Your Bonsai Lineage

Just curious to know who here has trained with someone other than Ryan Niel and if so, whether or not you can share the lineage. I’ve been learning for years from a man by the name of Tak Yamaura. He, like Ryan, has a degree in horticulture that he earned in Japan while he was being trained by the master Toshio Kawamoto. In the 70s, I believe. This, along with anything historical gets me stoked so I wanted to ask if anyone else has spent time learning from somebody the rest of us might have heard of.

I am currently studying under Boon Manakitipivart, along with a few other Mirai Live members. Boon is an amazing Bonsai artists and if you have seen any of his work, the trees speak to his depth and breadth of his skill and talent. Boon apprenticed under Kahachiro Kamiya’s, a recognized and decorated Bonsai professional in Japan. Kahachiro won multiple national awards and was known to be the foremost expert in Black Pine and Needle Juniper during his time. Many Bonsai professionals (including Kimura himself) would consult Kamiya when it came to questions or insight on those particular species. I believe Boon was one of his last apprentices if not the last, but I could be mistaken. One year into the intensive course and I couldn’t be happier with my experience at Boon’s. I highly recommend any one who is interested to look him up at Boon is the founder of Bay Island Bonsai.

My first teacher was Walter Liew, the author of “The Living Art Of Bonsai” who is currently based out of Hawaii on the island of Oahu. Walter and his wife Ann own and manage Dragon Bonsai Nursery in Waimanalo’s countryside. Born in the Shandong province of China, Walter was educated in Taiwan and received training on the priceless artworks and national treasures of the Palace Museum collection from Beijing. Over 60 years of Bonsai cultivation Liew had built one of the largest Bonsai collections in the world. Today Walter and Ann are still at Dragon Bonsai Nursery. Look them up at

While both my teachers have drastically different styles and cultural backgrounds they both have provided me with a greater appreciation and interest in this art form. I think it is important to embrace all cultures and Bonsai practice with open arms and an open mind, because there is so much to learn from each other!


Wow, you both are part of some incredible bonsai traditions!!

I am a mongrel.

When I started bonsai in 2012, I was living in Maine and only digging up local Pinus strobus, Pinus rigida, and Juniperus virginiana. Of the three, only rigida can achieve high level bonsai naturally; the other two species are much more difficult. It was a good learning experience for me, though. I killed some lesser trees in those first couple years, but each one helped me to get better at aspects of horticulture like collecting conifers from the wild and proper aftercare.

Two years after that, I moved down to Massachusetts which is where I discovered New England Bonsai Gardens and Bonsai West. I have attended a number of tutorials, masterclasses, and seminars at both locations over the last four years. These classes introduced me to people like Mauro Stemberger and Young Choe.

I am part of a local bonsai club that meets once a month which has a member by the name of Marty Klein who is quite good with native species. The club has also had guests like master shohin artist John Romano and grafting expert Wayne Jope to give advice and instruction.

Online I have benefited from quite a few personalities like Michael Ryan Bell or Matt Ouwinga who have really helped me with understanding the art of bonsai pot pairing. I tend to spend most of my money on pots and try to find value in my trees. For example, this $400 Sekisen will have a $5 Jim Dandy in it next spring!


Just as interesting as the bonsai “lineage” people have, I always want to know from which of the two disciplines they started. Everyone seems to either come from a horticultural background and evolved from landscapers or gardeners, or they have some relationship with art or design. Obviously, both aspects of bonsai must be learned as part of becoming a top shelf bonsai practitioner, but it is easy to tell which school people originally sprang from. Myself, I had only done vegetable gardening on a small scale prior to 2012, but I hold degrees in Art History (and Anthropology) so my roots are deep and thick in the aesthetic side of bonsai. My horticulture has come along in the last few years, but that was definitely something I didn’t start with…


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Very cool! I have somewhat of an addiction to buying pots as well :slight_smile: and most of my trees are inexpensive nursery stock I’ve been working on developing over the last 6 years.
My background is art, I have a BA in studio art from University of Hawaii, mostly metal fabrication, wood work and printing. I also was starting a garden of my own at the time, as well as working for a landscaping company, and shortly after felt compelled to search out a real bonsai nursery after years of only vaguely understanding what bonsai is. I had bought a few “mallsi” as gifts for family members, and killed a few of my own over the years, but since visiting Walter Liews garden where I purchased one of my few descent trees, he suggested I take his class and since then I have been hooked!! I too have learned a lot from the online community, at first Graham Potter but now with Bonsai Empires online courses and of course Bonsai Mirai the information is more attainable than ever!! Thanks for taking the time to read about some random guys bonsai journey! Always felt strange writing about myself, but thought this would be a cool way to document my own bonsai history.

Picture taken today of the tree I got from Walter Liew in 2014