Sleight of hand

A nifty trick I saw in Japan last year was the training of chrysanthemums. Chrysanthemums, or kiku, are the national flower of Japan and the symbol of the Imperial family.

In the delightful mountain town of Takayama there was an exhibition of chrysanthemum bonsai at Jinya, the old local government office and living quarters, now a fascinating museum. But the largest of the ‘trees’ was an illusion, albeit a clever one.

From the front, ladies and gentleman, a chrysanthemum tree. Photo: Sandra Simpson

While the back reveals how the trick is performed. Photo: Sandra Simpson

A chrysanthemum trained as a bonsai. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania in the US has been staging a chrysanthemum festival since 1924 and 70 years later set out to achieve a ‘thousand bloom’ (ozukuri) chrysanthemum using Japanese techniques – finally cracking it in 2011! See the story and photos here or watch a 2009 video about the technique (3:30).

A single plant trained into a ‘cascade’ (kengai) shape on display at Izumo Grand Shrine, about an hour from Matsue. Photo: Sandra Simpson



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