This Bonsai Master’s Greatest Work of Art is a Loving Tribute to his Grandkids
Goshin (Japanese: “protector of the spirit”) is a bonsai created by Bonsai Master John Yoshio Naka. It is a forest planting of eleven Foemina junipers (Juniperus chinensis), the earliest of which Naka began training into bonsai in 1948.
Naka donated it to the National Bonsai Foundation in 1984 for display at the United States National Arboretum and it has been there ever since. The individual trees represent Naka’s 11 grandchildren.
Naka began working with the first two of the eleven trees that would ultimately make up Goshinin 1948. Goshin first took shape as a forest planting around 1964. Inspired by a forest ofCryptomeria japonica near a shrine in Japan, Naka first combined the four trees he had already developed into a single, 4-foot-tall (1.2 m) composition. He soon added three more, to create a seven-tree forest bonsai (representing the number of grandchildren he had at the time).
In 1984, Goshin was displayed at the Philadelphia Flower Show where it was viewed by nearly 250,000 people. At the show’s conclusion, Naka donated Goshin to the National Bonsai Federation (which he had helped launch in 1976), to be displayed in the new North American Pavilion (named in his honor) of the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum at the United States National Arboretum in Washington, D.C.
Since 1984, Goshin has repeatedly graced the covers of prominent bonsai magazines. Today it is one of the most widely recognized bonsai in the world.
Naka was a founding director of the World Bonsai Friendship Federation (WBFF) and a co-signer of the Constitution of the Latin-American Bonsai Federation (LABF). He was an honorary advisor to the National Bonsai Foundation and was chosen in 1992 as one of thirteen honorees to receive a National Heritage Fellowship, the first bonsai artist to receive the prestigious award.
He also published two books, Bonsai Techniques I and Bonsai Techniques II, texts that are revered as being the bibles of Western Bonsai to many artists. These books would later be translated into French, German, Italian and Spanish. A horticulturist, teacher, author and master bonsai cultivator, Naka passed away on May 19, 2004.