One of my blog readers emailed me a question: “I’d like to learn the difference between regular JBP and Mikawa JBP?”
I thought it was a really good question because I didn’t really know the answer to it. After talking to Mr. Tanaka about it, I got some good information and now I’m passing it on to the readers. Here is the answer to the question.
Some of you may have heard the term Mikawa Black Pine, but what does that mean? Is that a type of Black Pine? Do they have a specific type of characteristic that is desirable to the Bonsai enthusiast? I have found that Mikawa is actually a location in Japan where Japanese Black Pines are or at least, use to be collected. There is no, “regular Black Pine.” because they all come from somewhere. With a little more research, it turns out that there are many other places where Black Pines are or were collected in Japan. There’s are about 7 major areas that were collecting spots of Japanese Black Pine but I’m mainly going to talk about a the Mikawa, Awaji and Shodai Black Pines.
Mikawa Black Pine
Here is a picture of an old Mikawa Black Pine. Mikawa tends to have very good bark characteristics and can grow very thick. The bark also tends to be a lot harder so they don’t flake off as easy.
Awaji Black Pine
Here is a picture of a Awaji Black Pine. The characteristics of Awaji is thick bark, but at one point will start to flake off and not get any thicker. The aluminum wire is there to help hold the bark together and prevent it from being knocked off by animals or foolish apprentices :o)
Though this Black Pine looks like a Nishiki Black Pine (Cork Bark Black Pine) I was told that its actually a Mikawa Black Pine that is extremely old. In the Mikawa area, it turns out that there are small areas that grew these strange offshoots of Black Pines. Nishiki is one of them and Kotobuki (short needles) are such offshoots.
Shodai Black Pines
We don’t have any Shodai Black Pines here at Aichien (no picture) because they tend to have very bad bark characteristics. They flake off quickly and never really develop any real thickness to them.
After talking to Mr. Tanaka about this topic, he said that identify where a Black Pine came from is extremely difficult. Most people can’t look at a tree and know if it’s a Mikawa or Awaji or any other. There’s somewhat of a educated guess factor involve.
I then asked Mr. Tanaka if the price was different depending on where the tree came from and his answer was no. He said that the only important thing is what the tree looks like now. Every tree has slightly different characteristics. Some Mikawas will have great bark and short needles, others will have average bark and long needles. Note that on all of the foliage pictures, the needles all looked similar. Needle length doesn’t also tell you what kind of Black Pine the tree is. Just because you buy a Mikawa or a Awaji Black Pine doesn’t give you an guarantees to good characteristics. You have to look at the characteristics that the tree possesses now and the value is determined that way. If you’re buying seeds or cuttings, then you’re not really sure what your tree characteristics will be like until the tree actually develops them. There are some guarantees that you will at least have average to great bark on a Mikawa though.
I have never heard a Bonsai professionals here in Japan talk about the area the tree came from. They mainly talk about the offshots such as Nishiki or Kotobuki. Those differences do then effect the cost of the tree.
Did you know that the majority of Pines that grow in the coast of Japan are Red Pines and not Black Pines? I was surprised myself by this fact. Maybe that’s why they started naming the areas where the Black Pines were collected because they are rarer to find?
As I learn more about these different types of Black Pines, I will create future post and pass the info on to you readers.
Thanks for reading