VSANA Library of Stone Appreciation Books
The following reviews are intended to give readers an indication of the wide range of books available, primarily on Asian stone appreciation, but also on Western stones. Additional reviews are added to this site each month. They are presented in the country where they are produced. Unfortunately, some of the books are out of print and difficult to obtain.
All Japan Aiseki Directory.
Tokuma Shoten, Tokyo. 318 pp. No ISBN number. 1300 Yen when published.
This is an impressive volume that generously illustrates the various types of stones collected and appreciated in Japan beginning with the northern-most island of Hokkaido and progressing southward region by region. Other than one color photograph, the illustrations are black and white. Two or three stones are illustrated on each page, and each has a brief caption including dimensions. Each stone is shown in a carved wood base or positioned in a tray. Text is limited to a twenty-eight page section at the end of the book. It is a good volume for stone enthusiasts to see the range of rocks utilized at this time.
This is a hard bound volume in a slip case.
All Nippon Aiseki Association 30th Anniversary Exhibit in Hokkaido.
143 pages, No ISBN number. 3500 yen when published.
The All Nippon Aiseki Association joined with the Hokkaido Suiseki Federation to stage a grand 30th anniversary exhibition of natural Japanese viewing stones in the Sapporo Citizens Gallery July 4-6, 2014. A total of 95 stones were on display with a preponderance of rocks from the northern province of Hokkaido. The stones were divided into two classes—A and B. Class A stones were given more display space for scrolls, display tables, and other accessories and each stone was given two pages in this volume. One pages was for the entire display, while the second page was a close-up photograph of the stone. The display space for Class B stones was smaller and each stone was allotted just one page in this anniversary publication.
This is a significant publication for several reasons. First, the stones appear to be all natural; they are not enhanced or modified. As a result, no picture-perfect stones were displayed. The quality and diversity of the stones included in this exhibit are excellent. Several of the stones are rugged in appearance, but are convincing suiseki. Secondly, this fine exhibition was planned and staged solely by stone hobbyists. Third, this is a splendid example of a low-cost exhibition that is affordable to many Japanese hobbyists. The quality of the photography is excellent. The text is only in Japanese.
Love of Small Suiseki (小もの水石愛好 Komono Suiseki Aikou)
Tokuma Shoten, Tokyo. 182 pp. No ISBN. 600 Yen when published.
This inexpensive guide to small Suiseki was one of many books published during the 1960s that helped develop a surge in the number of people in Japan who wanted to learn about stone appreciation. It is basically an entry-level volume with the first 92 pages devoted to black and white photographs of a wide range of small stones with a few river scenes. The latter half of the book is Japanese text divided into six chapters. The first two chapters define Suiseki and explain the features of acceptable stones. This is followed by a brief chapter on the advantages of small stones. The next chapter is devoted to collecting stones by purchase or by stone hunting. The fifth chapter discusses natural stones versus altered stones. The final chapter of this book explains how to display small stones in trays and in hand-carved wood daiza and how to display them with moss.
This volume was number 3 of an Aseiki series of several introductory books.
Kikka-seki (Chrysanthemum Flower Stone 菊花石).
Mokuji Publishing Company, 128 pp with slipcase. ISBN4-8393-5419-7. 3200 Yen when published.
This is one of Ishiraha’s earliest books on Japanese chrysanthemum flower stones that was superseded by his greatly improved book World of Chrysanthemum Stone Flowers published in 2000. It begins with 11 color plates of polished stones that he made. Each full page plate has an opposing page providing a description, size, and other information. Next are 35 stones illustrated in black and white photographs. The remainder of the book describes the portion of Neo Valley where Ishihara mined for chrysanthemum flower stones, and his opinions about how the mineral formations were formed. Ishihara had considerable experience collecting and processing small- to medium-sized boulders and observed the patterns of the mineral formations in the rock. Based upon this, he developed a theory as to their formation. His theory is presented along with many line drawings in support of his conclusions. Ishihara was a highly skilled machine tool maker, but not a geologist. Much later, his theory was not widely accepted by Japanese specialists with training in geology. His theory is fascinating and may ultimately prove to be correct. Time will tell.
World of Chrysanthemum Flower Stones (Kikka-seki no Sekai).
Toho Publishing Company, Osaka. ISBN 4-88591-663-1. 82 pp. 2800 Yen when published.
The author, Ishihara Nobuo, published a series of privately issued small books on Japanese chrysanthemum flower stones before this attractive hard-bound volume. It is a nice introduction to these beautiful stones from Neo Valley above Gifu. The wide range of different types and colors of Neo Valley flower stones are beautifully illustrated with a series of sharp color photographs. Ishihara provides information about the Neo Valley locations where these stones are found and offers his opinion about the geological origin of the stones. Unfortunately, his theory of origin is not widely accepted in Japan. Despite that, this is a very useful book to see and learn about some of the more attractive chrysanthemum flower stones. Ishihara has assembled one of the largest collections of these stones in Japan over many years of collecting in Neo Valley.
Notes on Suiseki (Suiseki-no-fu).
Miyaobi Publishing Co., Tokyo. 148 pp. with CD. ISBN: 978-4-86366-894-2. 1,300 Yen when published.
The volume has considerable appeal because it is an account of how Mr. Kasahara developed his business as a long-time, respected stone dealer in Tokyo. He tells of how he was able to switch from his early career as an electrician to eventually become the full-time proprietor of Sansui-en, an attractive shop in the Nerima district in Tokyo. Kasahara has been a full time suiskei dealer for approximately fifty years including the peak of the stone appreciation culture in Japan from the 1960s through the 1980s. The transition was possible due to the support of Miyasaka, a businessman and major collector of stones in the 1960s. Kasahara discusses his meetings and relationships with prominent personalities in Japan’s suiseki community including Katayama, the founder of the Keido school of display. His writing is limited to his colleagues who are deceased. This book opens a window into the world of Japanese suiseki of which most foreign stone collectors are totally unaware.
“Michi”, Selected Suiseki Collection.
226 pp. Privately published. No ISBN Number or price given. In cloth slip case.
This modern book of Japanese suiseki is included as a fine example of one of many privately published books featuring one individual’s stone collection. Kawawa has one of the finest private collections of a wide range of Japanese stones. It is only through a collector’s willingness to share a collection visually with others that we can learn more about the quality of excellent stones that have been found in this country. It is a high quality book in every aspect.
Modern Suiseki Illustrated.
Koju-en, Tokyo. 153 pp. No ISBN. 1500 Yen when published.
The decade from 1960 to 1970 was the beginning of a rapid expansion of interest in Suiseki in Japan, as evidenced by the many guides and introductory books were published during this time. Kenji Murata edited and published two companion books—Modern Suiseki Illustrated in 1962 and a year later Modern Suiseki Photo Book. This volume served as a guide to hunting sites, mainly rivers, in Japan. The two volumes share the same format, size, and almost the same number of pages.
Three Touseki (Chinese stones) and five historical Japanese stones are illustrated prior to the introduction to this book. A two-page “What is Sui Seki” in English is provided by Keiji Murata. The remainder of the book is a guide to 35 collecting sites throughout Japan. A photograph of each site along with several stones from that site are provided for each of these 35 sites treated in the book.
Keiji Murata is listed as the editor and his father, Kenji Murata, as supervising editor. The two worked closely together to promote Suiseki in Japan.
Modern Suiseki Photo Book.
Koju-en, Tokyo. 154 pp. No ISBN. 1500 Yen when published.
The decade from 1960 to 1970 was the beginning of a rapid expansion of interest in Suiseki in Japan. Many guides and introductory books were published during this time. Kenji Murata edited and published two companion books—Modern Suiseki Illustrated in 1962 and this volume a year later. This book was designed to help people learn how to appreciate excellent stones while the other book served as a guide to stone hunting sites in Japan.
Murata discuss various aspects of the beauty of Suiseki and its history in Japan, followed by numerous photographs and a brief discussion of stones grouped into broad categories—scenic landscape, figure and pattern, colorful, abstract, combinations of stones, and man-made stones. Black and white photographs of stones are used to illustrate these categories; while six color photographs of stones are published in the introduction. At the end, Murata provided lists of stone dealers, daiza makers, and nine people who made Suiseki by carving stones.
While Keiji Murata is listed as editor, his father, Kenji Murata, is listed as supervising editor.
Fantastic Stones. Kiseki (奇石).
Nosangyoson Bunka Kyokai, Tokyo. 158 pp. ISBN 4-540-00111-6. 2,500 yen.
This is the third in a series of three books published under the general title World of Chinese Penjing by Matushima and Hu. The series consists of Penjing (volume 1), Flower Pots (volume 2), and this one on fantastic stones. The late Dr. Marushima, who was a renowned scholar of bonsai and suiseki in Japan, developed this series in cooperation with a leading Chinese penjing expert Mr. Hu. The authors cover major topics including history, categories, appreciation theory, appreciation of modern fantastic stones, and clouds and stones in this third volume in this series. Marushima was a very eager student of Chinese culture and had a reading knowledge of Chinese, which is evident in this book. The book also has more than 50 pages of photos of modern Chinese stones. The final chapter of the book describes the relation between clouds and stone shapes. It is very interesting and helps readers learn why some Chinese stones are shaped like clouds. If you read this Japanese language book, you will gain new perspectives about Chinese stone appreciation.
Japanese History of Stone Appreciation.
Nippon Aiseki shi (日本愛石史). Ishi-no-bi-sha. Tokyo. 646 pp. cased. 10,000 yen when published.
Mr. Marsushima conducted very vigorous and comprehensive research on the history of Japanese stone appreciation for this book. It consists of five chapters, covering the early history to modern times including some basic concepts of stone appreciation in Japan and China. This is one of the best reference books on stone appreciation written in the Japanese language. It compares the history of stone appreciation in Japan and China. Marushima also describes the major players in Japanese stone appreciation history. A chronological list of events is attached at the end of the book. This list is a very useful summary of the important events in the stone appreciation history in Japan. Because the term suiseki first began to be used in Meiji period, Marushima noted that the term bonseki was used to refer stone appreciation in Japan prior to and even during part of the Meiji. He also explained the different use of the term bonseki as to indicate tray landscape with sands and stones. This book is a limited edition of 800 copies.
Suiseki Introduction Manual. (水石入門マニュアル).
Kindai Shuppan Publishing Company, Tokyo. 144 pages. ISBN: 4-905777-03-8. 2,500 Yen when published.
This generously illustrated introductory manual to Japanese suiseki has been a popular guide for more than a decade in Japan. It was prepared by Arishige Matuura who served as president of the Nippon Suiseki Association for 20 years and various roles in the association prior to his presidency . Following the introduction, Matsuura provides information and numerous photographs of the ten most important stone types in Japanese stone appreciation culture. The Kamo River stones head the list, as they were the most important and earliest stones collected, starting in the Edo period. Three short chapters focus on the important features for evaluating stones, how to collect stones in nature, and how to display stones. Following this, he presents information and photographs of lesser important Japanese stones. Fifty-six different types, based upon their source of origin (e.g., Yoshimagawa or Yoshima River). This manual ends with some basic data about the important forms in Japanese suiseki, including mountain, waterfall, water holding, plateau, hut, figure, and pattern stones.
Excellent Japan Suiseki Grand View (Nihon Suiseki Meihin Taikan).
Tokyo. Kodansha. 291 pages. double boxed. ISBN:4-06-204005-0. 68000 Yen when published. (in Japanese).
This is one of the most important and most lavish Suiseki books published in Japan. Unfortunately, it is one of the more sought-after books because of the wealth of information and grand photographs of numerous famous stones, dobans, suibans, and companion objects. It is an over sized volume 37 x 26 cm, printed on heavy-weight paper, and beautifully bound. Excellent Japan Suiseki Grand View was published in the latter part of the peak of popularity of suiseki in Japan. If copies become available today, expect to paid $1,200 to $1,500 depending upon the condition of the book and boxes.
This book contains photographs of 22 famous and important Suiseki followed by over 100 full-page photographs of exceptional stones beloved by historically well-known stone hobbyists in Japan. Sixteen informative articles that address how to display, basics of Suiseki, shape and category, hunting sites and characters of Suiseki, and a map of Japan showing known collection sites provide readers with a thorough background to Japanese stone appreciation. Additional information is provided about the Iwasaki Family numbered stones, the famous stone connoisseur Mifu, and the well-known chrysanthemum stone “Hagoromo.” Photographs and information about suibans, dobans, and small accompanying objects made by highly acclaimed craftsmen such as Tofukuji, Harada Houn, and Eisho are also provided.
The Meihenten catalogs published annually since 1961 serve as an important source of information about the types of stones displayed in Japan in modern times. Each of the stones displayed in these exhibits is illustrated in the catalogs. Black and white photographs were used in the earlier issues, but converted to color images for the majority of the catalogs. Meihenten is translated as Master Piece Exhibition and these exhibitions were the primary venue for members of the Nippon Suiseki Association to display their stones prior to 2014 when the Japan Suiseki Exhibitions at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum were initiated. The Meihenten exhibitions continue to be held in June at the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo. To date, 57 catalogs have been published. Members of the association receive the catalog as part of their membership. Recent back issues are available, but early issues are difficult to find.
The Nippon Suiseki Association was established in 1961 and held their first Meihenten at the Mitsukoshi Department store in Tokyo. A catalog of this modest exhibition was published, also in 1961. The second Meihenten was held at the Tobu Department store in Tokyo and then moved back to the Mitsukoshi for several decades. Then in 1994 the Meihenten shifted to the Green Club in Ueno district of Tokyo. The 34th through the 40th exhibitions were held this three-stored building operated by the Nippon Bonsai Growers Association and the Nippon Bonsai Society. In 2001, the Meihenten moved to the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo where it has remained ever since.
Two volumes in one. Hekisai Stone Catalog（碧斎石譜.
Privately published by Mera Hekisai. Tanabe, Wakayama prefecture, Japan. No ISBN.
This important early work on Furuya stones was self-published by a physician, Dr. Mera Hekisai, in Tanabe,Wakayama prefecture. Hekisai had about 1,000 Furuya stones in his collection and was impressed by the Chinese Jimei Stone catalog that was published in Osaka in 1881. He then decided late in his life to publish his own stone catalog. Hekisai’s catalog consists of two volumes. The first volume contains inscriptions of famous people, Gomyo-seki illustration by Tanomukra Chokunyu, Furuya stone theory, and 32 illustrations of stones. The second volume contains Chinese and Japanese waka poems dedicated to Hekisai’s famous stone “72 Peaks,” bonseki poems by Rai San-yo, Yanagawa Seigen, etc as well as poems and writings by famous people from the “Aiseki-cho,” a book by Chiba Aiseki published in 1893. According to the History of Aiseki by Marushima, stone collectors, even in the Meiji period, asked famous people for Chinese style poems and Japanese style waka poems to their beloved stones in order to enhance the appreciation value. “Aiseki-cho” and Hekisai Stone Catalog” are two good examples of such practice.
Modern Famous Stone Catalog, Japanese Viewing Stones.
Ishi-no-bi sha, Tokyo, 221 pages, no ISBN number, no price given.
This attractive volume illustrates over 200 different stones from the collections of different individuals. Many of the stones were collected by the owners. Each stone is described along with what the owners felt about their stones. It is a collection of individual opinions and reflections about a good variety of Japanese stones rather than the opinion of a single individual. This makes this book more interesting than other Suiseki volumes produced in Japan. For example, the book contains a stone that the editor dug from the earth in 1963 and displayed in a base that he made. The fact that this book is subtitled Japanese Viewing Stones reflects the diversity of stones illustrated within.
This is a good book for people who search in nature for stone and does not appear to contain any stones that have been enhanced by carving, treated with chemicals. The bases and trays used to orient and display the stones are typical of most collectors rather than the products of highly skilled professional artisans. Readers will not see any expensive Houn bronze doubans or antique display tables in this volume. It is refreshing to see a work like this because it can encourage those with limited resources to engage in the art of stone appreciation without incurring major expenses.
Japanese Suiseki Exhibition
Nippon Suiseki Association, Inc. Tokyo. 231 pp. ISBN: none. 30,000 Yen. (English translation by Wil Lautenschlager)
This is a very important and welcome new publication from the Nippon Suiseki Association (NSA) in Tokyo. It is the exhibit catalog of a new event that was planned and staged by the new leadership in the NSA. This exhibit, held February 9-13, 2014 at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, marked the first time the NSA staged an exhibit in this leading art museum. One hundred sixty-eight stones and fifteen accessory items (suiban, doban, and display tables) were shown including several extraordinary special exhibits of stones and scrolls rarely seen in Japan.
The stones and accessory items are beautifully photographed and illustrated one per page. The commentary is excellent and has been translated into English to facilitate the larger global audience interested in Japanese stones. But not all the stones displayed were Japanese; at least one historically important Chinese stone were also included in the exhibit.
This is a soft bound volume with a glued binding. This work deserved a better binding process and hard covers. Nonetheless, it is a valuable reference.
The 2nd Japanese Suiseki Exhibition（第二回日本の水石展）
Nippon Suiseki Association, Inc. Tokyo. 215 pp. ISBN: none. 30,000 Yen. (English translation by Wil Lautenschlager)
The Nippon Suiseki Association (NSA) published another valuable reference for students of Japanese stone appreciation. It is the catalog of an exhibit held February 9-13, 2015 at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum in Ueno Park. This event was launched last year by the new leadership in the NSA. This year, a larger number of foreign participants entered stones in this exhibit than in the previous year. This volume is divided into four parts—special entries, tokonoma displays, general entries, and accessories. Five special exhibit stones and 25 tokonoma displays are included along with 127 stones in the general entry section.
The stones and accessory items are beautifully photographed and illustrated one per page. The commentary is excellent and has been translated into English to facilitate the larger global audience interested in Japanese stones. Not all the stones displayed were Japanese; two Chinese stones, an Italian stone, and two stones from Indonesia were also included in the exhibit.
This is a soft-bound volume with a glued binding that is available at a reasonable price from NSA.
The 3rd Japan Suiseki Exhibition.
Nippon Suiseki Association, Tokyo. 215 pp. ISBN: none. 3000 Yen when published. (English translated by Wil Lautenschlager and Peter Warren).
This is the third in a series of catalogs from outstanding exhibitions of unusually fine naturally appearing stones appreciated for their aesthetic qualities. The exhibition was held at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum in Ueno Park in Tokyo from February 9-13, 2016.
The special entries in this year’s display included the well-known and historically documented bonseki “Kamakura.” Records trace this stone back to the early 1700s in Japan. A series of tokonoma displays are featured next in the catalog. Two pages are provided for each display, one showing just the stone and the other the entire display. The general section featuring stones from Japanese collectors is the largest part of this volume. Next are the stones—a mixture of Japanese and foreign ones—that were accepted for display from collectors outside Japan.
The number of foreign exhibitors, twenty-four, was a dramatic increase over the previous two exhibitions. The prestige of having a stone in this venue is appealing to many non-Japanese stone enthusiasts and contributes to making this more of an international exhibition. The photography is excellent and the text informative.
The 4th Japan Suiseki Exhibition.
Nippon Suiseki Association, Tokyo. 207 pp. ISBN: none. 3000 Yen when published. (English translated by Wil Lautenschlager and Peter Warren).
This is the fourth in a series of catalogs from outstanding exhibitions of unusually fine naturally appearing stones appreciated for their aesthetic qualities. The exhibition was held at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum in Ueno Park in Tokyo from February 10-13, 2017.
The special entries in this year’s display are featured first in this catalog. An older Chinese stone, bonseki, displayed in a cast bronze, lobed tray was one of seven special exhibits. A series of tokonoma displays are featured next in the catalog. Two pages are provided for each display, one showing just the stone and the other the entire display. The general section featuring stones from Japanese collectors is the largest part of this volume. Next are the stones—a mixture of Japanese and foreign ones—that were accepted for display from collectors outside Japan.
The number of foreign exhibitors, twenty four, was an increase in numbers over the previous two exhibitions. The prestige of having a stone in this venue is appealing to many non-Japanese stone enthusiasts and contributes to making this more of an international exhibition. The photography is excellent and the text informative.
The 5th Japan Suiseki Exhibition.
Nippon Suiseki Association, Tokyo. 200 pp. ISBN: none. 3000 Yen when published. (English translated by Wil Lautenschlager and Peter Warren).
This is the fifth in a series of catalogs from outstanding exhibitions of unusually fine, naturally appearing stones appreciated for their aesthetic qualities. The exhibition was held at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum in Ueno Park in Tokyo from February 14-17, 2018.
The special entries in this year’s display are featured first in this catalog. A large black Kamo River mountain-shaped stone that has belonged to the Tokogawa Yoshinobu family since the Meiji period was the featured special entry in this year’s exhibition. A series of tokonoma displays are featured next in the catalog. Two pages are provided for each display, one showing just the stone and the other the entire display. The general section featuring stones from Japanese collectors is the largest part of this volume. Next are the stones—a mixture of Japanese and foreign ones—that were accepted for display from seventeen foreign collectors.
The number of foreign exhibitors—nineteen—was a decrease from the previous exhibition when twenty-four non-Japanese participated. The prestige of having a stone in this venue is appealing to many foreign stone enthusiasts and contributes to making this more of an international exhibition. The photography is excellent and the text informative.
Important Suiseki and Accessories Certified by the Nippon Suiseki Association I. (重要水石・用具 写真集I).
Nippon Suiseki Association. 96 pp. Paper slip case. No ISBN number. 8,000 yen.
Japanese stone appreciation culture grew steadily after the founding of the Nippon Suiseki Association (NSA) in May 1961. This was due, in part, to a plethora of new books and magazines that helped to popularize Japanese suiseki. This coincided with a long period of economic prosperity. Nearly four decades later, the number of stones in collections had grown considerably and many were being recognized as outstanding. The NSA began a project to certify important suiseki and accessory items. This volume was the first of three books to be published.
This is a photo album containing 164 illustrations, 144 plates of stones, 9 of display tables, and 11 of doban or suiban. There are two items displayed per page and each contains a brief description, dimensions, and name of the owner. This is a quality publication and the illustrations are sharp. It is an excellent book to study and learn what the NSA considers to be outstanding stones. All the stones illustrated in this volume are native Japanese stones. There is virtually no text other than captions; thus, non-Japanese reading audiences can easily benefit from this volume.
Important Suiseki and Accessories Certified by the Nippon Suiseki Association. II. (重要水石・用具 写真集II).
Nippon Suiseki Association. 84 pp. Cloth slip case. No ISBN number. 8,000 Yen.
This is the second in a series of books published by the Nippon Suiseki Association. It continues their undertaking to identify important stones and accessories in Japan. This volume extends the number of items from 164 in volume I to 294 designated in this second volume. This includes 25 trays, 7 tables, and 96 stones. In addition, there are twelve stones presented on the first pages that are given the designation of “especially important stones.” These appear to be ones held by institutions rather than individuals. The eight natural saba chrysanthemum stones indicates the importance of these stones in Japanese stone appreciation.
There is limited Japanese text. The book begins with one-half page of text in Japanese, and each photograph is accompanied by a brief caption to identify the name, type, dimensions, and owner. This is a quality hard bound book in a cloth slip case.
Important Suiseki and Accessories Certified by the Nippon Suiseki Association. III. (重要水石・用具 写真集III).
Nippon Suiseki Association. 64 pages. No ISBN number. 8000 Yen when published.
This is the third in a series of books that features viewing stones and different accessories (trays, display tables, and small figures) that are considered to be important by the Nippon Suiseki Association (NSA). There are 106 items, mostly stones, included in this volume. Two stones or accessories are reproduced per page except for the first and last pages where a single stone is illustrated. Consulting the three books in this series provides insights to the features of a stone that the NSA considers to be important. Several stones included in the book have been partially or totally worked.
As in the early volumes in this series, there is very limited text. This is an album of photographs to be enjoyed. The photographs are sharp, showing great detail.
58th Exhibition of Japanese Suiseki Masterpieces.
Nippon Suiseki Association, Tokyo. 72 pp. no ISSN number. 2,000 yen.
The catalog of the 58th exhibition of Japanese Suiseki masterpieces has just been published by the Nippon Suiseki Association (NSA). This year’s Meihenten, held June 6-10, 2018, consisted of 61 stones, many of which are owned by Japanese stone dealers and members of the board of the NSA. The quality of the stones illustrated is very good. The format is comparable to previous recent volumes with one stone illustrated per page. The last 12 pages are devoted to a summer 2017 display held in 2 different sessions: June 30 – July 12, 2017 and – July 14-26, 2017 at the Omiya Bonsai Museum organized by the NSA.
The Meihenten was the premier stone exhibition in Japan. Since the Japan Suiseki Exhibition began annual exhibitions in 2012 at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum in February of each year, the number of stones displayed at the Meihenten has been decreasing along with a decline in the number of foreign participants. The 2012 Meihenten catalog illustrated 76 stones, a significant reduction from the 2008 exhibit catalog which illustrated 129 stones.
Suiseki, An Art Created by Nature. The Nyogakuan Collection of Japanese Viewing Stones. (水石、自然の芸術、如学庵コレクション)
Bee Books. Mitsumura Printing Company, Tokyo. ISBN: 4-89615-989-6. 18,000 yen when published.
Suiseki II, An Art Created by Nature. The Sen-En-kyo Collection of Japanese Viewing Stones.（水石、自然の芸術、潜淵居コレクション）
Bee Books, Mitsumura Printing Company, Tokyo. ISBN: 978-4-89615-994-3. 18,000 Yen when published.
This volume and its accompanying volume II published in 2007 are two of the most important references for English reading audiences to learn about Japanese stone appreciation. They contain more detailed information about Japanese stones than most other works published in Japan. The book was produced by Sen-En-Kyo, son of Nyogakuan and Kin-ichi Yoshimura, Standing Advisor to the Japan Suiseki Association and owner of the bonsai nursery Kofu-en. Yoshimura provided editorial supervision to these publications. Volumes I is devoted to an account of the stones collected by Nyogakuan, the author’s father. It was an outstanding and important collection assembled in modern Japan. Volume II is devoted to Sen-En-Kyo’s personal collection which compliments his father’s collection. Fortunately, these two volumes are in Japanese and English.
The first half of the volume I is devoted to stones collected in the Kamo river and its various tributaries. This is followed by descriptions and photographs of several Seta River stones followed by single Kamuikotan, Akadama, Saji River, Iyo Blue, and Yoroi stones. A series of valuable illustrated essays include information about the famous Iwasaki collection; information about basins, trays, and tables; and an informative essay on the tea ceremony and suiseki.
Volume II describes and illustrates 19 additional Kamo River stones, and several Seta River, Saji River, Iyo, Ibi River, Tama River stones. This is followed by two sections, one devoted to Furuya and the other to chrysanthemum stones. These two sections are especially valuable to developing a good understanding of these two important Japanese stone types. Another section on two of the most prominent creators of tiny bronze figures used to accompany stones provides further insight. There are additional contributions about the art of suiseki and the Sencha tea ceremony round out this fine volume. It ends with notes about the provenance of the stones illustrated in this book.
Both of these high quality volumes are beautifully illustrated with sharp professional photographs throughout. These are essential books in any serious student’s quest to learn and understand Japanese suiseki.
Akadama, Red Jasper in Sado.
The Sado Island red akadama stones are well-known among collectors of Japanese suiseki. They are admired for their varying shades of dark red color often mixed with black and brown shades. This volume provides readers with a good overview of the discovery and use of this stone that originates on the sixth largest island in Japan. Shimazn describes how akadama was first used to make beads over two thousand years ago. Later, it was used for garden landscape stones, then in more modern times used for indoor ornamental stones—suiseki. He describes both akadama (red jasper), and aodama (green jasper), as fine-grained aggregates of amorphous silica and fine-grained silica minerals with hematite and green clay.
The use of akadama for indoor decorative pieces that have been shaped and polished, and as susieki is well-documented and illustrated in this useful book. There are very few references available for learning about these stones; Akadama, Red Jasper in Sado is the only readily available book at a reasonable price for students of Japanese stone appreciation.
Historical Stones (Densho-seki) (伝承石)
Ishi-no-bi-sha, Tokyo. 280 pp., limited edition of 500 copies.
The author selected approximately 160 historically important stones in Japan and provided background information about each one. Each stone is illustrated with a full page color illustration except for a few black and white illustrations at the end of the book. Sixteen are clearly identified as Chinese stones in this volume. A seventeen one, a Chinese Yellow Wax stone, is illustrated on page 135 but is not identified as to its origin. This helps to document the strong influence Chinese stones had on Japanese stone appreciation. Many of the early important stones that were collected and valued came from China. A Furuya stone on pages 266 and 267 is named “Mi Fu” because its shape resembles a man bowing. This is in reference to the famous Song dynasty Chinese calligrapher and stone collection, Mi Fu, who gained famed for his practice of bowing and paying respects to a large outdoor stone. Some Japanese stone collectors were well informed about Chinese stone appreciation events such as Mi Fu bowing and showing respect to a large irregular-shaped stone.
Furuya Famous Stones, Comprehensive Illustrations. (古谷石名石総鑑)
Juseki-sha, Tokyo. 151 pages, No. ISBN. 4000 Yen when published.
This is the must-have book for suiseki hobbyists who would like to learn about Furuya stones. The limited edition book was published during the suiseki boom in Japan. It provides information about production sites and photos of famous Furuya stones. It also provides a list of collectors, the history and appreciation of the stones, and guidance about daiza making. Tanimoto Hyakusui was a well-known Furuya stone daiza maker who lived in the area in Wakayama prefecture where these stones were found. Tanimoto wrote about the people related to Furuya including Mera Hekisai and Rai San-yo. The photos in this book are black and white, but all the stones have descriptions, which makes reading this book interesting. The postscript was written by Murata regarding his personal relationship with Furuya stones. This book is very rare and difficult to obtain. Owners of a copy of this book are truly fortunate.
Modern Japanese Excellent Stones Illustrated. Volume I. Japanese Viewing Stones by the Area of Origin.
Aiskei Company. 248 pp. No ISBN number. 5,800 Yen when published.
This is an excellent guide to the natural stone of Japan organized by their source location. It is divided into forty major segments, each representing a different geographic areas of the country. These areas, mostly rivers, are identified, and then several stones are illustrated from each of the forty locations. The result is a great soft-cover field guide to the stones of Japan. It can be used as an identification guide because of the numerous beautiful photographs of high quality stones. Stone enthusiasts can quickly gain a good overview of the wide range of stones that are part of the suiseki culture in Japan. Readers will be amazed at some of the colorful and abstract shaped stones included in this work. These complement the many landscape type stones that are also illustrated.
Modern Japan Excellent Stones Illustrated II. Viewing Stones by the Area of Origin. (全国産地別鑑賞石、現代日本名石図鑑II ).
Aiseki-sha Company, Tokyo. 248 pages. 6,300 Yen when published.
This generously illustrated volume presents stones found in forty different sites throughout Japan. It is intended to be an aid to hobbyists and local stone appreciation clubs who enjoy going to various rivers to search for new suiseki specimens. This book complements and expands on Modern Japan Excellent Stones Illustrated I published in 2010.
A site description, two maps showing the general and precise locations on the river, and several examples of stones found are included for each of the forty. As a result, people new to stone collecting as well as more experienced collectors have a handy guide to help them find the types of stones they desire. It is a beautifully designed book with sharp detailed photographs of stones. Western stone collectors will be surprised to see the range of stone types collected by hobbyist members of the All Nippon Aiseki Association.
Original Color Japan Suiseki Directory (Gen-shoku Nippon Suiseki Zukan).
Tokuma Shoten. 144 pp. No ISBN number. 7,000 Yen when published.
This is an impressive, large-sized volume (36 cm x 26 cm) with hand-tipped photographs. The stated purpose of this book is to present a broad range of excellent Japanese stones. The stones included were selected by fifteen stone authorities. Thus, the stones included are of exceptional quality. There is one stone per page, and each comes with a Japanese and English description. Each stone is named, and information about its origin is provided. Furthermore, there is a short description often pointing out the features of the stone. This is a photo album of nice stones with very limited text.
This is an excellent book to study the wide range of excellent stones found throughout Japan. Bilingual text adds considerably to the value of this volume. It was published during the peak of the popularity of suiseki in Japan. The 1960s and 1970s were the peak years of Japanese stone appreciation popularity and numerous books were produced at this time. This was one of the more lavish productions. The red cloth covers and slip case add to its appeal. It has been long out of print and may be difficult to find.
Chrysanthemum Stones & Peacock Stones: Directory (Kikka-seki to Kujaku-ishi)
Wako Kiku-seki Center. 237 pp. No ISBN, Limited edition of 1,000 copies. 20,000 Yen when published.
The publication of this important work on Japanese chrysanthemum flower stones coincided with the peak of their popularity in Japan. The 1960s and 1970s witnessed a surge of people wanting to own chrysanthemum stones. This may have been due to the fact that crest of the Imperial family is a sixteen petal chrysanthemum flower and that several years earlier, the Imperial family accepted several nice Neo Valley chrysanthemum stones as gifts.
This volume contains full page color photographs of approximately one hundred outstanding chrysanthemum flower and peacock stones containing chrysanthemum flower-like mineral deposits. Peacock stones are a brightly colored mixture of minerals and stone that occur in a lens adjacent to the primary layer of stone containing the chrysanthemum flower-like mineral formations. The stones illustrated here are among the finest known at this time with most of them originating from Neo Valley above Gifu.
The last thirty-seven pages documents some of the important people holding these stones and significant highlights in the history of chrysanthemum stone appreciation. Several pages of this section are devoted to illustrate the location high in the mountains where they occur and mining operations to secure the stones. The limited text is in Japanese.
Kiku-ishi (Chrysanthemum Stones).
16 separate pages in paper envelope, 36 x 28.5 cm format, Getsumei-sha Publishing Company, Tokyo. ISBN: none, no price given.
This is an early publication about Japanese chrysanthemum flower stones which provides information about the important Round Mountain site in Neo Valley and illustrates the type of stones that were collected and valued at this time. Twelve of the sixteen pages are color plates of individual chrysanthemum flower stones with the measurements given on the back of each plate. All the illustrated stones appear completely natural and probably originated from rapidly flowing streams high in Neo Valley. The appreciation of naturally occurring stones from rivers and streams preceded the practice of cutting and polishing stones—one that became popular in the 1960s and that is still seen today.
The first plate is text “Note on Kiku-ishi” in Japanese on the front and in English on the back by Yamazaki Akira in which he describes Round Mountain (Maru-yama) where these stones were found. He believed that Round Mountain was at the center of the great 1891 earthquake in this area, and that may have had something to do with the presence of these stones.
Plate 15 provides black and white illustrations of two stones along with an explanation of the mining of the stones along with a map of the mining site. Plate 16 and the final plate provide an illustration of a portion of Neo Valley showing Round Mountain and its relationship to nearby peaks. Kiku-ishi is a scarce and rarely seen publication.
Beauty and Heart of Stones (Ishi-no-bi-to-kokoro) Aiseki-sha.
Tokyo. 136 pp. No ISBN number. 3200 Yen when published.
This important new book on Japanese stones has been largely overlooked. Beauty of Heart and Stones is not a typical book featuring landscape stones; instead, it focuses solely on truly natural Kamuikotan stones from Hokkaido. In the first half of this book, the author includes 31 stones that he considers to be art objects. Each stone is illustrated from several angles, accompanied by one or two close-up photographs of the distinguishing features. Yoshida provides text with each stone and provides his opinion about each stone.
The second half of the book provides readers with background information about the history and development of Kamuikotan stones as they became an important element in Japanese suiseki culture. Many of the stones featured in this book are river cobbles with interesting patterns; others are figure stones, or abstract-shaped stones. There are no single or multiple peak mountain-shaped stones as featured in so many other volumes on Japanese suiseki. This may be due to the fact that most Japanese landscape stones have been altered in some way to appear more natural.
This is a refreshing and an important volume on these stones from the northern-most of the major islands comprising Japan. It is a soft cover book that is attractively designed and printed. Yoshida Bonseki is obviously an artistic pseudonym used by the author, a serious collector of these stones.