An unusual pot…and a shameless request for some translating help!

Tofukuji pots enjoy a top-shelf spot in any collector’s display. He was a master of glazes, shape and form. All without a kiln of his own, and never to be recognized for his work in his lifetime. A few years ago one of his pots appeared online showing a number of his chops stamped into the inside of a pot.

I thought it was pretty cool from a collector’s perspective to see many of his chops immortalized in their own media. Matt Ouwinga owns this one. Recently he offered another chop-adorned pot for sale, and I was able to add it to my collection.

This pot has over 2 dozen chop marks, representing most (not all) of Tofukuji’s chops. It’s the pottery equivalent to an autograph book, on one of his recognizable primitive shapes.

He’s the only Japanese Bonsai pot maker with a book dedicated to his works. In that book, a couple pages show his chop marks. I’ve been trying to translate the captions under each chop, to limited success. Any corrections or additions would be welcomed. Google Translator is rough when it comes to this type of writing.

Top row, left to right:



3, the very recognizable maple leaf

Second row, left to right:

4. His signature

5. I think reserved for his larger and best works

6. Also reserved for his larger and better works

Third row, left to right:

7. Seen commonly on his shohin-sized ovals and rectangles



10. One of 4 signature chops, often on his organic, hand-formed round pots

Fourth row, left to right:



13. (My New pot has several of this chop)

14. From the translator below, a very rarely-used chop

Fifth row, left to right:



17. Hand-painted signature


And a few other examples of his work from the book where he stamped the pots:


Shohin crabapple

This is a sargentii from Evergreen Gardenworks. It’s an older tree, by Brent’s description, but new to me in late 2016. It came in a 1-gallon can:

It took significant root reduction to get the tree into a Bonsai pot; this one a gift from Roy Minarai:

Unfortunately, I let it go a few hours too long between watering and it dried out in June 2017:

It was pruned back in the early spring 2018, before and after:

Repotted again in March 2018:

It bloomed for the first time in my care in April 2018:

And it grew fairly erratically, but very strongly, and even bloomed again in June 2018. I decided it was strong enough to prune some of the coarse branches back which should help define the nice taper and movement of the trunk.

Brace yourself…

As the new shoots extended, the best-located ones were coaxed into position and given some movement with a little wire.

And a month later, it’s starting to take shape…

Zelkova Air-Layer continues

In early July, this tree’s primary branches were wired. Interestingly, since they were wired up and out, so each had a place in the sunshine, the tree responded with rapid growth. In about 3 weeks, it became necessary to remove the wires.

Branch selection:

Wired on 7/14:

3 weeks later:

Wires removed, and the primary branches were shortened…significantly:

We should have enough growing season remaining to make 2 more rounds of growing and clipping…