Between august 31st and September 8th Fai della Paganella, a small town in the middle of the Brenta Dolomite Mountains in Italy hosted a Bonsai week named Summer Bonsai Festival.

It was organized by the Nippon Bonsai Sakka Kyookai Europe (NBSKE) with the support of Trentino Bonsai Club and the municipality of Fai della Paganella.



The goal of the Association is to spread knowledge about traditional Japanese Bonsai trees and its ancient art to Europe. This Association is non profit, its goals are educational and cultural in nature and it holds competitions in many forms, though they were not included in the activities this particular week.

These 9 days were packed with workshops, conferences, demonstrations and much more so it was not surprising to see lots of Bonsai and Japanese arts enthusiasts present at the event. But also several newbies attended and enjoyed all the activities. Newbies are key. All enthusiasts, no matter which hobby, has to start somewhere. Most Bonsai lovers begin at the local Bonsai club and there’s absolutely nothing against this, but at a certain point everybody wants to go to the next level, improve, learn more or learn in a different way, see other things, other points of view. And exactly at this point you can separate the wheat from the chaff. The big difference within this association: there is no competition.


cotinus corrygria

Cotinus corrygria Bonsai tree



Nicola Crivelli during his shimpaku juniper workshop


It’s not about being the best, it’s about achieving the best in yourself. All of us, newbies and advanced can benefit from one another in some way and can certainly benefit from exchanges of opinion with “experts”.

Prof. Aldo Tollini presented this in his conference and tried to explain it the easiest way: less is more, the concept of wabi, the pathway of “DO” in Japanese arts, the way is the goal. Throughout this week all the masters and referents demonstrated this in their own way, yet the concept is the same for all: the pursuit of perfection in the imperfect.

The workshops were held by Masters in each field. Like Alfonsina Zenari with her delicate way of creating Kusamono and Shitakusa, Paolo Giai and his elegant scots pines, Nicola Crivelli and his encyclopedic knowledge on shimpaku juniper, Adriano Nalon with almost 40 years of experience, Xavier Redon and his understanding of olive trees in the wild, Igor Carino who came up with his own way to do moonstone bonsai tree pots and last but not least the President of NBSKE Lorenzo Agnoletti who held a workshop on yamadori, the spirit of nature. I want to point out, again, that all these workshops were free, so no matter what, the novice and the self proclaimed advanced bonsaier has nothing to loose.


Bonsai artist Bonsai artists

Left: Diego Rigotti at his suiseki conference

Right: Sensei Isao Fukita


But the week offered even more! A conference on Suiseki, indoor bonsai, Ikebana, a tea ceremony and as mentioned earlier a conference on the arts and pathways, the“DO”’s in Japanese culture all accented the week beautifully, as well as hikes, tours and degustations, which complemented the Bonsai Summer Festival harmoniously.

Sensei Isao Fukita was this year's guest. Unlike other demonstrations where the master does all the work from start to finish with the occasional assistance of a student, the Sensei explained his intentions starting with theory of bonsai in Japanese culture. Mr. Fukita started to work the plants and the owner finished with wiring and stripping to create shari and jins. When the technical work was finished Sensei Fukita styled the tree and explained again how he sees the tree.

Knowledge, technique and sensibility are the three ingredients for an excellent bonsai artist. The novice has to acquire knowledge in order to become moderate. The moderate has to acquire the technique in order to become expert, and the expert has to gain sensibility in order to be excellent. This is my own interpretation of Mr. Fukita's explanation, hope I am on the right path. A very interesting workshop and very much appreciated by the audience.


Artist artists

Left: Ikebana by Sachiko Yamaguchi

Right: Tea ceremony by Senyo Machida


Of course there were bonsais, suiseki, kusamono and shitakusa on display which were changed and rearranged 3 times in 9 days. Each member of the NBKSE can display his own composition whether or not the plant is finished or ready to be displayed. Of course it has to be visually appealing. It’s exactly this kind of support someone new needs at his first steps in exposition. There is no jury and nobody is judge, there are only exchanges of opinion, suggestions for improving the plant, the presentation, the display. No winner and no loser, all the same, embracing the same passion.

In order to achieve the best possible results, 11 members exposed their own compositions in the Tokonoma, which is the goal of any bonsai enthusiast. Discussion accrued about the right table, the best kakejiiku, choice between different shitakusa, the right balance between the emptiness and fullness within the display. Yes, in my opinion, the art of display in the Tokonoma is indeed a challenge.


bonsai artist Artist

Left: Adriano Nalon with workshop participant

Right: Isao Fukita detail work on a Shimpaku juniper


Kusamono Bonsai tree

Left: Kusanomo in the Tokonoma

Right: Pear Bonsai tree, pyrus pyraster



pinus mugo in tokonoma

Pinus silvestris Bonsai, in tokonoma



Betula forest