonsai club in November of , which is known today as the California Bonsai Society.

He became an important force in American bonsai art in the s and 60s and played a prominent role in the spread of Bonsai appreciation and art internationally. He was an honorary advisor to the National Bonsai Foundation and was chosen in as one of thirteen honorees to receive a National Heritage Fellowship, the first bonsai artist to receive the prestigious award.

These books would later be translated into French, German, Italian and Spanish. A horticulturist, teacher, author and master bonsai cultivator, Naka passed away on May 19, Powered by WordPress. TwistedSifter The Best of the visual Web, sifted, sorted and summarized. Apr 28, Photograph by Sage Ross. Photograph by Missvain. Photograph by Ragesoss. Photograph by JCardinal18 on Flickr. Trending on TwistedSifter. Would you like some more?

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NEA National Heritage Fellowships

With a heavy heart I learned of John's passing on May 19, This extraordinary generation helped bonsai to survive the traumas of World War II, nurtured its regrowth, and dedicated it as a vehicle for international friendship and peace. Ours was just one of countless honors. John has received the National Heritage Fellowship, our nation's highest cultural award.



It doesn't take very long once someone becomes interested in bonsai before they hear of the late John Naka. His books "Bonsai Techniques I and II" are likely the most recommended books in the art, not only to beginners but also to the more advanced artists that somehow missed reading them. They are a welcome addition to every artist's library. We offer this trilogy as a testimonial to the artistic genius of John Naka.


John Y. Naka, 89; Brought Art of Asian Bonsai to the West

He was born a Nisei Japanese-American , but at age 8 moved back to his parents' home country, where he extensively studied the art of bonsai due to his grandfather's influence. In Orange County , Naka and four friends founded a bonsai club in November, , which is known today as the California Bonsai Society. He became a very important force in American bonsai art in the s—60s. He was a driving force in the spread of bonsai appreciation and the practice of bonsai art in the West and elsewhere. Naka traveled and taught extensively around the world, at conventions and clubs, but refused to hold classes in Japan where bonsai had been highly developed along certain lines over the centuries , saying "They want me to teach, and I tell them it's like trying to preach to Buddha.

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