Yukiyasu Kato holds up one of his juniper bonsai trees at Zen Floral Studio on Quadra Street.

Yukiyasu Kato holds up one of his juniper bonsai trees at Zen Floral Studio on Quadra Street.

After spending years cultivating a bonsai plant, it’s not easy letting go

“Yuki selling trees is a nice part of that lifeline because not too many of us are willing to take that inventory and take care of it until somebody buys it from us,” Paterson says.

Buckets of cut flowers line one nook of Yukiyasu Kato’s floral shop.

Stacks of pots and coloured papers fill the room.

But it’s not the materials in Kato’s shop that define his business, rather, how he uses them to uphold the centuries-old tradition of ikebana: the art of flower arrangement, also known as kado.

“Do,” Kato said. “A way of life, a discipline.”

Prefaced with “ka,” meaning flower in Japanese, the result is rather philosophical.

Kato is trained in sogetsu-ryu, an 80-year-old “very contemporary” style of floral design that, like all ikebana, follows the same fixed triangular pattern representing heaven, Earth and man.

It’s a skill he first learned from his mother, an expert in the 400-year-old style of ko-ryu.

The 58-year-old former school teacher trained formally for 10 years in Japan before opening Zen Floral Studio on Quadra Street.

“I wanted to do something artistic so I chose ikebana. This was a hobby,” he said.

For Kato, ikebana is about “seeking a second life.”

The back entrance to the studio, where Kato also teaches lessons in ikebana, is decorated in bonsai trees.

He’s devoted many years to growing miniature adult trees – an art he learned from his father,

Kato doesn’t believe there is a greater meaning to be gleaned from raising the trees (his oldest is 90). However, he still spends years shaping many of them to follow the heaven, Earth and man triangular shape.

“It’s like a long-span pet,” he said. “My father used to tell me: speak to your bonsai.”

Mark Paterson, a local bonsai producer and active member of the Vancouver Island Bonsai Club, to which Kato also belongs, gave props to Kato’s ability to expand the local bonsai community by sharing work he’s taken years to refine.

“Yuki selling trees is a nice part of that lifeline because not too many of us are willing to take that inventory and take care of it until somebody buys it from us,” Paterson says.

When Paterson started growing bonsai a decade ago, he was convinced that there was a deeper meaning behind bonsai.

Now it’s a way of life for the Saanichite.

“I kind of got into it because I like Japan and I like trees, but now it’s such a part of my everyday life,” Paterson said, “like brushing my teeth or paying my car insurance that I’m not sure about anything else anymore. I really love these trees. “It gets better and better the longer you have it,” Paterson added.

nnorth@saanichnews.com