Bonsai sensei at the farm fair

  • Courtesy Alvin Chang

    Sensei Alvin Chang stands with one of his bonsai.

LIHUE — Stephen Fujii of the Kauai Bonsai Club is looking for a juniper specimen.

“I’ve been all over,” said Fujii, a bonsai enthusiast. “Nobody sells juniper anymore. Amil Valpoon was fortunate to find one that someone gave him.”

The juniper specimen will be the subject of discussion Saturday when sensei Alvin Chang visits from Oahu to style a juniper plant into a bonsai at the Kauai County Farm Bureau Fair. The discussion and demonstration will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. at the area where the Kauai Bonsai Club exhibits its work.

“Sensei Chang is just one of four sensei to achieve that status by the Hawaii Bonsai Association,” Fujii said. “He will also be available to answer questions.”

Chang is a sensei, one of four to receive the Circle of Sensei Award presented by the HBA, for the Classic Bonsai Club, Kenkyu Kai, and the HBA, after serving as the education chair for the HBA ABCs of Bonsai class for the past four years. He regularly conducts lectures and demonstrations for their classes and workshops.

“I’ve always had an attraction to bonsai for as long as I can remember,” Chang said. “But it wasn’t until I enrolled in the ABC’s of Bonsai conducted by the HBA in 1985 that I could really start to begin knowing what I was facing. My basics were learned from the local sensei, Rainbow and Classic Bonsai Clubs, and from the Bonsai Today magazine. In more recent years, I have found the internet to be a valuable source for learning and inspiration in addition to attending bonsai conventions in Japan, and visiting their bonsai nurseries.”

Chang also demonstrated at conventions held on Oahu, training a surinam cherry in 2004, and then working with mock orange in 2009.

“I enjoy working with a variety of species for bonsai,” Chang said. “I’m especially fond of collected material, and enjoy searching for trees growing in the wild. Recently, I’m somehow finding myself toying with shohin bonsai, or as the definition says, ‘a small thing,’ indicating it being even smaller than bonsai.”

Online sources state a tree is considered to be a shohin bonsai when under 25 cm, or 10 inches, tall, and experts believe that one must be able to hold the shohin tree in one hand. This indicates the exact measure of the height of the tree is not strictly important.

“I’m hoping that others will join in keeping the art and craft popular in Hawaii,” Chang said. “I’m willing to help and spend extra time with anyone wishing to learn more, although I myself still have a lot to learn.”

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.

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