How Many Enthusiasts Are There?

Robert J. Baran

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Colorado Springs
A new page for your perusal and assistance: .

Any and all estimates by persons in given countries/territories will be considered. I know from my own experience that independents make up a goodly number of enthusiasts. But what percentage? This is not meant to be any form of scientific or legal census-taking. I certainly don't feel that we should or even can go around and ask people if they currently "do bonsai" to any extent. What I'm trying to do is present a little broader picture of what our interest is like.

Club participation is helpful, but -- for various reasons including physical distance, insufficient concentration of enthusiasts in an area, lack of access to study materials and supplies, and even initial ignorance that miniature landscapes are being made by anyone else -- doing this on one's own might initially be inevitable. Yes, many of us have access to the Internet and libraries and bookstores and garden-centers and magazine back-issues in thrift shops and garage sales. But some parts of the world -- including in our own lands -- are not as experienced as we are in learning even the fundamentals from others. And then there are the "semi-independents" who occasionally visit clubs and study groups without officially joining...

A few reasons to join a club:

However, I would also agree that club politics, philosophical differences, personality conflicts, and teaching agendas can definitely put at least a temporary damper on how valuable a given club can be at a given time.

This all "should" be about self-expression and exploration of one's vision of/connection with nature. If participation in a club, reading a book or website, or involvement with teachers or students is really that painful, bow out of that avenue and enjoy your magical miniature landscapes some other ways.

So, this is an opportunity to speak up and be unofficially counted. The bonsai/penjing/saikei/suiseki/hono non bo/etc. world is bigger than the average club member and book/magazine/website reader is aware. Do we need to be even vaguely aware that there is more to all of this? I think it would be helpful, even to the extent of allowing us to create a wider range of compositions when we are aware that "bonsai" is much more than "just" the stereotypical Kokufuten-type masterpiece trees and formal presentations.

I am aware of the paradox inherent in this attempt to get a tally: truly independent enthusiasts are "off the grid" so how do we begin to fathom THAT size? Maybe by getting a better idea of how big "the grid" itself is.

Also, would noting general attendance figures at exhibitions and displays provide any focus to the picture?

Asking questions that haven't been asked before.

Robert J. Baran
Bonsai Researcher and Historian
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