The Marina Bonsai Club provides hand-on workshop classes in Bonsai, which is the Japanese art form using cultivation techniques to produce small trees that mimic the shape and scale of full-size trees. We are extremely fortunate to have the classes taught by the world-renowned Bonsai Masters, Shig Miya and Frank Goya. They have been active in the bonsai world for about 60 years and are generously sharing their knowledge, skills, and sense of humor. We’ve all noticed that people who come to class always seem to be in a better mood after class. Yes, bonsai can be fun!
At each meeting, members bring a plant to work on under the supervision of Shig and Frank. Some people have been in the club for only a few weeks, others for many years. The instruction is always geared to the members’ experience and skill.
Our senseis were taught by the Bonsai Master John Naka who has been called, “the father of bonsai in America.” Our late sensei Ben Oki, along with Frank Goya, took classes from John Naka when they all lived in the Crenshaw district of Los Angeles more than 50 years ago. Then they (along with many Japanese-Americans) moved from that neighborhood westward to homes not far from the VJCC. They learned there was a bonsai club at the VJCC, so they joined. Soon after that, the old sensei retired and John Naka became the sensei of the Marina Bonsai Club. As John Naka’s career took off and he began traveling all over the world to give bonsai demonstrations, he became too busy to be the sensei of the club. By that time, Shig Miya had joined the club, so when Mr. Naka left, Shig, Frank, and Ben became the senseis. We are also fortunate to still have Kikuyo (Kay) Yamaguchi as our senior member. Mrs. Yamaguchi and her husband George started the Yamaguchi Nursery on Sawtelle many years ago, and she still helps out her daughter Marianne there.
Sadly, Ben Oki passed away in 2018. Like his teacher, John Naka, Ben traveled a great deal, showing the art of bonsai to people in many countries while also striving to get more people in the U.S. involved with bonsai. He was also the curator of the bonsai collection at the Huntington Gardens.
Shig Miya and Frank Goya are also known all over the world for the bonsais they have created and for their expertise. They have many honors, including being asked to donate some of their bonsais to the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C.
During the annual VJCC Summer Festival in June, we hold our bonsai Show as part of the Japanese Culture Expo. At this expo, we showcase our students’ and senseis’ works of art and also hold demonstrations.
The club meets twice a month – on the second Friday and the fourth Tuesday of every month at 7:00 PM. If you are interested in learning about bonsai, stop by. You can see what our classes are like, meet our senseis, and join us for tea time. Many visitors decide to join the club before their first sip of tea. For more info, please contact Shinya Miyakoshi at (310) 951-7232.